Remembering old-fashioned Thanksgiving on the farm

The McClure old-fashioned Thanksgiving dinners of the past created wonderful memories for me.

  • Tuesday, November 19, 2019 8:36pm
  • Life

Below is a follow up on some very interesting history of the Civil War that I received from Barbara Romine about her family. I do appreciate all the comments I received from this article.

Barbara Romine writes: Following is the partial story of my great granddad M. Sergeant Stephen E. Chandler, born Nov. 20, 1841 in Calhoun County, Michigan.

His commanding officer was shot off his horse by cannonball fire at Amelia Springs. Stephen, at great peril to himself went into the midst of the battle lines, dragged him to safety while his CO said, ‘save yourself Chan. I’m done for’. Stephen said, ‘I’ll never do that. No my boy, I’ll stay with you till you are safe or we both go down.’ He got them to safety and both survived.

There is a book in the public library titled “Deeds of Valor,” listing all Civil War heroes who were awarded the Medal of Honor. In the book I have, his story starts on page 524 and ends on page 527. The man he saved was Corporal Eugene VanBuren. The Kenai Library may have this book. It is riveting to read.

My great granddad won a Congressional Medal of Honor for valor above and beyond the call of duty in the Civil War. I have just given his medal to my youngest son and his cap and ball pistol (engraved with his name) to my oldest son. I have read and reread his letters to his sister, my great aunt Hattie.

He was 19 years of age and spent 2 1/2 years in the infantry and 2 1/2 years in the cavalry and witnessed General Lee’s surrender. He was my mom’s dad’s dad. All the men on my mom’s side fought in the wars to keep us safe, as did my dad’s brother who was a Seabee in the Navy. My dad was exempt as he had so many children but he still wanted to do his part so worked at the armory evenings after work. Both my husbands were in the service.

God bless them all including. Our dads and your Bob.

Thank you so much Barbara!

I am still getting compliments on the Bernie-Ann trip to Denver and back. Yes, it was a hoot and we will forever remember all the fun and laughter we had. AND we did not even know we were making memories for a lifetime.

With Thanksgiving around the corner most all the ladies I know are in full preparation for such a happy event. Men step back and watch in dismay at the amount of work that goes into a day of thanksgiving. They also comment on how many leftovers they will have to eat. One year, my first husband complained loudly he would have to eat leftovers for a month. So every meal he got peanut butter on bread and I put the jelly jar on the table. I sure enjoyed my leftovers! He was so stubborn he ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches a long time.

I recently bought a turkey breast and four thighs and roasted them for turkey noodle soup for a little supper we had for friends this Sunday. The recipe is in the recipe section. We love soup and I especially love turkey noodles.

The McClure old-fashioned Thanksgiving dinners of the past created wonderful memories for me. Mom worked for a month on her dinner. Guests included Grandpa and Grandma Cosgwell, Uncles Les and Marvin and Aunt Ruth and Uncle Norman and Cousins Barbara and Duane. My two brothers, John and Jim, and two sisters, Ginger and Elaine, and I were the rest of the hungry crew.

Usually there were about 15 people at the table. Sometimes Uncle Guy would be there. Sometimes cousin Lloyd and Elma would be invited. So the kids got shuffled off to the card tables set up in the living room with — yes — linen tablecloths and napkins and china, silverware and crystal glasses.

The large dining table was set with a linen tablecloth and napkins that were ironed and set on the formal table the day before. The silverware was polished and the china was taken out of the cupboard and rewashed and put on the table. The crystal glasses were also washed and polished with a flour-sack tea towel that was embroidered by Grandma or Mom. Dad made sure Mom had a bouquet of fall flowers in the middle of the table.

But, the preparation for the dinner was what is amazing nowadays. First thing was to go to Grandpa’s about five days before and pick out a turkey, chop the head off, dunk it in hot water and pluck the feathers off. That took at least an hour for two people.

Gutting was Grandpa’s job. We looked forward to finding the gizzard, liver and heart.

