Pilgrim Seasonings

Plymouth Colony Foodways: Notes and Recipes from a 17th Century Kitchen

Roast Turkey – Pilgrim style

November 20th, 2013 by KM Wall

First, you need a turkey.

1620 : (between September and 9 November)

“They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty.”        William Bradford, OPP, Morison ed. p 90.

“And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion, which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.”

William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, Morison ed. p.90.

Turkey tracks in the 1627 Englsih Village....silly turkeys!

Turkey tracks in the 1627 English Village….silly turkeys!


            “Here are eagles of many sorts, pigeons, innumerable turkeys, geese, swans, duck, teel, partridge divers sorts, and many other fowl, [so] that one man at six shoots hath killed 400.”

- Emmanuel Altham to Sir Edward Altham, September 1623. (in Three Visitors to Early Plymouth. Sydney V. James, Jr, ed. Plimoth Plantation, Inc. 1966. p. 28)




“ Turkeys there are, which diverse times in great flocks have sallied by our doors; and then a gun (being commonly in readiness) salutes them with such courtesy as makes them take a turn in the cook-room, they dance by our door so well.

“Of these there hath been killed that weighed forty-eight pound apiece.

“They are by many degrees sweeter than the tame Turkeys of England, feed them how you can.

Thomas Morton. New English Cannan. Jack Dempsey, ed. 1999. p. 64.

Looks more like a Turkey Trot then a Sally.....

Are they dancing? They’re certainly by our doors…Looks more like a Turkey Trot then a Sally…..

The feathers have to go….

Plucking or picking a turkey.

Plucking or picking a turkey.

There’s a post from last year on Turkey roasting…..

In the 17th century gravy is the drippings, and you use the drippings to make the sauce, which is the thing we now call gravy…..


Sauces for all manner of roast Land-Fowl, as

Turkey, Bustard, Peacock, Pheasant, Partridge, &c.

1. Slic’t onions being boil’d, stew them in some water, salt, pepper, some grated bread, and the gravy of the fowl.

2. Take slices of white-bread and boil them in fair water with two whole onions, some gravy, half a grated nutmeg, and a little salt; strain them together through a strainer, and boil it up as thick as water grewel; then add to it the yolks of two eggs dissolved with the juyce of two oranges, &c.

3. Take thin slices of manchet, a little of the fowl, some sweet butter, grated nutmeg, pepper, and salt; stew all together, and being stewed, put in a lemon minced with the peel.

4. Onions slic’t and boil’d in fair water, and a little salt, 152 a few bread crumbs beaten, pepper, nutmeg, three spoonful of white wine, and some lemon-peel finely minced, and boil’d all together: being almost boil’d put in the juyce of an orange, beaten butter, and the gravy of the fowl.

5. Stamp small nuts to a paste, with bread, nutmeg, pepper, saffron, cloves, juyce of orange, and strong broth, strain and boil them together pretty thick.

6. Quince, prunes, currans, and raisins, boil’d, muskefied bisket stamped and strained with white wine, rose vinegar, nutmeg, cinamon, cloves, juyce of oranges and sugar, and boil it not too thick.

7. Boil carrots and quinces, strain them with rose vinegar, and verjuyce, sugar, cinamon, pepper, and nutmeg, boil’d with a few whole cloves, and a little musk.

8. Take a manchet, pare off the crust and slice it, then boil it in fair water, and being boil’d some what thick put in some white wine, wine vinegar, rose, or elder vinegar, some sugar and butter, &c.

9. Almond-paste and crumbs of manchet, stamp them together with some sugar, ginger, and salt, strain them with grape-verjuyce, and juyce of oranges; boil it pretty thick.

Robert May. The Accomplist Cook.

To serve the turkey he must first be carved….

To cut up a Turkie or Bustard

You must raise up the Leg very faire, and open the joynt with the point of your Knife, but take not off the Legge: The lace down the breast with your Knife on both sides, and open the breast Pinion with your Knife, but take not the Pinion off, then raise up the Merry-thought betwixt the breast-bone and the toppe of the Berry-thought, then lace down the flesh on both sides of the breast-bone, then raise up the flesh called the brawne, and turne it outward upon both sides, but breake it not, nor cut it off not, then cut off the wing Pinion, at the joynt next to the body, and sticke on each side of the Pinion, in the place where ye turned out the brawne, but cut off the sharpe end of the Pinion and take the middle peece, and that will fit in the place.”

- Murrell, John. A New Booke of Carving and Sewing.{London:1638.} Stuart Peachey, ed. Stuart Press: Bristol, UK. 1993. p.35.

Notes: On cutting up a turkey


  1.       Bustard is a large European bird, now thought extinct. [Otis tarda].]
  2.       Pinion is a wing of a bird, or the terminal segment.
  3.      Merry-thought is the forcula, the wishbone.
  4.       Brawne is the muscle or flesh of an animal for food.
  5.      Sewing is serving.

Say your prayers, and EAT!

Grace Moment

Grace Moment

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2 Responses to “Roast Turkey – Pilgrim style”

  1. Kate LaPrad says:

    I love thinking of the wishbone as the merry-bone! Are there any 17th-century traditions similar to our wishbone?

  2. KMWall says:

    There’s round about evidence, mostly in plays, that tugging on the bone leaves the one with the larger half good luck…but you know how those Puritans frowned on luck, and there’s always the thin line between getting good luck and getting lucky, wink wink nudge nudge.

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