Traditional Thanksgiving Menus

Traditional Thanksgiving Menus

Vintage Thanksgiving Menu Ideas, photo from the NYPL Digital Collection

We have searched some of our favorite vintage cookbooks to assemble a collection of Thanksgiving Menus to inspire you to make your Thanksgiving Dinner a success. The first menu that we feature is from the 1922 edition of Fannie Merritt Farmer's The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. The menu featured is a "Menu for New England Thanksgiving Dinner"; we have included the recipes for Sterling Sauce and Oyster Soup from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book.  The second menu that we feature is from the 1940 edition of Sunset Magazine's Host and Hostess Book.

 

Menu for New England Thanksgiving Dinner - 1922

 

Menu for New England Thanksgiving Dinner, The Boston Cooking School Cookbook page 610
The Boston Cooking School Cookbook, Page 610

 

Our first menu comes from The Boston Cooking School Cookbook, the book has been reprinted and is available as of "The Original Fannie Farmer Cookbook - The Boston Cooking School."  Most of the menu items are fairly common items for a Thanksgiving feast, the recipe for Sterling Sauce is listed in the section titled "Pudding Sauces." Sterling Sauce is a caramel type sauce that would be great on the Vanilla Ice Cream or one of the "Fancy Cakes."  The best part about the Sterling Sauce is that the cook gets to choose between "1 teaspoon vanilla or 2 tablespoons wine"!  I have included the recipe below so that you may serve it with your "Fancy Cake." Oyster Soup may be a staple at the New England Thanksgiving table, but I don't think the rest of the country serves up Oyster Soup on Thanksgiving, so I have provided that recipe as well. 

 

Menu for New England Thanksgiving Dinner

Oyster Soup
Crisp Crackers
Celery
Salted Almonds
Roast Stuffed Turkey
Giblet Gravy
Cranberry Jelly
Mashed Potatoes
Onions in Cream
Turnips
Chicken Pie
Thanksgiving Pudding
Sterling Sauce
Mince, Apple, and Squash Pie
Vanilla Ice Cream
Fancy Cakes
Fruit
Nuts and Raisins
Bonbons
Crackers
Cheese
Cafe Noir
 

Sterling Sauce 

This recipe appears on page 409 of the 1922 edition of "The Boston Cooking School Cook Book."

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla or 2 tablespoons wine
4 tablespoons cream or milk

Cream the butter, add sugar gradually, and milk and flavoring drop by drop to prevent separation. 

Oyster Soup

This recipe appears on page 130 of the 1922 edition of "The Boston Cooking School Cook Book."

1-quart oysters
4 cups milk
1 slice onion
2 stalks celery
2 blades mace
Sprig of parsley
Bit of bay leaf
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
Salt and pepper

Clean and pick over oysters as for Oyster Stew; reserve liquor, add oysters slightly chopped, heat slowly to boiling-point, and let simmer twenty minutes. Strain through cheesecloth, reheat liquor and thicken with butter and flour cooked together. Scald milk with onion, celery, mace, parsley, and bay leaf; remove seasonings, and add to oyster liquor. Season with salt and pepper. 

 

Sunset's Thanksgiving Dinner - 1940

 

Thanksgiving Dinner Menu, from Sunset Host and Hostess Book, 1940
Thanksgiving Dinner, From Sunset's Host and Hostess Book, 1940

 

Sunset Magazine's Host and Hostess Book has a "Holidays" section, the first holiday featured is Thanksgiving.  While the Sunset book contains recipes, the book also gives entertaining tips for various events and holidays. The menu featured does not "stray too far away from the old-fashioned Thanksgiving Dinner menu, but it is nice to give a new twist to some of the old favorites."  The three menu items they feature are Cranberry and Avocado Salad, Sweet Potatoes Western, and Pumpkin Pie; you can find the recipes below - enjoy!


Thanksgiving Dinner

In the Living Room

Frosty Tomato Juice
Chilled Loganberry and Pineapple Juices
Half-and-Half
Crisp Crackers
Tortilla Chips

At the Table

Cranberry and Avacado Salad
French Dressing
Crisp Celery Hearts
Ripe and Green Olives
Roast Turkey with Stuffing
Giblet Gravy
Pickled Pears
Cranberry Sauce or Cranberry Ice
Buttered Green Beans
Sweet Potatoes Western
Hot Rolls
Apricot Conserve
Pumpkin Pie
Cheese
Coffee
Raisins and Salted Nuts

 

All three of these featured recipes appear on page 82 of Sunset's Host and Hostess Book, first printing in 1940. 