Singeing the pin feathers took two people holding it up for a newspaper fire to burn them off. Then it would be brought into the house and washed with a little vinegar and lots of water and put in the refrigerator to cool. That whole procedure took most of a half day.

Grandma saved the feathers, which were put into a newly sewn pillowcase for another year of service on the bed.

The day before the roasting of the bird, Mom made her famous dressing out of her famous toasted homemade bread and cubed. She put in her favorite spices with lots of sage and onions and celery. She used the dish pan for her mixing vessel. The cooked gizzard and heart were chopped and put in also. No sausage in Mom’s stuffing!

Early in the morning of Thanksgiving — at like four or five — you could hear Mom stuffing the turkey, putting it in the big, big roasting pan and bang, clang she would have Dad help her put the sometimes 30-pound turkey in the oven to roast for six to eight hours. OH, OH the good smells that came out of that kitchen!

A week before Mom baked pies and more pies — pumpkin, apple, cherry, mincemeat — not just one each, but two or three of each. She did not stop there — as there were cookies to be made for “snacks” afterward, and for everyone to take home.

The dinner rolls were made the day before. Parker house rolls were her specialty. She also doubled her bread recipe for Dad and anyone else to have turkey sandwiches. Oh my, those were so good. P.S. At one time she made her own mayonnaise, but changed to salad dressing when it could be bought.

She and I made the cranberry salad, which I will include in the recipe section. I love that salad and make enough to eat for breakfast for a few days!

I worked on cleaning carrots and celery, then cut them in small sticks so they could be put on Mom’s crystal relish tray along with black olives and her wonderful dill and sweet pickles that were canned about a month before.

No dip, just good vegetables to crunch on before dinner.

So that about sums up the Thanksgiving on the farm in Northern Colorado. We all sat round the table and Dad or Grandpa gave the blessing. Food was passed around and the quietness of the rest of the meal was interrupted by “yums and awes,” clanks of the silverware and “so good Loretta” from Uncle Guy, and a “yes” from the rest. Dad always said, “Thanks Loretta” at the end of the meal. He knew how hard she worked.

The whole meal was over in 30 minutes! Dad would push back his chair and head for his over-stuffed chair in the living room so he could rest up and nap and have pie and ice cream in about an hour.

The rest of the men followed and found their various chairs and couch. The women cleared the table. Washing dishes and towel drying and putting them away was a ritual that was followed by putting out pie plates. Pie was served with Dad’s special ice cream, French vanilla. Mom had homemade whipped cream. Dad had pumpkin pie with ice cream and before he went to bed he had mincemeat pie with ice cream. He offered a taste to us kids, none of who wanted any mincemeat. So as not to disappoint him I ate a big fork full. That is how I came to love mincemeat pie.

When I first came to Alaska I made mincemeat from moose. Mom made hers from venison or elk, but most of the time from beef. Recipe also is included here.

So this Thanksgiving let’s all give thanks to the store-bought turkey already plucked and ready for the oven. The store-bought bread cubes ready for your favorite ingredients, which mine includes Jimmy Dean Hot sausage.

The pumpkin pies are all ready to eat from the store and the bread and rolls so convenient from the bread department. Our preparation takes a day or two ahead of time and a day to shop for it.

BUT then there is the ready-to-eat dinners that come in a box that certain stores offer. Or you can just plan go to the restaurant of your choice for the buffet. None of that was offered while I was growing up and I count myself very lucky to have known an era of gone by memories.

Trying to recreate this is hard as my family has families of their own so we create our own memories of this day and age.

Happy Turkey Day my relatives and friends.



One turkey breast and four turkey thighs.

(OR leftover turkey with meat on bones).

Generously sprinkle garlic salt and black pepper over all surfaces of the turkey. Put on a bed of onions and celery and sprinkle with Fireweed Herb Garden Soup Spice mix.

*OR mix in small bowl, crushed bay leaf, basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, garlic salt and pepper, a pinch of red pepper, onion and garlic powder. Mix and generously shake it on turkey. Pour in 1 cup of water. Set oven at 325 degrees F for one hours and advance oven to 350 degrees F for another hour. Take out of oven to cool. Take out turkey meat and strain the broth.

