Monday, November 20, 2017

Studio 5: Cornbread Stuffed Acorn Squash!

Thanksgiving Point (a nonprofit farm, garden, and museum complex here in Utah) hosts the only First Thanksgiving reenactment outside of New England.

I've never been, but after preparing for the Studio 5 segment I want to!

Growing up in Canada, we would celebrate Thanksgiving, but in October.  I didn't know much about the roots of this beloved holiday, so I was excited to learn.  Wow, what an amazing story of courage, perseverance and friendship.  

To leave everything you hold dear, to start a new life in a land you are completely unfamiliar with, to lose half of your original party, to suffer sickness, homesickness, to live on the Mayflower that first winter...all of it must have been incredibly difficult and I'm sure made their first harvest all the more sweet.

Both the English and the Native Americans (Wampanoag tribe) celebrated the harvest.  I love that, for a time, two different cultures could come together, put aside fear and share their resources and knowledge.

I've included a list of what was likely served at this 3 day feast, in case you want to host your own "eat like a pilgrim" dinner next year.  Or you could include just one part of the meal, add it to your traditional Thanksgiving menu and use it as a launching pad to talk about the original feast.

We only know 2 things for sure about that first Thanksgiving dinner.  Venison & wild fowl.  Everything else is a guess, but an educated guess.  We know what was indigenous to that area and what the Wampanoags were cultivating.

Based on that, I created a Corn bread stuffed Acorn squash!  I took a few liberties, but we do know that Acorn squash and Pumpkin were aplenty, in fact, the Pilgrims called Acorn squash "Ground apples".  Apples were something they sorely missed and both Pumpkin and Acorn squash, once pureed reminded them of Apple Butter.

We also know that there were berries & nuts growing in that area.  The Wampanoag would dry berries and cranberries, although they called them Ibimi (which means sour or bitter).  They also cultivated important crops of Corn, beans and Squash.

The Pilgrims brought seed with them, and were able to grow vegetables and herbs.  And they most certainly hunted and used every part of the animal, including making there you go.  Everything we need to make a real show stopping Thanksgiving side dish!

Corn bread Stuffed Acorn Squash

Recipe will fill approx. 2-3 Acorn squash depending on how large they are.  One half would make a great meal on its own, but as a side dish, I would cut squash into halves or quarters.  You can also double the recipe for larger crowds.


2-3 Acorn squash
one 8x8 pan (Approx 6 cups) of homemade cornbread
(or you can use a mix,  just don't buy the corn bread stuffing in a box.  I tried it, not good.)

1/2 cup dried cranberries (Craisens)
1/4 apple cider vinegar
3/4 lb. Hot Italian sausage (or mild if you prefer)
1 1/4 cup chopped onions
3/4 cup sliced celery
2/3 cup chopped roasted Pecans
1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1 Tbsp Fresh Thyme leaves
1 Tbsp Fresh Sage Leaves, chopped coarsely
1 Tbsp Fresh Rosemary, chopped finely
2 Tsp Kosher Salt
1 Tsp Freshly ground pepper
1 Egg

1 cup chicken broth (you may not use all of this)


At least one day before, cut cornbread into 3/4" squares (these will get smaller by the time they dry and are assembled).  Spread out and let dry thoroughly.  You can speed up this process by toasting them in the oven.

Cut Acorns in half.  You may need a cleaver for this, as they are hard.    Trim off outside (bottom) part with a knife until they sit evenly.  Rub cut part and inside with olive oil.  Generously salt & Pepper.  and cook in a 400 oven for 30 minutes.  They will be partly cooked at this point.  A fork should insert fairly easily at this point.

While squash is cooking, cook stuffing.
Place Craisens in a small bowl and pour the vinegar over them to macerate.  This will plump them up and add a little zing.
Cook Sausage until brown, remove and set aside.
Add onions & celery to the pan and cook for 5 minutes until soft.
Depending on how much fan rendered from the sausage add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the butter.
Add Pecans & Herbs and seasoning.  Cook another 5 minutes.
Drain off vinegar from Craisens and add to mixture.

