Thursday, December 25, 2008

December 25, 2008 - Christmas Pie

Swan among the Indians: life of James G. Swan, 1818-1900; based upon Swan's hitherto unpublished diaries and journals, by Lucile Saunders McDonald

On December 25, 1861, three "Boston men" sat down to Christmas dinner in the trading post established four years earlier at the edge of the Makah Indian reservation, Washington Territory, USA.

The traditional holiday was a welcome break from the unloading and distribution of a shipment of goods promised to the Makah by the treaty they had signed in 1855. James Swan, a periodic resident in Neah Bay, had, in the absence of the trader, prepared a feast of roast goose and duck stew, presenting for dessert a mince pie made from whale meat. The Indians, he wrote later, had brought him a fresh piece of whale meat months earlier that looked every bit as good as red beef. He had boiled it and cut it finely, adding chopped apples and wild cranberries, raisins, currants, salt, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, cinnamon, and brown sugar. After packing it into a ten-gallon stone jar, he had added a quart of New England rum and sealed it for future use.

Would the traditional mince pie, he worried, be welcomed if the diners learned it was made from whale? Yankee mincemeat was made from domestic animals or venison. His fears were soon dispelled. The small portions he had cautiously served were quickly downed and second helpings demanded by all.

Click here for an extended history of mincemeat pie (courtesy of What's Cooking America) -- it's delicious!

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