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Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

Happy Thanksgiving

Tonight I write from an in-law’s home, and it would be easy to dwell on how I want to be home making my own dinner, instead of being on the road eight hours today and destined for eight hours more on Friday.  The truth is, we can almost always find things for which to be thankful.  For me, I know I need to acknowledge more each day the things for which I can be thankful.  Fellow  blogger of Nourishing Words recently convinced me that I need to start a gratitude journal.  Instead of trying to name everything for which I’m  thankful today, I’ll just say I’m thankful that I have nice in-laws!  I’m also so thankful for all of my blog readers and how all of you share your recipes and ideas for living here.  You’ve made my life richer in so many ways.  Will you share one or two thing for which you’re thankful?

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Every year now it seems that newspapers, food blogs, and radio shows debate the merits of turkey or sides as the highlight of Thanksgiving dinner.  Personally, I’m all about the dressing–cornbread stuffing baked in a separate pan for those of you who don’t have Southern roots.  I’ll never forget the year that my sister, accompanied by my mother, ended up in the emergency room the night before Thanksgiving.  The task of making the cornbread for the dressing fell to my father.  He made the mistake of picking a sweet cornbread recipe and using that cornbread for the dressing.  It’s the only year that I didn’t pig out on the dressing.  Needless to say, it was genuinely disgusting.  (Sorry, Dad!)  That dressing is part of family legend.  So is our regular recipe, anchoring us to our ancestors like Americans’ gastronomy nationwide reflect their origins.

As I’ve moved around the country, I’ve discovered that asking the simple question “Dressing or stuffing?” can place a person’s ancestors faster than any other question.  If you want to get more specific within the South, you have to ask more detailed questions about the recipe.  For example, the Georgia dressing recipe that I grew up with included the traditional cornbread as well as a sage stuffing mix, celery, onions, broth, and eggs.  The result was a mixture as solid as canned cranberry jelly.  We could cut it into neat slices.  (I use an all-scratch method now that stays fluffier, and I like it much better, but don’t tell Mom.)    Mr. Homesteader grew up in south Arkansas, and his dressing recipe included chopped boiled eggs.  Those chopped boiled eggs seem pretty consistent across the flatlands of the state and can mark a delta Arkansan faster than any accent.  Newer recipes that are tasty include squash dressing.

I confess to an endless fascination with dressing and stuffing recipes.  I’ve always wanted to compile a catalog of regional variations.  Will you help me to start that catalog?  You can build the recipe catalog one of two ways.  For both cases, you’ll need to answer the following questions.  You can answer directly on the blog, but if you prefer not to tie your ancestry to your regular name here, you can send answers to my email (Ozarkhomesteader AT yahoo DOT com), and I’ll remove names before I post them under anonymous listings.  (And, yes, I’ll preserve your privacy and not share your information with anyone else.)  You may also email photographs in jpg format to that address, and I’ll upload them with this post.  Folks from outside the US are welcome to join in too!

1.  What’s the recipe?  This can be a precise recipe or a vague one, but it needs to include the key components (like boiled eggs, chiles, giblets, fruit, nuts).

2.  What consistency does the product have?  Can you slice it?  Do you spoon it?  Is it fluffy?  Can you see discrete pieces of bread?

3.  What do you call it?

4.  What place do you call home, as in where you learned the recipe?

5.  What is your primary regional and/or state influence in cooking?  For most people, we’re talking about where your mother and grandmother(s) originated.

6.  Do you have any relatives who aren’t from that region?  If so, from where are they?

7.  How long have you used this recipe?

I hope you like mapping food history as much as I do!  Join the fun, and spread the word so that we can get a good sample here.  Remember to include your food origins location!

Update, November 23, 2011:  Please continue to submit your recipes and memories of dressing and stuffing at your house for Thanksgiving.  We’ve still got lots of the country to cover!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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We’ve had more unseasonably cool weather.  Today the temperatures struggled to get out of the 50s F, when ordinarily we’d be at least 80 degrees F for the daytime high.  These cool temperatures make me rethink both kitchen and garden.  Tonight for dinner, for instance, I served up a variation on Thanksgiving, with my treasured frozen turkey stock enriching both dressing and gravy, chicken leg quarters roasted with rosemary and apple cider (see below), green beans with onions and crumb topping, and cranberries cooked with apple cider and maple sugar.  Ordinarily at this time of year, I wouldn’t be heating up the house with this much cooking, but the cool temperatures made it the frugal thing to do.  I worked on cleaning out the freezer at the same time.  And oh my stars, the whole house smells like rosemary and roasted poultry now!

In the garden temperatures like these make me wonder if I could plant another crop of lettuce.  I know it’s risky, so I content myself that if I cut off the heads of some leaf lettuce and they grow back, we’ll have more than enough lettuce until hot temps make that crop untenable.  I checked NOAA.  Are we in a La Nina pattern now?  I can’t tell.  La Nina could change all of my garden plans, bringing extended spring to Arkansas summer.

Weather is why agriculture has always been a gamble and always will be a gamble.  If you want to feed yourself (or a nation), you must always be prepared for the unexpected.

Roasted Rosemary Chicken Quarters

  • 2-3 chicken quarters, skin on
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 3-4 large sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 sweet onion, cut into slivers
  • 1/2-1 cup apple cider (or 1/2 cup cider vinegar and 1/2 cup cider if you want to make gravy–see option below involving potato flour and whole-grain pastry flour)

Preheat oven to 325-350 degrees F.  Salt and pepper the skin side of the chicken quarters.  Heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a cast iron pan (with lid!) that’s big enough to hold your leg quarters, tightly.  Brown the skin side of each quarter over medium-high heat, salting and peppering the non-skin side as you brown the other side.  When the quarters are browned, turn off the heat, put the quarters non-skin side down on top of the rosemary sprigs.  Spread the onions on top.  Pour on the apple juice (and cider, if you want), and put on the lid.  Bake for about an hour.  The recipe is so simple, but the flavor and moisture in the chicken could not be much simpler.

