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Commemorate the First Thanksgivings with Representative Recipes

Updated on November 15, 2011

Thanksgiving Dishes from Multiple Traditions

If you have decided to follow the suggestion to honor the several different celebrations that qualify as "First Thanksgivings," here are recipes for some Thanksgiving dishes that you will want to try – either add some of them to your dinner menu, or use them to create a special Thanksgiving breakfast or supper.

For breakfast, you can serve Boston brown bread, Virginia ham biscuits, huevos rancheros, and pemmican dessert bars. Supper can be Texas coleslaw, Indian fry bread, crockpot Brunswick stew, and succotash. Most of these dishes can be prepared a day or more in advance.



Boston Brown Bread

½ c. rye flour

½ c. cornmeal

½ c. whole wheat flour

¼ tsp. soda

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

½ c. blackstrap molasses

¾ c. buttermilk

½ c. raisins (optional)

Add molasses and buttermilk to mixed dry ingredients. Stir only until just well-blended. Add raisins, if you wish.

The traditional method of cooking is to pour this batter into a well-greased coffee can, filling it only 2/3 full, then covering the can with foil and tieing it with string. This can was then set on a trivet in a kettle of gently boiling water to steam for 2-½ to 3 hours or in the oven in an oven-proof pot filled part-way with water for 1-¼ hour.

Nowadays, cooks can choose to use a crockpot as their steamer of choice. If a trivet or wire rack is available, place it on the bottom of the crockpot, then add the batter-filled can and water to come halfway up the side of the can. (Another modern possibility is to use a small glass casserole dish, still covered with foil.) Cover the crockpot with its lid and cook on low for 6-8 hours (perfect for overnight) or on high for 3 hours. If the top of the bread is too sticky, dry it in the oven (300°) for 10 minutes.


Virginia ham biscuits

For many people, ham biscuits are regular breakfast biscuits made with bits of ham incorporated in the dough, and these are delicious. But, as with many traditional and regional recipes, variations arise and create all kinds of interesting dishes with the same name over the course of time. I'm not sure which ham biscuit came first – the biscuit with ham in the mix, or the kind that I ate growing up.

The food that my family called a "ham biscuit," when we lived in Virginia, was actually a delicious little dinner roll – the kind with a somewhat dark and glossy, rounded top – split open and filled with thin slices of ham. Mmmmm. No mayonnaise, mustard, or lettuce is required, but condiments can be made available for those who would like to add them.

Be sure to purchase a genuine Virginia ham, if you can. They can be ordered, and they are definitely worth the trouble.

Huevos Rancheros

"Ranch-style eggs" is a great dish with a large amount of flexibility. In essence, one serving is made up of a skillet-heated tortilla (flour or corn) topped with fried eggs and salsa. The salsa can be store-bought or homemade. The eggs can be cooked sunny-side-up or over-easy. Refried beans can optionally be spread on the hot tortilla before topping it with the egg(s) and salsa. Or the whole dish can be served on a bed of warm black beans. Add extra green chilies to the salsa and sprinkle it all with snipped cilantro, for more variations.

Pemmican Dessert Bars

2 c. mixed dried fruits

(apricots, raisins, apples, pears, dates, figs, prunes, etc.)

1 ½ c. mixed nuts and seeds

(pine nuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, flax seeds)

1 ½ c. mixed berries, diced as needed

2 eggs

1/3 c. brown sugar or honey

½ c. flour

Preheat oven to 375°. Chop, grind, or process dried fruits, nuts, and seeds. Add other ingredients and mix well. Spread into greased 9 X 13 baking dish and bake for 30 minutes. Cool, then cut into 16 bars. [Can be frozen up to 3 months.]


Texas Coleslaw

Blend together

1 c. mayonnaise

1 Tbsp. lime juice or orange juice

1 Tbsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground cayenne pepper

1 tsp. ground black pepper

1 tsp. salt

In a separate, large bowl mix together

1 head green cabbage, shredded fine (part Napa, optionally)

1 or more carrots, shredded fine

2 sliced green onions

2 sliced radishes

Or, omit radishes and add

2 Granny Smith apples, shredded fine

1 c. chopped toasted pecans

Add the citrus-mayonnaise dressing over the vegetables, mix well, and then chill.

