A Shaker Thanksgiving
Like every other Shaker feast, the observance of Thanksgiving was governed by the most definite rules, and yet in some ways our manner of keeping the day was not unlike that of the ``world's people.'' Like them we had divine service in the morning, and social diversions in the evening, and as among them, the dinner was the chief consideration of the day. The feast really began with breakfast, for, in addition to the regular fare, we always had boiled rice with maple syrup and home-canned peaches or cherries. At ten o'clock everyone went to church, except the head cooks, whose presence in the kitchen was absolutely necessary.
`The dinner was at twelve, and here chicken took the place of the conventional turkey. These chickens had been selected and fattened for weeks before, and so important was it that they should be cooked exactly right if an inexperienced cook was on duty, a more skillful one was appointed for the day.
`The menu was fricasseed chicken with cream gravy, boiled white potatoes, baked Hubbard squash, mashed turnips, ripe tomato pickles, mince and apple pies, cheese, bread and butter, milk and tea.`
- excerpt from article written by a Shaker known only as `Sister Marcia,` and published in Good Housekeeping, Nov. 1905.
Chef Jeffrey Paige recommends these two Shaker pies for Thanksgiving dessert: APPLE Pie With ROSE WATER `The Shakers raised dozens of different varieties of apples, but for apple pie the Sisters always recommended Granny Smiths. In the early days, the only flavorings the Shakers had were homemade lemon, orange, and rose waters.'
Canterbury Shaker Eldress Bertha's recipe has become a signature dish at her former community.
2 9-inch deep-dish pie crusts (for top and bottom)
6 large Granny Smith apples
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar, depending on personal taste and tartness of apples used
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon rose water (available at specialty or natural-foods stores)
1 large egg, beaten
Vanilla ice cream or extra-sharp Vermont Cheddar cheese (optional)
Peel, core, and cut each apple into 8 equal wedges. In a large bowl, toss the apples with the sugar and flour until well coated. Pile the apples into the pie crust, mounding them higher in the center. Sprinkle the rose water evenly over the apples.
With a pastry brush, brush the edges of the pie shell with the beaten egg, drape the top crust over the pie, and crimp the edges to seal the 2 crusts together. Brush the top crust with water and sprinkle lightly with additional sugar. Cut 4 to 6 slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape during baking. Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake on the lowest shelf of the oven for 1 hour.
Serve the pie warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or a wedge of extra-sharp Vermont Cheddar cheese. SISTER ETHEL'S DEEP-DISH CUSTARD PIE
`Custard pie was a favorite of the Shakers. Sister Ethel recalls making hundreds of these pies during her lifetime working in the village's bakery, built in 1820.
Deep-dish custard pie was her favorite and she dictated her recipe to me. When she finished, I asked her, ``Is that everything?'' She quickly replied, ``I almost forgot the most important ingredients, a little love and devotion. That's what really makes it taste so good.`` `
4 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups milk
1-1/4 cups light cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 unbaked 9-inch deep-dish pie crust
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, and salt, and mix until blended. Stir in the milk, cream, vanilla, and nutmeg, and pour into the prepared 9-inch pie crust.
Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven to 350 degrees F. and bake for 30 more minutes, or until set, when a toothpick inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean. Cool the pie on a wire rack, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.