Chesapeake Boiled Turkey with Chestnut Sauce

Here is a historical alternative for cooking a turkey. I’ve cooked turkeys in the traditional manner and have even deep-fried them with my brother in North Carolina but this one is interesting. These recipes are based on historical text: Mrs. C.H. Steele’s Book, 1870 (turkey); Maryland Cookbook, 1892 (oyster stuffing); Mrs. Rorer’s receipt, 1885 (chestnut sauce). It’s worth a try and because it’s boiled the meat doesn’t dry out as much.


Oyster Stuffing

  • ¾ cup butter
  • 4 Tblsp chopped parsley
  • 1 pint oysters, drained (reserving liquor) and chopped
  • 6 cups crustless white bread, cubed
  • 1 tsp dried basil leaves
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 ½ tsp salt 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ cup milk and ½ cup oyster liquor, mixed together


  • 8-9 pound turkey
  • Oyster stuffing (see above recipe)

Chestnut Sauce

  • 1 pint large Chestnuts
  • 1 Tblsp butter
  • 1 Tblsp flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Large sauce pan
  • Large stock pot
  • Cheese cloth (optional)
  • Cotton baking twine and needle
  • Shallow roasting tray
  • Knife
  • Whisk


Oyster Stuffing

  1. Melt butter until it foams.
  2. Add onion, celery and parsley and cook a few minutes.
  3. Then add oysters and cook until just heated through.
  4. Combine with bread and seasonings and moisten with oyster and milk mixture.


  1. Sew turkey up in a cheese cloth (this is optional, but it makes it easier to remove the turkey from the boiling water)
  2. Add water to a pot large enough to accommodate both the turkey and water. Be sure to leave enough room to add turkey without water spilling over.
  3. Bring pot to a boil.
  4. Turn down to simmer and add turkey to simmering water.
  5. Cook about 15 minutes to a pound, or until tender.
  6. Skim from time to time and add some salt half way through cooking.
  7. Remove from pot and cut away cheese cloth.
  8. Serve with sauce (recipe follows) and stuffing.

Chestnut Sauce

  1. While turkey is boiling, Roast chestnuts.
  2. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  3. On the flat underside of chestnut cut an “X” .
  4. Spread the nuts in a shallow pan and roast for about 20 minutes.
  5. Remove and when the nuts are just cool enough to handle, peel off shell and remove the bitter dark skin.
  6. When done, mash fine.
  7. Melt butter and stir until light brown, then add flour, and mix well.
  8. While stirring, add stock and mashed chestnuts. Continue stirring until it comes to a boil.
  9. Season with salt and pepper.
  10. Serve.

What you should know

Traditionally stuffing was sewn into bird before boiling, but I suggest making seperate and serving it on side.

Turkey Quick Links:

  1. Turkey (amount to buy)
  2. Turkey (thawing frozen)
  3. Cooking Times (Turkey)
  4. Turkey Gravy
  5. Thanksgiving Turkey or Chicken
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