1939 Thanksgiving Menu: The Main Course

Seeing as there were no starters for this menu, let us get right down to the main course. In case you didn’t read yesterday’s post, I made a Thanksgiving meal from a 1939 menu I found in a newspaper. On the menu were turkey, dressing, giblet gravy, oranged sweet potatoes, creamed onions with cream cheese, and a cabbage-pineapple gelatin salad. This is another menu that did not include any cranberry sauce which the 1970s menu omitted as well.

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First up is the turkey and dressing and this is the first year I actually made the turkey recipe that accompanied the menu. The 1963 menu did not have a specific recipe and the 1970s one was nothing special, so I usually went with my to-go recipe. The 1939 menu called for stuffing the turkey with the dressing which is something I personally have never done. They were both simply seasoned with the turkeys only being some brushed on melted butter and the dressing including fresh parsley, poultry seasoning, and salt. Surprisingly the dressing was probably my favorite part of the meal.

The gravy menu used was a giblet gravy. Giblets are what is in the cavity of the turkey in the little white package which contains the liver, heart, and gizzard as well as the neckbone of a turkey. In this recipe, these are used to make broth. It is then turned into a gravy where you cut the giblets into small pieces and stir them into the gravy. Giblet gravy is one of the recipes I don’t think was tested or it was created by someone who loves thick pasty gravy. The recipe calls for a roux of six tablespoons of flour and butter for only three cups of broth. Once it got off the heat and started cooling, it became thick and starchy. It was a shame as you make your own broth for the recipe so it should have been such a nice gravy. I did adjust this for the recipe down below.

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Oranged sweet potatoes was a simple recipe where sweet potatoes are sliced and parboiled, then sprinkled with brown sugar, orange zest, paprika, and butter. Orange juice is poured over it and then it is baked. I made mine in a deep casserole dish as it was vague in what should be used. I think a 9 x 13 pan would be a better choice and again that is what I say in the recipe below.

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Creamed onions with creamed cheese are where pearl onions are baked in a white sauce flavored with cream cheese and topped with buttered crackers. This recipe was pretty straightforward until the buttered cracker topping. Luckily that is quite easy to make. I went with Ritz crackers for my topping because the 1930s was when they hit the market and the round buttery crackers were an instant success. Though you can use saltines or breadcrumbs instead. This dish was also very hard to get a good picture!

Last but not least is the cabbage-pineapple gelatin salad which came together super easy. It gave me a bit of trouble trying to unmold it but that was more on me. I kind of forgot that I had made it and realized only as I was trying to pull the last-minute details together. So in between setting the table and making the gravy, I was trying to get the salad to unmold. The gelatin was made with unflavored gelatin flavored with pineapple juice and a little vinegar that has shredded cabbage and pineapple mixed in. It was a little underwhelming in looks and flavor compared to the ruby cranberry ring I had made a week before.

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Honestly, this 1939 menu for being the simplest compared to the other two menus I have done, caused me the most stress. One of the reasons is that this does come from a newspaper where there are space limits so some details get cut out. It is the nature of the beast when trying to use those recipes but I do have to fill in the blanks quite a bit. Two is more to do with me as I had to do this on more of a time crunch so I really did not have room to play if something went wrong.

I mentioned this yesterday but to many, these recipes would seem underseasoned compared to how food is usually seasoned today. Keep that in mind if you try any of these recipes and don’t be afraid to add extra spices or throw some sauteed onions or garlic into the mix. Or keep them as is and get a taste of how another decade liked their food. 

If you want to see the other two main courses I have recreated:
Check out the 1963 main course here
Check out the 1970s main course here

Roast Turkey with Dressing

  • Servings: 8 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A simple 1939 recipe for making a turkey that is stuffed with the dressing.

source: The Hood Country Tablet (newspaper)

Ingredients

For the Turkey

  • 1 12 pound turkey
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • One recipe of the dressing

For the Dressing

  • 10 cups soft bread crumbs
  • 1 cups butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley (about two to three bunches)
  • 2 tablespoon poultry seasoning.

