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Thanksgiving Feast, Children's Play, & Authentic Recipes

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I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 9.

Our Thanksgiving Presentation

Our Thanksgiving Presentation

This is the end of the unit activity for a 4 week hands-on unit on Early American Settlers. Eat a feast (complete with authentic dishes), perform a fun Thanksgiving play, and sing a Psalm just as the Pilgrims did. Even if you're not looking for a Thanksgiving performance, you can at least enjoy the extensive list of authentic Thanksgiving recipes!


Order of Events

1) First we feasted. Everyone brought either 2 side dishes or a side dish and a dessert. I made the turkey, some sides, and some desserts. Those who wanted to could make a potentially authentic Thanksgiving dish. (I posted those recipes below.) Our authentic dishes included venison, peas pottage, stewed savories, cornbread and dried plum tart. They were all good!

2) Next we introduce what we've done during this unit.

3) Finally the children performed, "The Pilgrims Go Marching" and ended by singing Psalm 23, one of the many Psalms the pilgrims would have sung during a celebration like this.

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Image credit:

Costume Ideas

Each child came dressed as a stereotypical pilgrim as much as possible.

1) Boys: black sweat shirts and sweat pants pulled up to the knee, white stockings or long white socks, white cuffs, black shoes with foil-covered buckles

2) Girls: Dark dresses with collars tucked on the inside, white tights, white cuffs, black shoes with foil-covered buckles

3) We used the white collars and pilgrims hats & bonnets we'd made at a previously. We also have the Native American vests and headbands we made previously as well.

The Book We Used for the Performance: The Pilgrims Go Marching


"The Pilgrims Are Marching" Performance

For our performance we acted out "The Pilgrims Are Marching" by Carol Greene.

We have two toddlers. B and L each wore a ship picture around their necks. B's ship was labeled "Speedwell" and L's ship was labeled "Mayflower." B's mom and L's mom started walking their daughters across the room and then B's mom said, "Oh no! I have a leak!" and they all turned around and went back.

Then another mom led the singing of "The Pilgrims go marching one by one" as L's mom let her, "The Mayflower," across the room followed by the children marching and singing along with the chorus ("Away! Away" and the ending line of "to the land of the brave and the free.")

One of the moms who was sitting in the audience held up the chorus lines that changed each page. The kids marched back and forth across the room from one room to the other. They'd drop their previous prop and then we'd hand them the next prop as they marched across the room again singing and acting out what they were supposed to be doing. Meanwhile, the child playing Johnny B. would act out his antics during each scene.

These were the props & actions we used for each page:

  • Page 3: 2 pictures of ships (1 labeled Speedwell & 1 labeled Mayflower) each with 2 holes punched and string attached
  • Pp 4-5: 1 sign that says "Johnny B" with 2 holes punched and string attached, 12 construction paper suitcases (Children march)
  • Pp 6-7: 12 suitcases/bags, construction paper barrel labeled "Gunpowder," and 1 candle (Children march)
  • Pp 8-9: 12 toy hammers and/or saws, 1 large sheet of poster board with one side having drawings of houses getting built (Children pretend to hammer and/or saw)
  • Pp 10-11: 12 small blankets and/or towels (Children shiver)
  • Pp 12-13: 3 children put on their Native American vests & headbands over their costumes, 1 toy mouse (Children wave to "come in")
  • Pp 14-15: plastic shovels and 12 construction paper fish (Children pretend to dish holes & drop fish into hole)
  • Pp 16-17: Footstool for Johnny B to hide behind, *Children dressed as Native Americans stand next to footstool (Children pretend to look for Johnny B.)
  • Pp 18-19: 2 oars (2 children pretend to row & others stand between them while Native Americans & Johnny B wave from behind the footstool)
  • Pp 20-21: 1 large sheet of poster board with one side having drawings of corn plants (Children pretend to chop corn)
  • Pp 22-23: 12 wooden mixing spoons, 1 large pot (Children pretend to stir a pot)
  • Pp 24-25: 12 construction paper turkey legs (Children pretend to eat turkey and rub their bellies)
  • Pp 26-27: (Children fold hands and act like they are praying)

After the performance, everyone stands together and sings Psalm 23.

Scroll to Continue

Authentic and Semi-Authentic Thanksgiving Recipes

Pumpkin and apple pies didn't make the list.

