Over the River and Through the Wood was published years before Thanksgiving became an official federal holiday. The author was Lydia Maria Francis Child.
Child’s grandparents lived near the Mystic river in Medford, Massachusetts and that home was the inspiration for the 1844 beloved poem turned song.
She lived from 1802 -1880 and wrote a popular cookbook for her time. The American Frugal Housewife (1832) which was dedicated to ‘those who are not ashamed of economy.’ Child gave practical information for the home cook, who did not have extra help in the kitchen, and for those on a budget.
North America’s first Thanksgiving was a celebration with Spanish settlers and native Timucuan Indians in Florida, long before Jamestown and Plymouth celebrated a Thanksgiving. Eminent Florida historian Michael V. Gannon wrote, in his book The Cross in the Sand, “the feast day observed…after Mass, the Adelantado (Spanish governor to the area) had the Indians fed and dined himself. It was the first community act of religion and thanksgiving in the first permanent settlement in the land.”
In 1913 Martha McCulloch-Williams wrote Dishes and Beverages of the Old South with a recipe by Louise Williams for Jelly Pie. I included the recipe in my book Florida Sweets to share another way to use jelly.
Jelly Pie: (Louise Williams.) Beat the yolks of four eggs very light, with a cup of sugar, three-quarters cup creamed butter, and a glass of jelly, the tarter the better. Add a tablespoon vanilla and a dessert-spoonful of sifted cornmeal, then the whites of eggs beaten very stiff. Bake in crusts—this makes two fat pies. Meringue is optional—and unnecessary.
After the book was published I decided to try the recipe, just see if it was good. It was great when I used Guava jelly, not so much with less tart jelly, so the recommendation for tart jelly should be headed. I cut the recipe in half to make one pie.
Separate 2 eggs, beat the whites very stiff, set aside.
Lightly beat the yolks and beat in:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 + 1 Tablespoon creamed butter
1/2 cup guava jelly
2 teaspoons vanilla
1-1/2 teaspoons cornmeal
Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites.
Pour into prepared 9-inch graham cracker crumb crust.
Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool before serving.