Almost Thanksgiving

Yesterday was a quiet Sunday so I got out my cache of Thanksgiving recipes to plan the week’s preparations for the big meal on Thursday. Most of what we cook comes from the farm, some down in the root cellar waiting–butternut squash and shallots for soup, pumpkin for pies, carnival squash for roasting—and the rest—carrots, turnips, leeks–waiting in the field for digging today or tomorrow.

My job today is to make gluten-free cornbread so that it’ll be stale for the stuffing on Thursday, joined by chopped hazelnuts, sliced leeks, grated carrot, rosemary, thyme, and veggie broth. I’m making the stuffing gluten-free this year for my daughter and sister but I think everyone will enjoy it and not even know it’s gluten-free.

The other job for the day is getting out the vintage “Homestead” dishes we use for Thanksgiving. They’re the “everyday” dishes my parents got when they married and have been passed on to me for this meal. I’ve got 18 place settings, which is a good thing because we have almost that many people coming for dinner.

Tonight I’ll cook the butternut squash and pumpkins in halves on a baking sheet with a little water for steaming until they’re soft and then I’ll scoop them out for the soup and pie.

Tomorrow I’ll set the dishes on the long table in our farm’s Sunflower Community Room and decorate with small squash and pumpkins from the field.

Wednesday I’ll make the pies with the pumpkin I’ve cooked, as well as make the spice butter for the outside of the turkey and to pour over the carnival squash, an acorn variety that I slice in wedges and bake covered with foil with a little broth in the bottom of the dish in a second oven an hour and a half at 375 before the turkey’s done.

I’m a vegetarian, but I decided years ago that I like Thanksgiving at home so much, I’ll make the turkey for everyone else. We buy a huge one from our friend’s natural food store, so big that we have to get up while it’s still dark to get it into the oven. Every year I complain to John, “Why is the vegetarian making the turkey?” but I have to admit, I do eat the gravy—flavored with our leeks and rosemary—on my mashed potatoes.

Here’s the recipe for the Spice Butter:

1 stick of softened butter

2 tsp coarse salt (smoked is good)

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp cumin powder

1 clove minced garlic or 1 tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp each allspice, cloves, and nutmeg

2 Tbl honey

Leave it out the night before so it’s soft for spreading on the turkey, then melt the rest for drizzling over the squash slices.

Wednesday night I mince and sauté the shallots for the soup and also slice the leeks and grate the carrot for stuffing. I mix up all the dry stuffing ingredients in a huge crockery bowl so it’s handy in the morning. All I have to do then is add broth to the portion that will go inside the bird. We put leeks and rosemary in the bottom of the roasting pan with the turkey on top, and pour quite a bit of broth in the bottom. We coat the bird with olive oil and then rub on the spice butter, stick it in the oven, and go back to bed for an hour or so.

Up again when it’s light, we peel potatoes to boil for mashing, slice the squash for one dish and carrots and parsnips for another, douse the turkey with broth a few more times, get out the serving bowls, and make the soup.

I made this soup for the first time last year and it’s a great way to sit down at the table before we start passing the other dishes, plus I can put it in my biggest crockpot and forget about it while I tend to other things. My sister brings gluten-free, blue cornmeal mini-muffins to accompany the soup and it’s just right for a first course.

Here’s the recipe for Squash Pear Soup:

5 cups cooked butternut squash (3-4 pounds of butternut squash (1 large or 2 medium), already halved, de-seeded; cook for an hour and a half or so at 350 and scoop out of the skin)

4-5 minced shallots, sautéed in a little olive oil until golden

6 ripe pears, stem and core removed

2 tsp ground ginger

3 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

1-2 tsp ground thyme

1/16 tsp cayenne powder

Puree all ingredients in a food processor and place in 6-qt crockpot. Add 1 ½ quarts (6 cups) vegetable broth and stir until smooth.

Heat for 2 hours on high setting.

At the same time I make the soup, I warm ½ gallon of cider with four cups of strong chai tea in a smaller crockpot to serve with my brother-in-law’s pumpkin bread while we’re cooking. This year we’ll spread the bread with yummy pumpkin butter that a subscriber gave us at the end of the season—a double pumpkin treat while we wait for everything else to cook.

It’s always a little hectic getting it all to the table but everyone helps. Our oldest daughter and son-in-law whip the potatoes with half-and-half and butter; John carves the turkey; my mom makes the gravy after the bird comes out of the pan; my sisters get the stuffing and veggies out of the oven; friends put the dishes they’ve brought on the table; and someone forgets that the rolls are in the oven until we’re all seated at the table and we have to run back for them.

The food’s ready, the table’s lovely with candlelight, and we’re all here, grateful for another year together. But before we eat, we recite a verse by Ralph Waldo Emerson that captures all that we have to be thankful for:

For each new morning with its light,

For rest and shelter of the night,

For health and food

For love and friends,

For everything [that] goodness sends.

We are thankful.

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5 Comments

Filed under memoir, sustainable agriculture

5 responses to “Almost Thanksgiving

  1. Lorna

    Great post Kayann. Hope you had a good day! The only thing I made was pumpkin bread but we ate big at a strangers house. They were not strangers by the end of the evening though…it was a good Thanksgiving in Kampala!

  2. Tim

    This posting is absolutely amazing. I’m not up on my top-flight periodicals but it should be featured somewhere — The New Yorker? Esquire? Martha, eat your heart out!

  3. Tim

    I’m dreaming of a Stonebridge Thanksgiving. . .

  4. Ellen Mendoza

    I’m hungry now.

  5. john

    Sometimes in the doing of it it’s hard to see the traditions emerging. Nice to have them named and honored.

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