Cranberry and Avocado Salad

 

2 cups washed cranberries
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon (1 envelope) plain unflavored gelatine
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Watercress
Avocado

Cook washed cranberries with the one cup water over low heat for 15 minutes. Just before removing from heat, add the sugar and the gelatine which has been softened in the 1/4 cup cold water. When the mixture is cool, fold in the diced celery and chopped walnuts. Pour into small molds and chill. 

Arrange crips watercress on individual salad plates. Pare an avocado, remove the pit, and cut in thin slices. Place 3 or 4 slices in the form of a crescent on each plate, and unmold a cranberry salad with the curve of each crescent. Pass fruit dressing or mayonnaise separately. 

 

Sweet Potatoes Western

Cook 4 or 5 large sweet potatoes in their jackets until tender.  Cool, peel, and cut in one-inch crosswise slices. Cover the bottom of a buttered baking dish with a layer of sweet potatoes, sprinkle lightly with salt and brown sugar, and dot with butter. Cover with a layer of very think whole orange slices (peel and all) and continue with alternate layers of sweet potatoes, seasonings, and oranges until the dish is almost full. Pour over the top layer of oranges 1/2 cup strained honey and dot with butter. Cover the casserole and bake 45 minutes in a moderate oven (350-degrees). 

 

Pumpkin Pie Par Excellence

1 cup cooked pumpkin
1 cup cream or evaporated milk
2 eggs, well beaten
1/2 to 3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Dash nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients until smooth and uniform, and pour into a single crust; bake 15 minutes at 450-degrees, then reduce the heat to 350-degrees and bake until firm when tested with a knife blade. This makes one medium-sized pie. 

Serve the pie with whipped cream flavored with syrup from preserved Chinese ginger, and sprinkled with grated or finely chopped preserved ginger; or serve it plain, with generous pieces of cheese. 
 

 

Purefoy Hotel Cookbook's One of Our Thanksgiving Dinners - 1941

Purefoy Hotel Thanksgiving Dinner Menu, page 19 of the Purefoy Hotel Cookbook
Purefoy Hotel's Thankgiving Dinner, from the Purefoy Hotel Cookbook page 19

 

The Purefoy Hotel Cookbook was first published in 1941, and in the cookbook starts with a few menu suggestions for various special events hosted at the hotel. Of course, an extensive menu for a Thanksgiving Day Buffet at the Purefoy Hotel is included.  The recipe for the Purefoy Hotel's Raw Cranberry Sauce was a part of Mrs. R's collection, and feature the recipes for French Bean Casserole (there is no "French Lima Bean" recipe in the cookbook, only French Bean Casserole), Candied Yams, and Escalloped Oysters. 

Purefoy Hotel's Thanksgiving Dinner 

Oyster Cocktail or Oyster Stew
Roast Turkey, Dressing, Rice, Giblet Gravy
Green Peas, Creamed Potatoes, French Bean Casserole
Cauliflower, Lettuce, Brussel Sprouts
Candied Yams, Our Special Mushrooms
Escalloped Oysters
Our Famous Macaroni and Cheese, Escalloped Asparagus and Almonds
Peach Pickles, Large Stuffed Prunes
Pear or Peach Salad
Stuffed Celery, Plain Celery
Our Raw Cranberry Sauce, Cranberry Jelly
Home Baked Ham
Homemade Rolls, Corn Muffins, Cheese Straws
Pulm Pudding or Charlotte
Tea, Coffee, or Milk 

 

French Bean Casserole

The menu has "French Lima Beans" listed, but there is no such recipe included in the cookbook.  French Bean Casserole is included on page 84 of the Purefoy Hotel Cookbook, so one can only assume a misprint on the menu. 

2 packages French Beans
1 cup water
1 cup water chestnuts
1 can bean sprouts
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 bud garlic
1/2 stick butter
1 small package Velveeta or Blue Cheese
1 can onion rings
1 small onion, chopped

Cook beans in the water for 15 minutes. Season with the butter. have a casserole ready greased with butter and rubbed with garlic. Put about half the beans in the bottom of casserole; over this put a layer of sprouts and a layer of chestnuts. Sprinkle with onion and garlic chips. Pour over cream of mushroom soup. Top with grated cheese. Cook in 400 degrees oven for 15 minutes, remove and sprinkle onion rings over top and run into the oven again for 10 minutes. This is delicious. Serves about 20. 

It is optional whether you use onion rings or not. Use a cup of blanched slivered almonds on top if onions are omitted. 

Candied Yams

This recipe is found on page 90 of the Purefoy Hotel Cookbook. 