For the Thanksgiving Feast, each family brought either two side dishes or a side dish and a dessert. Two families also brought main dishes (turkey & venison).

The only food that we know as served at the 1621 Thanksgiving feast was fowl, seafood, venison, and corn. We have to guess at the rest of the dishes. Governor William Bradford did record in Of Plymouth Plantation "others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, began to come in store of fowl,...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 the proportion."

Pease Pottage (Cooked Peas)

Pease Pottage (Cooked Peas)

Pease Pottage (Cooked Peas)

Pease Pottage (Cooked Peas)

(One family made the modern recipe. Everyone enjoyed it.)

Modern Recipe 1:

1 1/2 cup whole peas, rinsed and picked over

8 cups water (plus additional water for soaking peas)

4 oz. thick sliced bacon, coarsely chopped

Place peas in a bowl and add water to cover by 3 inches. Leave overnight for cooking in the morning or soak all day to cook for dinner. Drain peas and discard water. Place peas and bacon in a large pot and add 8 cups fresh water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn heat down to gently simmer for 2 hours or until peas are soft and easily mashed. Add water if necessary to keep from burning.

Modern Recipe 2:

Steam 1 (12 ounce) bag of frozen peas.

Historic Recipe:

Take the best old pease you can get, wash and boil them in fair water, when they boil scum them, and put in a piece of interlarded bacon about two pound, put in also a bundle of mince, or other sweet herbs; boil them not too thick, serve the bacon on sippets in thin slices, and pour on the broth. Robert May, The Accomplish't Cook (London, 1666), p. 95


Diverse Sallets Boyled (Cooked Greens or Boiled Spinach)

Use spinach, cabbage, kales or "coleworts" (we know them as collard greens)

(One family made this. It's basically cooked greens. Those who like cooked greens liked this dish.)

Modern translation: In simplest terms, boiled salads are boiled veggies seasoned with ginger, cinnamon and a little sugar, dressed with either oil and vinegar or melted butter and vinegar, served over toasted bread and topped with hard boiled eggs cut into quarters.

"Diverse Sallets Boyled: Parboyle Spinage, and chop it fine, with the edges of two hard Trenchers upon a boord, or the back of two chopping knives : then set them on a Chafingdish of coals with Butter and Vinegar. Season it with Sinamon, Ginger, Sugar, and a few parboiled Currins. Then cut hard Egges into quarter to garnish it withal, and serve it upon sippets. So may you serve Burrage, Buglosse, Endiffe, Suckory, Coleflowers, Sorrel, Marigold leaves, water-Cresses, Leekes boyled, Onions, Sparragus, Rocket, Alexanders. Parboyle them, and season them all alike: whether it be with Oyle and Vingar, or Butter and Vinegar, Sinamon, Ginger, Sugar, and Butter: Egges are necessary, or at least good for all boyled Sallets." From John Murrell's A Newe Booke of Cookerie, London: 1615, p. 34.

Sobaheg (Stew) made with Turkey

Sobaheg (Stew) made with Turkey

Sobaheg (Stew) made with Turkey

A Wampanoag Recipe

Sobaheg (Stew) made with Turkey: A Wampanoag Recipe

Modern Recipe:

1/2 pound dry beans (white, red, brown, or spotted kidney-shaped beans)

1/2 pound coarse grits

1 pound turkey meat (legs or breast, with bone and skin)

3 quarts cold water

1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths

1/2 pound winter squash, trimmed and cubed

1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds, pounded to a coarse flour (OR regular flour)

Combine dried beans, corn, turkey, and water in a large pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, turn down to a very low simmer, and cook for about 2 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally to be certain that the bottom is not sticking. When dried beans are tender, but not mushy, break up turkey meat, removing skin and bones. Add green beans and squash, and simmer very gently until they are tender. Add sunflower flour, stirring until thoroughly blended.