Add the broth to large soup pot. I have a 2-gallon stainless soup pot.

Add 2 quarts of fat-free sodium-free chicken broth

2 cans of water

1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt and pepper, basil and ground sage.

1 teaspoon of *Fireweed Herb Garden soup spice mix or see above in this recipe for ingredients.

½ teaspoon garlic and onion powder

A pinch of red pepper

While broth is heating, sauté:

2 large onions and 4 stalks celery, chopped, in a small skillet with one-part butter and one-part vegetable oil. Heat until slightly limp and flavor is pungent. With a slotted spoon add to broth.

Add 2 cans of cream of chicken soup — undiluted. Stir with whisk until all creamy soup is dissolved.

Separate the white meat and the thigh meat from bone and chop in half-inch pieces. Add to the broth.

Simmer 15 minutes while you heat water in large pot and add about 5 cups of dry, very good quality egg noodles. Make sure they are the old-fashioned egg noodles. I use Country Egg Pasta Noodles. Boil until just underdone. Drain and add to the broth and turkey.

Simmer 30 minutes and taste to adjust seasoning. Probably will need more garlic salt and sage.



This is from the Timnath Columbine Club — Timnath, Colorado, the place I went to high school. It was submitted by Mrs. Ruben Schneider a good friend of Mom’s. Daughter JoAnn was a classmate.

1 cup ground fresh cranberries (Mom used the whole package — ground)

1 package strawberry Jell-O — when in a pinch, as in Alaska, use orange or raspberry.

1 cup boiling water

1 cup sugar

1 cup crushed pineapple

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup walnuts

Mix sugar and ground cranberries, let stand 1 hour.

Set Jell-O with boiling water and cool.

Mix rest of ingredients into cooled Jell-O, mix well. Pour into a mold or, as Mom did, in a 9 x 13 glass dish. Chill overnight. At serving time, cut into squares and put each square on individual lettuce-lined dessert dishes. Decorate with a dollop of mayonnaise or salad dressing. She also used whipped cream once in a while. Yumm, you will love it!


This is similar to Mom’s recipe. I like to keep pint jars of this on hand whenever I get a hankering for Mom’s mincemeat pie.

Cook about 2 pounds of moose meat until it becomes tender and falls off the bone. I use the neck meat and ½ pound of suet. (50 years ago in Alaska suet was not available in our part of the woods so we used butter or oleo frozen as we ground the moose meat.) Save 1 cup of meat stock and freeze the rest of soup base. Grind the meat and butter. Place in large enamel or stainless-steel kettle and add the following:

2 pounds of cranberries or low-bush cranberries — grind 3 tart apples, peeled and cored and diced

3 pounds of craisins (Mom used raisins.)

1 tablespoon salt

2 cups brown sugar

5 cups apple juice or sweet cider

1 cup of meat stock

Bring to boil and simmer 1 hour. Stir frequently because it will burn.

Then to this mixture add:

2½ pints of cranberry or apple juice

1 teaspoon mace (optional)

2 teaspoons each cloves and allspice, plus 1 more teaspoon allspice

2 teaspoons nutmeg and cinnamon

1 cup dark molasses

Juice of 1 orange and one lemon

¾ cup apple cider vinegar

Mix well and boil 10 minutes mixing constantly with a wooden spoon. Pack in sterilized jars and process for 10-pound pressure for 30 minutes. Those who live in different altitudes consult you pressure canner book.


1 pint of mincemeat

2 to 3 tart apples diced

¼ cup sugar

Mix and place in and unbaked pie shell.

Dot with butter and place another shell over pie and crimp.

Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

Bake one hour until nicely browned. Eat warm with French vanilla ice cream.

Reheats easily. Bake pies freeze very well.

Every time Dad ate this he would take one bite and roll his eyes at Mom and tell her that was the best pie she ever baked. He was not full of compliments but mincemeat pie pushed it out of him.

• By ANN “GRANNIE ANNIE” BERG, For the Peninsula Clarion

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