A Month of Connecticut Cookery

ECHO underway, posted Monday, November 1, 2010

The poor fowl depicted in the frontispiece of THE IMPROVED HOUSEWIFE knows not his fate.

Before there was a national holiday of thanksgiving, declared by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, there was an annual public day of giving thanks in Connecticut. Historians, novelists, and others at the end of the nineteenth century recalled wistfully what they called their Connecticut Thanksgiving: the governor’s proclamation read at the statehouse and echoed from the pulpit, a morning in church, a community at peace.

And then there was the feast! All this month, we’ll be offering for your delectation tidbits of Connecticut foodways, especially those dishes, savory and sweet, that have graced Connecticuters’ tables in the past. From farm, forest and sea, to market to kitchen and to table, we’ll explore the Nutmeg State’s culinary traditions.

Herewith, however, a nutmeg-less recipe for “Connecticut Thanksgiving Chicken Pie,” from The Improved Housewife, or Book of Receipts, with Engravings for Marketing and Carving, written “By a Lady” (Mrs. A. L. Webster) and published in Hartford by Richard H. Hobbs in 1844.

In sufficient water to prevent burning, stew old or young fowls, jointed, all but tender enough for the table. Pour all into a dish, and season with salt and pepper to the taste. When about cold, place the parts in your pudding dish, lined with a thin common paste [pie pastry], adding about half a pound of butter to three pounds of fowl, in alternate layers. Take more of the paste; roll it nine times, studding it each time with butter, (it must be made very rich;) be careful to roll out, each time, from you, and to roll up towards you, leaving it, at least, an inch thick. Add the upper crust; cut a lip in it; and ornament it with some of the reserved paste, having first lightly sprinkled the chickens with flour, after almost filling the dish with the liquor [editor’s note: not what you’re thinking—this is the water in which the chicken was cooked] in which the chickens were stewed. Pin tight around the rim of the dish a cloth bandage, to prevent the escape of the juices; and bake from an hour to an hour and a half, in a quick oven. If the top burns, lay a paper over it.

Tuck in!