Historic Recipe:

"Their food is generally boiled maize or Indian corn, mixed with kidney-beans, or sometimes without. Also they frequently boil in this pottag fish and flesh of all sorts, either taken fresh or newly dried These they cut in pieces, bones and all, and boil them in the aforesaid pottage. I have wondered many times that they were not in danger of being choked with fish bones; but they are so dexterious to separate the bones from the fish in the eating therof, that they are in no hazard. Also they boil in this furmenty all sorts of flesh, that they take in hunting; as venison, beaver, bear's flesh, moose, otters, rackoons, or any kind that they take in hunting; cutting this flesh in small pieces, and boiling as aforesaid. Also they mix with the said pottage several sorts of roots; as Jerusalem artichokes, and ground nuts, and other roots, and pompions, and squashes, and also severall sorts of nuts or masts, as oak acorns, chestnuts, walnuts; these husked and dried, and powdered, they thicken their pottage therewith." (Gookin 1674:10)

Semi-Authentic Cornbread

Semi-Authentic Cornbread

Semi-Authentic Cornbread

(One family made this. It tasted like unsweet cornbread. Be sure to have some butter and honey available.)

1 cup cornmeal

4 cups water

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp. salt

Place the cornmeal and water in a pot, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until very thick (1/2 hour.) Preheat the oven to 375°. Blend the whole wheat flour and salt into the cooked cornmeal until well mixed. Place 1/2 cup size mounds, shaped like biscuits, on ungreased cookie sheet and press down slightly. Bake for 15 minutes, turn cornbreads over (brown side up) and bake another ten minutes. Yield, 2 1/2 dozen.

Cheate Bread

Cheate Bread

Cheate Bread

(One family made a version of this using a starter she already had. It was quite tasty and was eaten up quickly!)

Cheate Bread Starter:

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Stir in the salt and flour. Cover and set in a warm place two to three days. The batter will bubble up, settle down and separate.


2 cups warm water

2 Tbs. dry yeast or 2 cakes fresh yeast

1 Tbs. salt

2 cups whole wheat flour

4 cups unbleached white flour

Soured dough starter

Dissolve the yeast in warm water. Add the salt and soured starter. Stirring continuously, add whole wheat flour. Add enough white flour to make a soft but not wet dough. Turn onto a floured board and knead, adding as much white flour as needed to make a stiff dough. Knead for at least five-ten minutes. Return the bread to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place to rise. When doubled in bulk (1 1/2 - 2 hours), press down and turn onto work surface. Form into two round loaves or rolls, cover and place on cookie sheets that have been sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover and allow to almost double in bulk. Bake in a preheated 350° oven, scoring the loaves or rolls with a sharp knife or razor blade just before they are placed in the oven. Bake for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the loaf. (They are cooked when tapping on the bottom produces a hollow sound.) Wrap the loaves in a dishtowel to cool.

Seethed (Salted) Cod or Bass

Seethed (Salted) Cod or Bass

Seethed (Salted) Cod or Bass

(One family made cod, but they followed a different recipe. Everyone enjoyed it.)

1 3-4 lb. whole cod or bass

1 1/2 cup fresh water

1 tsp. salt

Clean and gut your fish, or have your fishmonger do it for you, and lay the fish in a pot with enough water to cover and 1 tsp. of salt. Bring very gently to just below boiling, then simmer for 10-15 minutes per pound, depending on the thickness of your fish rather than the weight. The fish will be cooked enough when you can flake the flesh from the bone easily. However, do not overcook and allow it to break into pieces. You will have more success keeping the fish in one piece if you tie it in cheesecloth before boiling. Remove the fish from pot and keep warm in a dish or a deep-welled platter.


1/4 tsp. dried rosemary

1 large onion, sliced

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/4 tsp. mace

1 Tbsp. butter

Draw off half of your fish broth (3/4 cup) and mix with all other ingredients. Gently boil until flavors are well blended. Pour over your fish and serve. To vary the sauce, you may omit the fish broth and substitute with 3/4 cup of dark beer and add pepper instead of mace.




(Corn was a very important staple to the pilgrim's diet. Everyone enjoyed eating it.)

Boil corn-on-the-cob or steam a (12 ounce) bag of frozen corn.

Turnips with Chestnuts or Sage

Turnips with Chestnuts or Sage

Turnips with Chestnuts or Sage

(One family made this recipe. It was interesting to try once.)

From a 14th century manuscript: "Turnips, small turnips should be cooked in water without wine for the first boiling. The throw the water away and cook slowly in water and wine, and chestnuts therin, or, if one has no chestnuts, sage."

The secret to good turnips is to throw the first boiling water away. All the rankness goes away with it. Finishing them up in wine is very nice. A little vinegar and sugar added to water can substitute for the wine. I'd cook the chestnuts first, either boiling them or roasting them, and then add them to the wine. Sage - just a little fresh - is also very good. Let the wine/water cook down to make a nice sauce. How much wine? How much water? It depends on how much turnips/chestnuts. The old recipes don't give amounts, but they assume that you know how to cook things already.

