How to stuff and roast a turkey – 1796 style

For today’s post I was hoping to have the beginnings of an annotated map of some of the early settlers in Stanstead, perhaps including the locations of some Clark families. But I’m still wading through pages and pages of images of Lower Canada land documents and experimenting with the right approach to making maps that are easy to read and easy to keep up to date.

So, in the spirit of our upcoming national holiday, I thought I’d help you all with your Thanksgiving preparations:

How to stuff and roast a Turkey, or Fowl

Click to open large image in new window. (Library of Congress)

These fine1 recipes for turkey or other fowl are found on page 18 of this book:

Click to open large image in new window. (Library of Congress).

The first American cook book

Yes, that’s American cookery, or, The art of dressing viands, fish, poultry, and vegetables : and the best modes of making pastes, puffs, pies, tarts, puddings, custards, and preserves : and all kinds of cakes, from the imperial plumb to plain cake, adapted to this country, and all grades of life, written by Amelia Simmons, “an American Orphan,” and published in Hartford by Hudson & Goodwin, for the author, in 1796.

American cookery was the first cook book known to be written by an American, and

[…] used terms known to Americans, and ingredients that were readily available to American cooks. It was the first cookbook to include New England specialties such as Indian puddingjohnnycake, and what is now called pumpkin pie. The cookbook was the first to suggest serving cranberry with turkey, and the first to use the Hudson River Valley Dutch word cookey. It introduced the use of pearlash, a precursor of baking soda, as a chemical leavener, starting a revolution in the making of American cakes.

Wikipedia “American Cookery”

It was a popular book, “printed, reprinted and pirated for 30 years after its first appearance.” American Cookery is considered by the Library of Congress to be “one of the books that shaped America.”2

Also, don’t forget that this book uses both the “long S” and “short S” forms of the letter.3 So when you see something like this:

Click to open large image in new window. (Library of Congress).

You’ll need to Boil and mash 3 pints potatoes, wet them with butter, add sweet herbs, pepper, salt, fill and roast as above,4 and so on.

For more on Amelia Simmons and her influential book, the Wikipedia article is quite comprehensive and has links to additional sources. And you can view and download a pdf of one of only four extant copies of the whole book at this Library of Congress link.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. Stay home, be well, and wear a mask if you must be out and about.

I may take the rest of the week off from blogging. See you soon.


  1. Actually, I have not tested these recipes and really don’t know whether they are delicious or healthy. They look tasty, but whenever you cook a big bird with stuffing inside, proceed with caution

  2. For the complete list of the Library of Congress’s Books that Shaped America, click here. Amelia is in some fine company.

  3. For more on the Long-S, see the paragraphs on Spelling in the 19th-century: long-S, in this earlier post.

  4. By the way, roasting the turkey by hanging “down over a steady fire” still works nicely, but be sure you hang the bird above the fire with a stout enough cord or chain that will not burn through from the flames as it cooks, causing the bird to fall into the ashes. (Don’t ask me how I know this. Just sayin’…)

One thought on “How to stuff and roast a turkey – 1796 style

  1. Vermont Stuffing Recipes: In the New England Cook Book (1936) there is a recipe named “Vermont Stuffing”. It is the only one that called for sausage. In the Vermont Cook Book (1946-1958) there are two recipes for Dressing Meat and Mushroom “Stuffing”. All three are stuffing recipes and were used to stuff chicken and turkey. Dressing Meat 1 is ordinary and similar to other New England Bread Stuffing recipes. Dressing Meat 11 includes giblets (liver heart), and one pound of sausage. Sausage therefore appears to be a Vermont recipe. Mushroom stuffing called for one pound of mushrooms making them a primary ingredient in the otherwise bread stuffing. This use of a main ingredient other than bread shows up in the Basic Cook Book published in Cambridge, Massachusetts and widely used throughout New England in the mid 1900’s.

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