The Golden Lamb: Turning Abraham Lincoln’s holiday into a 150 years old tradition

The Golden Lamb had been open for three decades or so when Lincoln visited Lebanon, Ohio. Though no records exist that he dined or stayed at what was then a busy stagecoach stop, it seems more than likely he’d at least sup in the dining room with its wide fireplaces used for cooking as well as to heat the rooms.

Let’s hope if he did, the scene was somewhat quieter than past meals such as the one described on the Golden Lamb’s website, recounting how “superb dinners were prepared by Jonas Seaman, Henry Share and others and served on the public square.

“These affairs frequently ended in brawls, and on July 4th, 1804, one of the guests attacked Jonas Seaman with his sword. Seaman brought charges against the man, Francis Lucas, who was a guest at his hotel. The charges read that “the guest Francis Lucas, with sword, staves and knives, force and arms, assaulted the said Jonas Seaman and did great damage against the peace of the State of Ohio.

We’re not quite sure when the Golden Lamb first began serving Thanksgiving dinners (Lincoln declared the fourth Thursday of November a national holiday in 1863) but it was a standard most likely from the very beginning.

John Zimkus, historian for the Golden Lamb, a glorious four-story building located in Lebanon’s historic downtown, discovered an article that ran in the Dec 6, 1888, edition of The Western Star. The reporter boasts about how great the Thanksgiving meal was, comparing it more than favorably to anything served in Cincinnati. Menu items included oysters, consommé oysters and turkey stuffed with oysters, along with whitefish, roast beef, chicken croquettes, wild duck, broiled quail, celery and lettuce (plain or with mayonnaise), plum pudding, mince pie, pineapple with “De Brie cheese” and Charlotte Russe.

I couldn’t find a description of the “De Brie cheese” or even why it was in quotations, but it must have been very popular as there were plenty of advertisements for it in the late 1800s and early 1900s. As for Charlotte Russe, it’s a dessert of sweet cream and sponge cake, popular during the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

Oysters, which were cheap back then, no longer grace most Thanksgiving tables except maybe in the stuffing and nobody I know serves chicken croquettes, wild duck, whitefish or broiled quail for the holiday. So if you have a hankering for boil quail, look elsewhere. But several traditional items remain from that 1888 meal–cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, turkey, sweet potatoes and the restaurant’s famous rolls. All can be enjoyed in the central dining room original to the inn which opened in 1804.

The following recipes are courtesy of the Golden Lamb.

Apple Sage Stuffing

1 teaspoon butter

2 Granny Smith apples, in half-inch dice

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Pinch of cinnamon

1 stick butter

½ cup diced onion

1 stalk of celery

1 leek, quartered, rinsed thoroughly, diced

2-3 cups turkey or chicken stock

1 teaspoon rubbed (dry) sage

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

¾ teaspoon Kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

3 quarts cubed bread, stale or dried in oven (about 1 ½ pounds)

¼ cup fresh sage, chopped

Melt the teaspoon of butter in a large skillet. Add apples and sugar and sauté lightly until sugar is melted and apples are softened but still have a bite. Remove to a bowl.

Melt the stick of butter in a large deep skillet, add onion, celery and leeks and cook slowly until onions become transparent. Add 2 cups of turkey stock, the rubbed sage, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Add the bread cubes and stir. The cubes should be evenly moist, but not soggy. Add more stock if necessary.

Stir in apple mixture.

Spread in a shallow pan in a layer no thicker than 2 inches. Bake for about half an hour, until top layer is brown and crusty.

 Brussels Sprout Salad with Dried Cranberries and Sliced Almonds  

1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, very thinly sliced

½ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted

½ cup lemon poppyseed dressing

1 teaspoon poppyseeds

Salt and pepper

In a salad or serving bowl, toss all the ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste, and more dressing if necessary. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Lemon Poppyseed dressing

¼ cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped shallot (about half a shallot)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup salad oil

1 teaspoon poppy seeds 

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

Blend lemon juice, mustard, vinegar, garlic, shallot and sugar together in a blender. Slowly drizzle salad oil in while running blender, until emulsified. (Or whisk with a fork while adding oil or put in a jar and shake).  Add salt and pepper and poppyseeds, taste and adjust seasonings.

Cranberry sauce

There’s an easy way and a difficult way to make a spice sachet. If you’re totally in on authenticity, cut a square out of cheesecloth and place all the spices listed below in it. Then gather the edges the square and tie tightly with twine or string.

Rather not?

Substitute a coffee filter for the cheesecloth, just make sure to tie the ends tightly together.

1 teaspoon whole cardamom

1 cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 oranges

1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries (or frozen)

1 cup sugar

⅓ cup orange juice

1 ½ cups cranberry juice

Put the cardamom, cinnamon, coriander and nutmeg in a spice sachet. Peel the oranges, being sure to remove white pith. Cut in half, then slice. Place cranberries, oranges, sugar, orange juice and cranberry juice in a pot. Add the sachet. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until the cranberries have popped, the liquid has thickened and has reduced somewhat. Let cool, then chill.

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