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Kansas Memory Blog

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by Megan Rohleder on Nov 24, 2021

By: Lauren Gray, Head of Reference

As we all know, Thanksgiving is a holiday to gather, share, and be thankful. The last year has given us few opportunities to gather, and even fewer to share, so we are thankful that this year many of us will be reunited with family, friends, and loved ones to enjoy the holiday. And what better way to celebrate than over an indulgent meal? From our tables to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!



The turkey, a large, flightless bird indigenous to the Americas, is a mainstay of the Thanksgiving table. How or why the turkey became the holiday centerpiece is open to debate, but be it grilled, roasted, smoked or fried, we love Mr. Gobble. Americans ate 5.26 billion pounds of turkey in 2020, and Kansas farmers raise around 1 million turkeys annually - that’s a lot of turkey legs!



Cranberries, whether you love them or hate them, are here to stay on the Thanksgiving table. Sometimes jellied and sometimes mashed, cranberries’ sour tang is a welcome relief to the oft-overbearing richness of the holiday board. Another food indigenous to America, the cranberry has been harvested in this country for thousands of years. Originally used by early American Indians in pemmican, a shelf-stable mix of dried berries, dried meat, and animal fat, the cranberry now appears in many forms. 

Our Government Records Archivist, Ethan Anderson, was kind enough to share his family’s innovative go-to cranberry recipe. The sour berries are made palatable, he says, by the addition of mashed banana. 

Aunt Sally’s Cranberries


2 bags cranberries

4 winesap apples, cored (braeburn or granny smith also work)

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 small bananas, mashed


Grind cranberries and apples (best if you can use a hand meat grinder, but a food processor also works well). Add sugar to the  ground berries & apples.  Refrigerate until shortly before serving, then add mashed bananas and let sit for 15 - 20 minutes so natural sugars can combine. Serve & enjoy!

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are yet another ingredient native to the Americas (we’re sensing a theme here…). Sweet potatoes were also harvested by early indigenous people long before European colonists arrived. Similar to the West African yam, the sweet potato was an early and necessary ingredient in the diet of enslaved African Americans, who used sweet potatoes to replace their traditional African ingredients after their forced relocation to America. Freed African Americans then brought their culinary traditions with them when they immigrated to Kansas after the Civil War. 



3.14159--oh, sorry, you meant Pie, the custardy, warm, comforting, golden-crusted delight. While there are several contenders for the title, in our opinion, Pumpkin Pie is the traditional Thanksgiving dessert. Pumpkins (and other squash and gourds) have been harvested for thousands of years around the world. Early indigenous people in Kansas dried pumpkin to preserve it and to use it for trade. The first American cookbook, published by Amelia Simmons in 1796, presents a recipe for pumpkin pie that is very similar to the pie we bake today, using stewed pumpkin, nutmeg, and eggs. As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke...That being said, our Senior Archivist, Megan Burton, shared her family’s recipe for Pumpkin Chiffon Pie, and may we say, it looks absolutely delightful. 

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

Pie Crust:

12 Graham Crackers

2Tbsp Sugar

¼ tsp. Salt

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted


1 envelope unflavored gelatin

¼ cup water

¾ cup sugar

½ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp allspice

¼ tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp cloves

3 eggs, separated

½ cup whole milk

14.5 ounces pure pumpkin puree

1 tsp vanilla

For the crust:

Preheat oven to 325. Pulse graham crackers in food processor to get crumbs. Add sugar and salt to combine. Add butter and mix until consistency of wet sand.Put in a 9 ½ inch baking dish. Press crumbs into bottom and sides of dish. Bake about 20-25 minutes until lightly browned. Transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.

For the filling:

Dissolve the gelatin in the water in a small bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes. In a saucepan, combine ½ cup of sugar, salt cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, egg yolks, milk, and pumpkin. Whisk frequently for about 5-7 minutes over medium-low heat. Cook until mixture is hot and thickened slightly, but doesn’t come to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the gelatin and vanilla. Cool to room temp on the counter. When the filling has cooled, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Continue beating while gradually adding the rest of the sugar until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in egg whites to the pumpkin mixture, then pour into the cooled pie shell. Refrigerate at least 4 hours until firm. Serve with whipped cream.


From all of us at the State Archives, we wish you a happy and safe Thanksgiving!













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