Research and Facts

Thanksgiving in the 1880s

In doing research for my latest historical, I had the pleasure of reading about Thanksgiving celebrations in late nineteenth-century America. Not surprisingly, it was most traditional, as being what we think of today, in New England, though there were some surprising differences. They held a Thanksgiving eve (night before) raffle, though I haven’t determined what they won–maybe the turkey. They dressed up in costumes on Thanksgiving. And besides turkey, they ate pigeon pie. I just can’t get a hankering for pigeon, not even with gravy though my heroine, Sophie Malloy, thinks it’s pretty tasty.

What surprising Thanksgiving traditions do you have in your family? Me, I just started a new one this year. I found a recipe for an apple/pumpkin pie, all in one. We all loved it at my house. Here’s the recipe from Whole Foods:

Pumpkin Apple Pie

  • 1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 Granny Smith or Fuji apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup fresh or canned pumpkin purée
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell (in pie pan)

Preheat oven to 425°F. Put brown sugar, cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, water and butter into a medium pot and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Add apples and cook, tossing to coat in sugar mixture, 3 to 4 minutes more. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together egg, granulated sugar, pumpkin, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, cloves, ginger and milk until well combined.

Pour apple mixture into pie shell and spoon pumpkin mixture evenly over the top. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 375°F and bake until filling is just set in the middle, about 40 minutes more. Set aside on a wire rack to let cool completely before cutting into slices.

2 thoughts on “Thanksgiving in the 1880s

  1. How interesting about the 19th c. Yankees dressing up in costumes and eating pigeon pie. Doesn’t appeal to me either, but I think there were other species of pigeons then that are now extinct, so maybe it wasn’t the dirty, common pigeons we have now?

    The apple pumpkin pie sounds good. I had pumpkin spice cheesecake on Thanksgiving Day and it was delicious!

    1. Hi Lyndi. This pie was a little unusual in that the tart apples nicely counteracted the sweet pumpkin filling. I did add a dash of nutmeg, just because it’s hard for me to use a recipe and not make at least one creative change. 🙂 My favorite cheesecake to make: chocolate kahlua! That’s for Christmas.
      Thanks for commenting!

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