4 medium-sized sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon nutmeg
1 cup hot water
3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter

Peel and slice potatoes. Arrange in layers in a baking dish, sprinkle each layer with sugar and nutmeg and dotting over with butter. Add the hot water, cover, and bake slowly until tender and candied. Uncover during the last quarter of the time. Serves 4. 

Purefoy Escalloped Oysters

This is one of the Purefoy Hotel's featured recipes; the recipe can be found on page 71 of their cookbook.

1 pint standard oysters (small)
1/2 to 3/4 stick butter or margarine
2 envelopes Premium crackers, less if desired
Rich boiling broth (chicken)
1 egg

Break about 1/2 of the crackers into the bottom of a large casserole. Pour in half the oysters. Mix thoroughly with fingertips. Break another third of the crackers and pour in rest of oysters. Mix lightly and put a layer of broken crackers on top. Cover with rich BOILING chicken broth and dot with 1/2 to 3/4 stick butter, amount depending upon the richness of the broth. Cook at 350 degrees until lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Then beat egg thoroughly and pour over top. Return to oven and brown to a nice crusty brown. Serve piping hot. Will serve 4-6. 

NOTE: for a flavorful chicken brown, use a can of concentrated chicken soup and add a chicken bouillon cube. Pour over osters boiling hot. Use enough broth to make the crackers well moistened and soggy. 
 

Helen Corbitt's Thanksgiving Dinner - 1974

Thanksgiving Dinner Menu from Helen Corbitt Cooks for Company, page 320
Thanksgiving Dinner Menu from Helen Corbitt Cooks for Company, page 320

 

In Helen Corbitt Cooks for Company, Helen provides a traditional Thanksgiving menu, and she suggests "although turkey is a year-around bird, you ought to serve it on Thanksgiving if only to keep alive a tradition." Her suggested Thanksgiving Dinner menu features recipes from the Helen Corbitt's Cookbook, Cornbread Dressing, Scalloped Onions and Almonds, and a traditional Ambrosia. 

Thanksgiving Dinner

Pink grapefruit and shrimp cocktail with Green Herb Dressing
Roast turkey with Cornbread Dressing (HCCB, page 101)
Cranberry Sauce
Hot Kumquats
Scalloped Onions and Almonds (HCCB, page 191)
Brussels sprouts with brown butter
Knob celery salad
Parker House Rolls
Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie
Ambrosia (HCCB, page 343)

 

Cornbread Dressing

This recipe comes from Helen Corbitt's Cookbook, page 101.

1/2 cup onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped fine
1/2 cup celery, chopped fine
2/3 cup butter
2 quarts cornbread crumbs (be sure corn bread is well browned)
6 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
1/2 cup chopped pimento
Salt and pepper
Chicken or turkey stock (or canned consomme)

Saute the onions, green peppers, and celery in the butter; add cornbread, hard-cooked eggs, and pimento. Season with salt and pepper, and moisten with chicken or turkey stock, or canned consomme. Turn into a shallow well-buttered casserole and bake at 350-degrees until brown on top. 

Half cornbread dressing and half cooked wild rice make a delightful dressing. 

 

We have already featured the recipe for Helen Corbitt's Texas Cornbread in our review of Helen Corbitt's Cookbook, follow the link to check out the review and the recipe. 

 

Scalloped Onions and Almonds

This recipe can be found on page 191 of Helen Corbitt's Cookbook

12 small boiling menus
1 cup diced cooked celery
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 cup milk
1/2 cup light cream
1/2 cup blanched almonds
Paprika

Wash and peel onions and cook in boiling salted water until tender. Drain. Prepare the celery the same way. Make a cream sauce: melt butter in a saucepan, add flour, salt, and pepper; cook over low heat until bubbly; add milk and cream and cook until thick. Place in layers n bettered casserole, the onions, celery, and almonds. Cover with the cream sauce, sprinkle with paprika and bake at 350-degrees until bubbly and brown. Add Parmesan cheese grated, too, if you like. 

 

Ambrosia

This simple recipe for classic Ambrosia can be found in Helen Corbitt's Cookbook, page 343.

1 ripe pineapple
6 oranges
2 cups freshly grated coconut

Peel and prepare the pineapple, and slice in thin slices. Peel the oranges and cut into sections. Place in layers in a bowl, with 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, cover with the fresh coconut and chill. You may or may not pour over 1/3 cup of sherry or 1/4 cup of apricot brandy - or mix the two. Anyway, it is a wonderful sweet ending to any kind of meal. 
 

Kitchen Helpers