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.

Road Trip: The Back Roads Guide to America’s Favorite President

Old Talbott Tavern in Bardstown where the Lincoln family stayed when Abe was about six years old.

Indiana University Press is running a Goodreads giveaway for my new book Lincoln Road Trip (due out this spring) from now until December 19th. If anyone is interested, here is the link:

Pierre Menard House SHS

America’s favorite president sure got around. From his time as a child in Kentucky, as a lawyer in Illinois, and all the way to the Oval Office, Abraham Lincoln toured across the countryside and cities and stayed at some amazing locations.

Lincoln dined at the Log Inn in 1844 when he returned to Indiana to campaign for Henry Clay. The inn, once a stagecoach stop has been in continuous operation since opening in 1825. You can dine in the room where Lincoln ate. 

In Lincoln Road Trip:The Back-Roads Guide to America’s Favorite President, Jane Simon Ammeson will help you step back into history by visiting the sites where Abe lived and visited. This fun and entertaining travel guide includes the stories behind the quintessential Lincoln sites, but also takes you off the beaten path to fascinating and lesser-known historical places. Visit the Log Inn in Warrenton, Indiana (now the oldest restaurant in the state), which opened in 1825 and where Lincoln stayed in 1844, when he was campaigning for Henry Clay. You can also visit key places in Lincoln’s life, like the home of merchant Colonel Jones,who allowed a young Abe to read all his books, or Ward’s Academy, where Mary Todd Lincoln attended school.

The dining room at the Mary Todd House, now a museum.

Along with both famous and overlooked Lincoln attractions, Jane Simon Ammeson profiles near by attractions to round out your trip, like Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari,a third-generation family-owned amusement park that can be partnered with a trip to the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial and Lincoln State Park. Featuring new and exciting Lincoln tales from Springfield, IL; Bardstown, KY;Booneville, IN; Alton, IL; and many more, Lincoln Road Trip is a fun adventure through America’s heartland that will bring Lincoln’s incredible story to life.

A Golden Lamb Thanksgiving: A Treat Since 1870

            I’ve spent a lot of time lately traversing Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio following, so to speak, in Abraham Lincoln’s footsteps . And while it’s not recorded that Lincoln stayed at the Golden Lamb in Lebanon, Ohio, it’s certainly possible ashe traveled throughout the area. The connection seems apt because the GoldenLamb has been in continuous operation since it first opened in 1803 when Jonas Seaman spent four dollars on a license to open a log-cabin tavern under the sign of a golden lamb (because literacy wasn’t common, signs with images were used instead).

Sister Lizzie’s Shaker Sugar Pie
Photo courtesy of the Golden Lamb

            A host of other famous people have stayed there including, according to General Manager Bill Kilimnik, 12 presidents, Mark Twain and Charles Dickins. Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and an avid abolitionist was also a guest and I slept in the room she occupied and no (to the people who have asked) it’s not haunted though another room is said to be and there’s also a ghost cat that some have seen. But that’s a different holiday and the tie-in with Lincoln is that in 1870, he proclaimed the fourth Thursday of November a national holiday and the inn’s restaurant has served Thanksgiving dinner since then–which has got to be some type of record. 

            The restaurant is famed for many of their menu items including fried chicken, sauerkraut balls,Sister Lizzie’s Sugar Shaker Pie (White Water Shaker Village was once a large settlement of Shakers about three miles from Lebanon)–named by USA Today as the Best Pie in Ohio–and their yeast rolls made from a recipe first used by Robert and Virginia Jones in the early 1930s whose family still owns the inn. Their turkey dinners at Thanksgiving are very popular but if you can’t make it this coming Thursday,roast turkey is on the menu year round.

            According to several newspaper articles, back in the 1800s, the inn’s Thanksgiving menu included several oyster dishes including just plain oysters, consommé oysters as well as turkey stuffed with oysters. Other dishes were  whitefish, roast beef, chicken croquettes, wild duck, broiled quail, celery and lettuce—you could order it plain or with mayonnaise), plum pudding, mince pie, pineapple with “De Brie cheese”  and Charlotte Russe. I couldn’t find a description of the cheese, but plenty of advertisements for it in the late 1800s and early 1900s so my guess is it’s a type of creamy brie. Charlotte Russe a dessert of sweet cream and sponge cake popular during both the Victorian and Edwardian eras. 

