Ahhhh Thanksgiving. As I grow older and wiser I think this might be my favorite Holiday. Growing up there was always the story of Plymouth Rock and the Pilgrims but I have moved past that. I now celebrate the harvest of nature's bounty. Perhaps owning land which produces fruit, vegetables and some meat has changed my perspective. We invariably set about planting in the spring and by fall we are able to look back and give thanks for that which we are blessed with.
I was always a fan of Thanksgiving but for far different reasons when I was growing up. At first it was all the delicacies my grandfather presented us, more on that later. There was of course the long weekend off of school, and football. I don't follow football much these days, but I still enjoy that long weekend. And now we can add our small harvest to the holiday.
We first moved onto this property 3 years ago, the Thursday before Thanksgiving. We had spend the late summer and early fall looking for houses and getting our old one ready to sell. We moved into to a much larger property and were thankful to have moved out of the city and into a more rural setting. Over that first spring and summer we watch our property come alive and produce many. many wonderful gifts. By the time of the second Thanksgiving we were able to add an ingredient from our property to each and every dish we served at our feast. We haven't yet raised a turkey, though I want to, but every spice needed to prepare a turkey was growing in our herb garden. Marlee came up with an incredible hors deurve of toasted crostini with a goat cheese spread and a fig jam. The figs were plentiful that first year but weather has hampered them lately.
As a child we would go to my Grandfathers house early on Thanksgiving day. About ten to 15 years before I was born he had started a tradition of having friends over for appetizers in the afternoon. This tradition grew and grew until he needed more tables to display his spread. It was a true masterpiece of charcuterie, before charcuterie was popularized, he was way ahead of his time! An entire table was covered with appetizers of various sorts. We would make small kebabs of cheese and meats, like ham and pepperoni or same form with fruits and marshmallows. These were made on toothpicks which were poked into the skin of a grapefruit or orange half. There would be smoked clams and oysters, anchovies, sardines, and shrimp cocktail. The shrimp was a family legend; he would always hide it somewhere and tease that there was no shrimp that year. Aunts and Uncles would bring other side dishes, both new and traditional (to us); there would alwyas be a crockpot of meatballs, some vienna sausages, and definitely smokies in barbecue sauce. I remember that often times my Grandma would use the left over oysters in her turkey stuffing. We didn't always stay for turkey dinner but we were always at "lunch".
Marlee tells me that her fondest memory of Thanksgiving is smelling the yeast rolls baking at Grandma's house. I don't think I ever got to taste those but if they are half as good as Aunt Pattie's they would be amazing.
I grew up in Ohio so Thanksgiving was always about a 30% chance of having the first big snow storm and this was always interesting to us. The family I mention above was very big, my mom had 9 brothers and sisteres, and right around 35 cousins. At times when the weather was right and we hadn't eaten too much there was a backyard football game.
I just remembered another Thanksgiving tradition, watching "The Wizard of Oz". It was always broadcast Thanksgiving night when I was a kid.
I also remember there being a definite pause before rushing off to Christmas unlike now. This isn't a complaint, though I do find it crazy to see Christmas stuff at Wal-mart as early as labor day but they wouldn't put that stuff out if someone didn't buy it.
One thing I am pretty sure about is that the weekend after Thanksgiving was acceptable for Christmas decorating. I am pretty sure that my other Grandmother from above would come get me and my sisteres to spend the night for at least one day and sometimes two, maybe my parents went shopping? But those weekends were pretty amazing when timed right as the beautiful Christmas lights and displays started to be shown.
I could be off a week on that very rough rememberance above, but I am positive that there were years that we did not set up a tree until 15 December or so. My mom, as a girl, had a tradition of the tree being decorated on Christmas eve, so it is very possible we waited as long as she could keep us quite about a tree. Living in a 3 bedroom ranch with 2 sisters didn't provide a lot of floor space for a Christmas tree either.
Current Thanksgiving Thoughts
As always Marlee and I cherish our family and are thankful for their continued health and properity. More family than we would like have spread out into the world so we just celebrate them from afar. We are thankful that our endeavor to share our talents and products with you is slowly growing. We are thankful that we have been blessed with an amazing bountiful harvest; cherries galore, some of the best plums ever, amazing blackberries as always, more apples than we know what to do with, a good amount of peaches, a good pear harvest and a great herb, tomato, and pepper harvest. We are thankful to have employment and meaningful engaging work with the companies that we work for during the day. We have a great house over our heads and enjoy seeing friends and family there always.
One traditional dish that I wish to share with you is a Scalloped Potato recipe I got off of Emeril Lagasse site at least 10 years ago. I have made it so many times I will just summarize it and give you a link. You'll need 2-3 pounds of yellow gold potatoes, 3-4 slices of bacon, 2 quarts of heavy cream, a half stick of butter, a leek, and 1 lb of gruyere cheese. That is an expensive ingredient list but it is very much worth it. You can substitute a quart of milk and go to 1/2 lb gruyere and 1/2 lb swiss or 1/2 lb cheddar. Slice the potatoes about 1/8" thick and cover with cream. Simmer, stirring frequently, salt and pepper to taste. Shred the cheese. Sautee the leek in the butter. Fry bacon till it can be crumbled. Simmer the potatoes until they are fork tender. In a greased baking dish transfer half the potatoes and some of the cream to the baking dish (shoot for a quarter of the cream in the pot). Layer with half the cheese. Add remaining potatoes and another 1/4 of the cream over top. Add remaining cheese and top with leeks and crumbled bacon. Cover with foil and back for 30 minutes at 400, uncover during last ten minutes, remove when top is golden brown.
The biggest key to the recipe is keeping the potatoes covered and not being afraid to use the cream that they cooked in. I have substitued cauliflower for potatoes and it was just as amazing!
We thank you for joining us in our journey this year and look forward to more time together. Have a very Happy Thanksgiving.