Indian Fry Bread

2 c. flour

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. baking soda

1 Tbsp. corn oil


(vegetable oil for frying)

Combine dry ingredients. Add oil and some milk, enough to form mixture into dough. Knead lightly with floured hands, no more than 3 minutes. (Too much handling will toughen it.) The goal is for it to be smooth outside, sticky inside.

Cover and let it rest while heating the oil to about 375° in heavy skillet or pot, about 1 inch. Test heat by dropping a cube of bread or a pinch of the dough into the hot oil.

Tear off a 1½" ball of dough; stretch, pat, and shape into flat circle about ¼ - ½" thick, up to 5-7" across. If you wish, poke a hole in it to prevent over-puffing.

Place carefully in hot oil. Fry on one side about 3-4 min. until brown, then turn over and fry for 3-4 min. longer. Drain.

This can be served plain, with sweets (cinnamon sugar, honey, or marmalade), or with meat and veggies as an Indian taco or pita bread.

Crockpot Brunswick Stew

Mix together in crockpot:

1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes

1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste

3 c. cooked, cubed meat in any combination

(especially chicken, squirrel, or rabbit)


1-2 c. any type of peas or beans

1 ½ c. frozen sliced okra, thawed

1 c. frozen corn kernels, thawed

1 c. chopped onion

1 bay leaf

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. crushed dried rosemary

¼ tsp. crushed dried oregano

½ tsp. pepper

Stir in:

2 ½ c. chicken broth

½ c. cooking sherry (optional)

Cook on Low, 5-6 hours. Before serving, remove bay leaf.

For added thickening, add ½ c. bread crumbs and 2 Tbsp. butter about 30-45 min. before time to serve, and stir well before serving. Makes 6 servings.

One of many other delicious varieties of succotash.
One of many other delicious varieties of succotash. | Source


In large, heated frying pan, over high heat, cook

1 tsp. canola oil

2 c. frozen corn

½ c. Vidalia onion, chopped

1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

Cook for about 5 minutes, until vegetables brown a little. Then add

2 tsp. canola oil

1 c. summer squash, chopped

2 crushed cloves garlic

¼ tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. salt

Cook for a few minutes over medium heat, then add

2 c. frozen lima beans, thawed

½ c. vegetable broth

and simmer for 5 more minutes.

Stir in

½ c. milk or cream

and cook down to desired consistency. For an optional added kick, add

1 chopped jalapeno pepper at the same time as the red bell pepper.

Makes 5 cups of succotash.

(The name comes from the Narragansett word that meant boiled corn kernels or perhaps "broken into bits." – from

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    • Aficionada profile image

      Aficionada 6 years ago from Indiana, USA

      I think I need a few more warm-up, trial runs of these before Thanksgiving Day, Simone! I'm sure I can't get too much practice, and I have a feeling my family would appreciate it if I would make all of these several times this fall and winter.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Mmmm. These all sound great! I'm especially intrigued by the Boston brown bread. I'll have to get some molasses and hit the kitchen!

    • Aficionada profile image

      Aficionada 6 years ago from Indiana, USA

      Mmmm. Ham biscuit heaven - I'm ready!

      I'm pretty sure that you can still buy the Boston brown bread in a can, Will. I saw pictures of it when I was double-checking facts for this. You can probably order it online. In fact, is there anything on earth that Amazon does *not* sell?

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I used to buy three ham biscuits of a morning when I lived in Kentucky. The biscuits were dipped in the juices of the fried country ham, and were always fresh baked.

      I was in ham biscuit heaven on my way to work.

      I also like that Boston brown bread recipe. I used to buy the stuff canned at the supermarket. I wonder if they still sell it?


    • Aficionada profile image

      Aficionada 6 years ago from Indiana, USA

      Thanks, K9ks - I hope these recipes can offer some new ideas for foods or some new ways to enjoy familiar foods. I'm ready to go fix some of them right now! :)

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 6 years ago from Northern, California

      That Virginia Ham Biscuit looks very tempting! I would like one now please! Super unique, yet traditional recipes; this is a great idea. Thanks for sharing today.