Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. One reason is because it is the only harvest still celebrated by the majority of people in North America, where people enjoy a variety of seasonal foods in a ritualistic manner. Celebrating the harvest is a festival that has been going on for a very long time in our human history and humans have always loved a good ritual. Celebrating the harvest is a way to give thanks for having enough food to sustain you through the next season. Living in a rural area, and spending much of this year planting, growing and harvesting our own food, has really put us in touch with a more natural cycle. Something I am very thankful for.

This year, Roberto and I decided in order to really appreciate the meaning of this holiday, everything we were to prepare would be from local ingredients – some ingredients as local as our own backyard! We pre-ordered a heritage turkey from Applecheek Farm. On Wednesday we went to the farm to pick up our fresh (not frozen) bird and decided to pick up other items at the farmstore to create the rest of our menu. We were greeted with an array of wonderful fresh and seasonal produce – fresh cranberries, brussels sprouts, potatoes, squashes, local breads, cheeses, eggs and milk. Everything one would need for a splendid holiday meal.

Since it was just the two of us this year, we decided not to overdo it. This was our menu:

Maple Roasted Heritage Turkey*
(Local Ingredients: turkey, butter, maple, From The Backyard: fresh rosemary)
Gluten Free Cornbread Stuffing with sausage oven dried tomatoes, fresh herbs and pine nuts
(Local Ingredients: Cornmeal, homemade chicken/duck stock, sausage, From The Backyard: oven dried tomatoes, fresh rosemary and sage) – recipe below
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
(Local Ingredients: butter, fresh cream, From the Backyard: potatoes and rosemary)
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
(Local Ingredients: brussels sprouts, butter)
Fresh Cranberry Sauce
(Local Ingredients: fresh cranberries, honey) – recipe below
Maple and Pumpkin Crème Caramel
(Local Ingredients: maple, cream, milk and pumpkin, From The Backyard: eggs)

*note: heritage turkeys are much leaner and smaller than sedentary commercial birds. This means that fast cooking at high temperatures is a better method than slow roasting. To read more about heritage turkeys, and why you should consider one for your Thanksgiving table next year, read this short article from Local Harvest

I prepared the compound butter for the turkey (I suggest making extra to enjoy with the leftover cornbread – they are the perfect combination with a nice brown ale), the creme caramel and the cornbread on Wednesday, and then spent the morning on Thursday in the kitchen finishing up the rest.

Doing Thanksgiving this way is so much less stressful, because you just go with the flow and what it the freshest and available! So I challenge you to think about doing something like this next year!

We spent the day watching a Lord of The Rings marathon, talking to family on the phone and just relaxing by the fire with the pets. It was a perfect Thanksgiving and a great way to really relax and unwind after such a busy season on the homestead.
THANKSGIVING RECIPES:


Fresh Cranberry Sauce

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups fresh cranberries
orange zest from one orange
juice of one orange
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ cup dark red wine (like zinfandel, grenache, or malbec)
¼ cup raw honey
pinch of nutmeg

METHOD:

In a medium saucepan combine all the ingredients. I even put the quarters of orange in that have been zested and juiced. Turn heat to medium low and bring to a boil while stirring often. Reduce temperature to low simmer and cook until the liquid has reduced and you are left with a thick sauce – about 15 miutes.

Gluten Free Cornbread Stuffing with Sausage, Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Fresh Herbs and Pine Nuts
(Recipe stuffs a 9-10 lb bird)

INGREDIENTS:

half a recipe of gluten free skillet cornbread (see below)
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
2 TBS olive oil
½ onion, minced
1 clove garlic minced
1 TBS each – fresh sage, fresh rosemary
1 cup loose sausage (I use pasture-raised)
½ cup oven roasted tomatoes, chopped
½ – ¾ cup homemade poultry stock
salt and pepper to taste

METHOD:

Make cornbread and toast pine nuts and set aside. Sautee onions, garlic and herbs in olive oil until onions become translucent. Add the sausage and cook until just browned. In a large mixing bowl, break up th cornbread into small pieces, then add the contents of the pan. Stir together with the oven roasted tomatoes. Then add the stock and stir to coat all the pieces of bread – making sure everything is nice and moist. Then it is ready to stuff inside the bird.

Gluten Free Skillet Cornbread:
Ingredients:
1 cup oat flour
¾ cup cornmeal
½ cup kefir, buttermilk or yogurt
½ cup milk
¼ cup of butter, melted
2 TBS maple sugar
2 ½ tsp aluminum free baking powder
pinch of salt
2 TBS butter or lard for skillet (I used bacon fat)

Method:
Mix oat flour, cornmeal, kefir and milk in a large mixing bowl. Let sit out on counter overnight or at least 8 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Then mix in the rest of the ingredients, except the fat for the skillet. Heat fat in a cast iron skillet, then pour the batter in and put the skillet in the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove bread from pan and let cool on a wire rack.