Golden Lamb’s Mushroom Cobbler
Photo courtesy of the Golden Lamb

            The Golden Lamb may be one of the few long-time restaurants that doesn’t have a cookbook and their recipes are hard to come by, but Paige Drees who works at the inn shared their Mushroom Cobbler which she said (and I agree) would make a great Thanksgiving side dish. I also found an original handwritten recipe for Sister Lizzie’s Sugar Shaker Pie on the website of the Vintage Recipe Project, an online site founded in order to document and preserve historic recipes from the past. I’m not sure if it’s the same as what the inn serves but I tried the recipe and it seems very similar to what I had at the restaurant.  

Yeast Rolls
Photo courtesy of the Golden Lamb

Golden Lamb’s Mushroom Cobbler

1 cup Shitake mushrooms sliced

1 cup button mushrooms quartered

1 cups oyster mushrooms sliced

1 cups cremini mushrooms sliced

2 each shallot sliced

1 packet fresh poultry blend herbs

1 cup heavy cream

8 ounces goat cheese

2 ounces dry sherry

4 cooked crumbled biscuits

1 packet fresh poultry blend herbs, cleaned and chopped reserve ½ for Biscuit topping

1 cup heavy cream

 8 ounces goat cheese reserve ½ for Biscuit topping

2 ounces dry sherry

Heat a medium sized skillet add one tablespoon of vegetable oil and sauté your shallots until tender, add all mushrooms and a pinch of salt and pepper. once the mushrooms are fork tender add sherry to deglaze pan. add your cream and reduce by half, fold in your goat cheese and fresh herbs, turn off and set aside.

One of the private dining rooms at the Golden Lamb

Biscuit topping

4 cooked crumbled biscuits

2 tablespoons melted butter

Remaining goat cheese

Remaining fresh herbs

Place all ingredients into medium sized bowl mix until it resembles a crumb topping.

1 bunch chopped asparagus

2 ounces sliced sun-dried tomatoes

2 ounces pearl onions

½ cup baby spinach

Prepared mushroom mix

In a medium skillet sauté your pearl onion until caramelized, add your asparagus and sundried tomatoes and sauté for two minutes add the mushroom mix from earlier. add spinach, check seasoning and put mix into casserole dish sprinkle on biscuit topping and bake at 350 for eight minutes until bubbly and golden brown

Golden Lamb Yeast Dinner Rolls

1 ½ cup milk

4 teaspoons dry yeast

4 cups bread flour

2 teaspoons salt

½ cup sugar

5 tablespoons vegetable shortening

1 egg

Heat milk until warm, 100 degrees. Put yeast in a small bowl, add about ½ teaspoon sugar, then stir in milk. Let sit until foamy. Combine flour, salt, sugar and shortening in a mixer bowl, and mix to combine. Add the milk mixture and egg. Mix on mixer until combined, then beat for about 13 minutes.  Or, by hand, mix until combined, then turn out onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.

Oil the dough ball lightly, cover the bowl with a towel and let rise for an hour, when it should be doubled in size. Punch down. Divide the dough into about 24 balls of dough. One way to do this is to divide the dough into two, then all each half of the dough into a long rope on a flour-covered counter. Cut each rope into 12 equal portions, and roll each into a ball.

Place on a flat baking sheet and cover with a towel, Preheat oven to 350. After the rolls have risen about half an hour,  bake them  until golden brown and fragrant, about 10-15 minutes. Check frequently. Serve as soon as possible after they come out of the oven. 

Yields 8-10 servings.

Sister Lizzie’s Sugar Shaker Pie

     1/4  pound butter

    1 cup brown sugar

    1 3/4  cups light cream

    1/3  cup flour

    1/2 teaspoon vanilla

    Grated nutmeg

    1  9-inch pie shell, unbaked

Thoroughly mix the flour and brown sugar and spread evenly in the bottom of the unbaked pie shell.  Pour the cream and vanilla over this.  Slice the butter into 12-16 pieces and add.  Sprinkle with nutmeg.  Bake in a 350°F oven for 40-45 minutes or until firm.

For more information, 513-932-5065;