Semi-Authentic Plymouth Succotash

2 1/2 lbs. corned beef

2 1/2 lb. fowl (turkey)

1/2 lb. lean salt pork

3/4 lb. dry white navy beans

1 lb. boiling potatoes

1 lb. white green-top turnips

2 (15-oz.) cans whole hominy

Put all the meats in cold water and boil until tender, then drain, reserving the skimmed broth as stock to cook the vegetables. Bone and dice the meats, and reserve. The beans take a long, slow cooking in some of the fat broth until they can be pureed in the food processor. The puree is then reserved, and care must be taken to cool both beans and broth lest they sour, which is a frequent disaster with this dish. The potatoes, white turnip and hominy should be cooked in the broth. Before serving, mix meat and vegetables together and add the bean puree as it is heated. Be careful it neither burns nor sours - small batches help.



Semi-Authentic Prune Tart Pastry

(We made this. It was actually tasty. The name isn't too appealing, but it really was good. This wouldn't have been served at the 1621 feast since sugar was in short supply, but it might have been served a couple years later.)


3/4 cup wheat flour

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 cup fat (butter, margarine or lard)

cold water to mix

Mix together the flour and salt. Rub the fat into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in the center of your mixture and pour in enough cold water to bind the ingredients together; don't make it too stocky, then mix thoroughly with your hands until it forms a stiff paste. Place onto a floured board and roll out to fit your pie dish. Ease your rolled pastry into the pie dish and trim the edges. Prick the bottom pie with a fork and cover with a waxed paper. Fill your pastry case with beams or rice and bake in a 400° oven for 1/2 hour. Remove the wax paper and beans and return the pastry case to the oven for five minutes to dry out the bottom of the pie case. Allow to cool.


1 1/2 lbs. pitted prunes

1/2 cup fresh water

4 Tbs. brown sugar

1 whole stick cinnamon few sprigs dried or fresh rosemary

2 Tbs. rose water (optional)

Mix together your prunes and fresh water, 2 Tbs. sugar and whole cinnamon with a little of the rosemary, set the rest aside for garnishing your tart later. Bring all of the ingredients to a steady boil and cook for five to ten minutes. Remove from heat, discard cinnamon. Mash into a pulp and drain off excess liquid. Add remaining sugar and rosewater and stew again. Allow to cool, then fill up your pie case and garnish with sprigs of rosemary.

Onion Sauce for Roast Turkey (Gravy)

Onion Sauce for Roast Turkey (Gravy)

Modern Recipe

6 medium onions, sliced thinly

2 cups of water

2 teaspoons of coarsely ground pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

¼ cup red wine vinegar

¼ cup breadcrumbs (optional)

Follow your favorite recipe for roast turkey. Remove the turkey to a platter reserving the pan juices OR use canned chicken broth. Place thinly sliced onions in a pot with water and salt. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and cook until the onions are tender but not mushy. A good deal of the water should have boiled away. Set aside for a moment. Place the roasting pan over medium heat and stir to loosen any brown bits. Stir in the onion sauce, sugar, vinegar and breadcrumbs if desired. Add pepper to taste and adjust seasonings. To serve, pour over sliced turkey or serve alongside in a separate dish.

Historic Recipes:

To make sauce for Capons or Turky Fowles: Take Onions and slice them thin, and boyle them in faire water till they be boyled drye, and put some of the gravie unto them and pepper grose beaten. A.W. A Book of Cookrye. 1591

Sauce for a Turkie

Take faire 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 Turkie, and boyle them very well together: then put to it a few fine crummes of grated bread to thicken it; a very little Sugar and some Vinegar, and so serve it up with the Turkey. Gervase Markham , The English Huswife, 1623


Semi-Authentic Standing Dish of Pompions (Pumpkins)

(We made this but used the "unauthentic" method of baking the pumpkin in the oven. It was interesting to try. The leftovers were great for making pumpkin bread.)