Directions

For the Turkey

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Remove the giblets, neck and remove the wing tips and set aside for the giblet gravy.
  3. Stuff the turkey with the dressing, brush the out side of the turkey with melted butter and place in a roasting pan.
  4. Roasted in the oven for 20 minutes per pound.
  5. Let the turkey rest and cool a bit to be able to remove the dressing into a serving bowl.
  6. Brush the turkey again with melted butter right before serving.
  7. Carve and enjoy.

For the Dressing

  1. Mix all the soft bread crumbs, melted butter, salt, fresh parsley and poultry seasoning in a large bowl.
  2. Stuff into the turkey.

Giblet Gravy

  • Servings: 8 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A simple gravy using the turkey's giblets

source: The Hood Country Tablet (newspaper)

Ingredients

  • 1 onion quartered
  • 1 celery stalk cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 carrot cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 10 whole peppercorns
  • Turkey giblets, neck bone and wing tips
  • 4 cups of water
  • 3 tablespoons of pan drippings or butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions

  1. In a large stockpot, place the onion, celery, carrot, peppercorns, turkey giblets, neck bown and wings with the water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and then turn it down to medium low and let simmer for an hour.
  2. Strain the broth into a bowl and set aside. Also remove the giblets for the strained items, cut them into small pieces and set aside as well.
  3. While the turkey is resting, place the turkey pan drippings or melt three tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan.
  4. Add the flour and stir together for a minute.
  5. Slowly add the stock that was set aside, stirring constantly until thickened.
  6. Mix in the cut up giblets.
  7. Pour into a gravy boat and serve warm with the meal.

Orange Sweet Potatoes

  • Servings: 8 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Sweet potatoes baked with brown sugar and orange juice.

source: The Hood Country Tablet (newspaper)

Ingredients

  • 6 medium sweet pototes, pealed and sliced into 1 inch rounds
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • Paprika

Directions

  1. In a large stock pot, parboil the sweet potato slices in water until just tender about 10 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375.
  3. In a 9 x 13 pan arranged the sweet potatoes then sprinkle them with the brown sugar and orange zest.
  4. Dot the potoes with the butter and pour the orange juice.
  5. Sprinkle the top with paprika and cover with aluminum foil
  6. Bake for 30 minutes and uncover and bake another 15 minutes.
  7. Serve and enjoy!

Creamed Onions with Cream Cheese

  • Servings: 8 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A creamy onion casserole from the 1930s.

source: The Hood Country Table (newspaper)

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds frozen small pearl onions
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 oz cream cheese, cut into small pieces.
  • 1 sleeve or about 30 buttery cracker rounds, crushed into small pieces
  • 4 tablespoons of butter

Directions

  1. Heat the pearl onions according to the package. Drain and set aside.
  2. Preaheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  3. In a large saucepan, melt the butter and then mix in the flour, stiring it for a minute.
  4. Add the milk and salt and stir till thicken.
  5. Then add the cream cheese mixing until it is completely combined and melted.
  6. Remove from the heat and stir in the pearl onions and pour into a casserole dish.
  7. In a small bowl mix togeether the crackers and butter and sprinkle on top of the onion mixture.
  8. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
  9. Serve immediately.

Cabbage Pineapple Gelatin Salad

  • Servings: 8 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A gelatin salad featuring cabbage and pineapple from the 1930s.

source: The Hood County Tablet (newspaper)

Ingredients

  • 1 can pineapple chunks
  • 1 package unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar

Directions

  1. In to a small bowl drain the pineapple liquid from the chunks. Set aside the chunks.
  2. Measure out 1/4 cup of the pinapple juice into a mixing bowl and add the unflavored gelatin let it sit for a minute. Save or discard the rest of the juice.
  3. Add the boiling water to the gelatin and stir until disolved.
  4. Chill in the fridge until slightly thickened, about an hour.
  5. Once thickened mix in a cup of the pinapple chunks (save the rest for a snack), the shredded cabbage, salt and vinegar. Pour into a three cup mold and chill till firm.
  6. Unmold onto a platter and serve!

5 thoughts on “1939 Thanksgiving Menu: The Main Course

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