Meanwhile, beat one egg and add to a corn bread cubes in a large bowl.  Mix.
Add cooked ingredients and mix.
Add chicken broth a little at a time, until the corn bread has soaked in the moisture, but don't let it get mushy.  Do not over mix, just toss lightly.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (ei: more salt).

Use an ice cream scooper and scoop stuffing into center of cooked acorn squash until quite full.
Place back in oven and cook for another 30 minutes until top of stuffing is golden brown and squash is fork tender.

Oh my goodness, such a perfect balance of sweet & savory!  real comfort food!

First Thanksgiving Menu

Roast Turkey
Roast Beef
Steamed Mussels or Lobster
Corn bread
Sallet (Salad) of Herbs & Cucumbers
Roasted Root Vegetables
Stuffed Acorn Squash
Berry Cobbler
Indian Corn Pudding
Pumpkin custard

Historical Readings
For fun, take turns reading historical readings during dinner (see notes in red).

During this 1600s, good food consisted of meat, bread & beer.  Hard labor needed carbs & protein and during this time, even children drank beer, as often water was not suitable to drink.  (Even though the Pilgrims had no apples, a spiced apple cider is a good substitution for our meal.)

As a result, meat, fowl & seafood was center stage on the first Thanksgiving table.  In preparation for the 3 day feast, the men had gone hunting for wildfowl.  The Wampanoags (the native people) brought venison.  It's likely that they had seafood as well, as mussels, clams, lobster and fish were abundant in this area.

"If you will boil chickens, young turkeys, peahens, or any house fowl daintily, you shall, after you have trimmed them, drawn them, trussed them, and washed them, fill their bellies as full of parsley as they can hold; then boil them with salt and water only till they be enough: then take a dish and put into it verjuice [the juice of sour crab-apples] and butter, and salt, and when the butter is melted, take the parsley out of the chicken's bellies, and mince it very small, and put it to the verjuice and butter, and stir it well together; then lay in the chickens, and trim the dish with sippets [fried or toasted slices of bread], and so serve it forth."  The English Housewife 1615

Gravy?  Absolutely!  Every part of the animal would have been used, including the drippings!  Here's an original transcript from 1615.

"Take fair water, and set it over the fire, then slice good store of onions and put into it, and also pepper and salt, and good store of the gravy that comes from the turkey, and boil them very well together: then put to it a few fine crumbs of grated bread to thicken it; a very little sugar and some vinegar, and so serve it up with the turkey: or otherwise, take grated white bread and boil it in white wine till it be thick as a galantine [a sauce made from blood], and in the boiling put in good store of sugar and cinnamon, and then with a little turnsole [a plant used to as red food coloring] make it of a high murrey color, and so serve it in saucers with the turkey in the manner of a galantine."

Cute poems about Pumpkin & Corn Pudding

Instead of pottage and puddings and custards and pies
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies;
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
If it was not for pumpkins we should be undone!

And all my bones were made of Indian corn.
Delicious grain! Whatever form it take.
To toast or boil, to smother or to bake,
In every dish ’tis welcome still to me,
but most, my Hasty Pudding, most in thee. 

John Josselyn, in hisNew England Rarities Discovered (London, 1672) also discusses the use of hominey or corn in puddings:
It is light of digestion, and the English make a kind of Loblolly of it to eat with Milk, which they call Sampe; they beat it in a Morter, and sift the flower [flour] out of it; the remainder they call Hominey, which they put into a Pot of two or three Gallons, with Water, and boyl it upon a gently Fire till it be like a Hasty Puden; thye put of this into Milk and so eat it.
In 1662, John Winthrop, Jr., son of John Wilthrop (1588-1649), first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, wrote the following about the pudding in his letter to the royal Society in London. 
. . . this is to be boyled or Stued with a gentle fire, till it be tender, of a fitt consistence, as of Rice so boyled, into which Milke, or butter be put either with Sugar or without it, it is a food very pleasant. . . but it must be observed that it be very well boyled, the longer the better, some will let it be stuing the whole day: after it is Cold it groweth thicker, and is commonly Eaten by mixing a good Quantity of Milke amongst it. . .

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