8 cups peeled diced pumpkin

2 Tbs. vinegar

1/4 cup water

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 Tbs. butter

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

salt to taste

This "standing" or standard dish, although spiced like a modern pumpkin pie, is not served in a crust. Put 2 cups of peeled diced pumpkin and 14 cups of water into a pot and cook gently over a low heat until they sink down. Keep adding more pumpkin until you have used all 8 cups. When cooked, the pumpkin will be tender and have kept much of its form, resembling stewed apples. Do not add more water. Remove from the heat and add butter, vinegar, brown sugar and spices. Stir gently and serve. Allow plenty of time to cook this dish, for it must be done very slowly.


Nasaump (Wampanoag Recipe for Grits)

(We made the sweet version. It was interesting to try.)

Savory Nasaump (Savory Grits)

1 quart of water

1 1/2 cups coarse grits

1 cup clam broth

1/2 cup chopped green onions

Bring water to a boil. Gradually add the grits. Turn the heat to low and cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add clam broth and chopped green onions.

Sweet Nasaump (Sweet Grits)

1 quart of water

1 1/2 cups coarse grits

1 cup of berries (blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries)

Bring water to a boil. Gradually add the grits. Turn the heat to low and cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add berries.

Building a Jamestown-style waddle and daub house during Lesson 1: Jamestown Lesson

Building a Jamestown-style waddle and daub house during Lesson 1: Jamestown Lesson

Looking for all my lessons and unit studies?

Looking for all my lessons and unit studies?

Build a waddle and daub house like they did in Jamestown, create pilgrim costumes, set up a beaver trading post as you study Dutch settlers, cook a batch of William Penn's applesauce, perform a play on the Pilgrims, eat a semi-authentic Thanksgiving feast, and more during this fun 4 lesson unit study on Early American Settlers.

  • Jamestown Lesson - This is part 1 of a 4 part hands-on unit on America's Early Settlers. Build a waddle and daub house like they did in Jamestown, dress as cavaliers and hunt for gold, cook and taste gruel, and more!
  • Pilgrims Lesson - This is part 2 of a 4 part hands-on unit on America's Early Settlers. Create pilgrim costumes, make stewed pompion (pumpkin), plant corn, and more!
  • Dutch and Swede Settlers of Early America Lesson - This is part 3 of a 4 part hands-on unit on Early American Settlers. Make butter, bake authentic Dutch Christmas cookies, set up a beaver trading post, build log cabins out of craft sticks, and more!
  • William Penn and Thirteen Colonies Lesson - This is part 4 of a 4 part hands-on unit study on Early American Settlers. Cook a batch of Dutch applesauce, match up the Thirteen Colonies, and make costumes to prepare for the Thanksgiving Presentation.
  • Thanksgiving Feast, Children's Play, & Authentic Recipes - This is the end of the unit activity for a 4 week hands-on unit on Early American Settlers. Eat a feast (complete with authentic dishes), perform a fun Thanksgiving play, and sing a Psalm (just as the Pilgrims did for their Thanksgiving feasts). Authentic and semi-authentic recipes are included!
  • Fun, FREE Hands-On Unit Studies - I have posted my links to over 35 hands-on unit studies (compromised of over 170 lessons) that focus primarily on science and social studies. In each lesson plan I have listed the activities that we did (and included photos), the books we read, YouTube video clips that we watched, and lapbook links that pair with the lesson.
Konos Volume II

Konos Volume II

Konos Curriculum

Would you like to teach this way every day?

Konos Curriculum

I use Konos Curriculum as a springboard from which to plan my lessons. It's a wonderful curriculum and was created by moms with active boys!

Konos Home School Mentor

If you're new to homeschooling or in need of some fresh guidance, I highly recommend Konos' program! Watch videos on-line of what to do each day and how to teach it in this great hands-on format!

Leave Me a Note - I love getting feedback from you! Was this lens helpful? Do you have any questions, comments, or additional ideas? Please post here!

miaponzo on February 25, 2012:

Back for a blessing! Love this lens!

E L Seaton from Virginia on November 23, 2011:

It's always great to see wee people do Thanksgiving.

mrducksmrnot on November 12, 2011:

I'm all for the Turnip dish. I love turnips right out of the ground peeled and add a bit of salt. Wonderful lens and great teaching tools and ideas. I'll pass this on to a homeschooler I know.

anonymous on November 07, 2011:

I am not a teacher but this seem's like a fun way to learn about Thanksgiving :)

miaponzo on November 05, 2011:

Thanks so much for this GREAT lens!!! Blessed!!!

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