According to The History Kitchen, Abraham Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, taught herself to cook from “Miss Leslie’s Complete Cookery”– a cookbook Mrs. Lincoln had purchased as a newlywed. Written by Eliza Leslie and originally published in 1837, it was considered the most authoritative American cookbook of the time period. It was also the most popular. Mrs. Lincoln was known to rely heavily on Miss Leslie's recipes.
So, is this the cranberry sauce that Lincoln had on his Thanksgiving table? Since it's the cranberry sauce in Miss Leslie's cookbook, it's very likely that it was.
Originally, Miss Leslie's recipe reads, "Wash a quart of ripe cranberries, and put them into a pan with about a wine-glass of water. Stew them slowly and stir them frequently, particularly after they begin to burst. They require a great deal of stewing, and should be like a marmalade when done.
After you take them from the fire, stir in a pound of brown sugar. When they are thoroughly done, put them into a deep dish, and set them away to get cold."
Rae Katherine Ehmey interprets the recipe for today's kitchen:
Miss Leslie's Cranberry Sauce
1 (12 to 14 oz.) bag of fresh cranberries
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
Wash and sort cranberries. Combine with water in a heavy sauce pan. Cover and cook over low to medium heat until berries pop and the mixture becomes jam-like. Be sure to lift cover and stir from time to time so the sauce does not stick and burn. Add brown sugar and stir until sugar melts into the jam. Remove from heat and refrigerate until ready to serve.
I made this exactly as written by Ms. Ehmey, and it is delicious. I'm such a fan of adding oranges to my cranberry sauce that I had forgotten how lovely the unadorned cranberry flavor really is. This sauce has the perfect texture- it jells just enough, and still leaves plenty of the cranberries' shape intact. The brown sugar gives a nice layer of slightly richer flavor.