Gravy Option

If you want to make gravy with what’s in the pan, toss 1 tablespoon potato flour with about 1 tablespoon whole-wheat pastry flour with the onion slivers before you put them on the chicken.  Toss on the flour mixture with the onions.  When you pour on the cider, be sure to pour it over the onions, so that you moisten the flour.  By the time you get done cooking, you’ll have gravy.  Seriously, the gravy really is going to make itself.

By the way, this chicken works really well in a Dutch oven for camping!  I won a Dutch-oven cookoff last fall with a similar recipe.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  All rights reserved.

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Okay, so I had two servings of turkey breast left, some Southern cornbread dressing, and some other odds and ends I didn’t mind parting with for this meal.  After thinking about eating plain turkey again, I decided that turkey croquettes were the best solution.  Croquettes combine cooked flesh (turkey, chicken, salmon, tuna) with bread of some kind plus vegetables plus seasoning.  My challenge was to integrate two major leftovers–turkey and dressing–without my picky (leftover hostile) husband’s sensing that he was getting leftovers.  Here’s the recipe for 4 good-sized croquettes (patties):

  • 1/3-1/2 pound roasted turkey, off the bone and diced
  • 1/2-1 cup cornbread dressing (stuffing for you yankees!)
  • 1 stalk fresh celery, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup homemade ranch dressing (or store bought if you don’t have homemade on hand)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • fine bread crumbs (about 1/3 cup)

Combine together everything except the bread crumbs, starting with less ranch and adding it as you need for binder.  You want a texture that will easily hold together but that also is not too dense.  Form patties using a 1/3 cup measure.  Turn each patty into your hand and press it together into a slightly thinner patty.  Roll each patty in the bread crumbs.

You now have two choices on how to continue.  The healthier option is to put the croquettes on a well-greased pan (I used cast iron), spray the tops with oil, and then bake at 375 degrees F for about 20-25 minutes, rotating and flipping to make sure that they cook evenly until they are nicely browned top and bottom.  You can also pan fry the croquettes, flipping half way through frying.  Frankly, baking works just fine for this recipe, so I took the healthier option of baking.

I served the turkey croquettes with a fresh salad of mesclun (baby greens) and a slightly sweet vinaigrette.  You may want it with buttered noodles, on a bun, or any number of other ways.  Enjoy!

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My turkey brine is quick and easy.  I just put it together in a few minutes, and you can too.  Start by putting 1 cup of salt without anti-caking agents added, like canning salt, in a medium-sized pot.  Add 1/2 cup (or a little more) of honey, brown sugar, or molasses.  Use what you have! Add enough water to come about half way up the side of the pan, completely covering the salt and honey.  Bring the pot to a boil.  While the pot gets hot, assemble the rest of your ingredients.  Put 2 tablespoons each peppercorns (mixed or all black) and 2 tablespoons whole allspice berries together to be crushed.  You can crush them in a chopper, with the side of a heavy knife blade, with a cast iron pan, or with a mortar and pestle.  As the salt-honey-water mixture comes to a boil, drop in the sort-of crushed peppercorns and allspice berries.  Now add 2 tablespoons juniper berries.  Juniper berries add a wild flavor to farm-raised turkey.  Has the pot boiled yet?  Let it boil for a minute or two and then turn off the heat.  Add a heaping tablespoon of celery seed and some chopped garlic or dried garlic.  (I had some dried garlic that I wanted to get rid of, so I put that in.) Now put a lid on that pot and walk away until it cools down.  In a few hours, I’ll add at least one cup of cider vinegar.  Sometimes I’ll add a sweetish wine too, like white port.  I also will put in handfuls of fresh herbs:  rosemary, sage, and thyme.  I have a canning pot that is large enough to hold the 18-pound turkey I’ve been thawing over several days.  I’ll put the turkey in the canning pot and alternate adding my brine mixture with water until the turkey is completely covered.  You can use a very large ziplock bag if you do not have a pot big enough to hold your turkey.  Refrigerate the turkey until you are ready to roast it, preferably giving the brine time to work overnight.

  • 1 cup canning salt (Kosher or sea salt are okay too but more expensive; do not use standard table salt)
  • 1/2 + cup honey, molasses, or brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons peppercorns (mixed or all black)
  • 2 Tablespoons allspice berries
  • 2 Tablespoons juniper berries
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon celery seed
  • 1 scant Tablespoon garlic (dried okay)
  • 1 cup (or more) real apple cider vinegar
  • optional:  1 cup white port (homemade wine is really good for this purpose)

What special ingredients do you add to your brine?  Please share!

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As we approach Thanksgiving, I want to comment on some news I read earlier today in the New York Times.  About one out of seven Americans are now wondering if they’ll have enough to eat at their next meal.  This is the highest percentage since the federal government started tracking the trend fourteen years ago, and it mirrors the total rate of underemployed and unemployed (now at 17.5%).  Suddenly I am ashamed about feeling churlish over having to process the last couple of bushels of sweet and hot peppers that I picked today ahead of an anticipated freeze.  We are grateful that we have enough, but these sobering statistics remind me even more how much we need to share our harvest.  Our rural location prevents us from dropping of our bounty directly to soup kitchens, but I can still give cash to the food bank, using money that I saved from home growing.  Please, if you have enough to eat each day, plan on giving regularly to food banks and soup kitchens.  We are our brother’s keepers.

How are you sharing your bounty during these difficult times?

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