November 15, 2012

Thanksgiving Tree Chart, and Ferments to add to the Menu

Well ... It's the week before Thanksgiving ... and all thru the house ... I'm planning the Thanksgiving menu, and Dawson is fixing our leaky kitchen faucet - actually going to replace it. Too often lately I've been finding the kitchen counter flooded, and this morning realized it leaks under the sink too.

I was going to just put a link to what I posted several years ago, but decided I'd copy and paste some of it here and write more. I like the Thanksgiving Tree idea, but where I usually put it is now covered in framed photographs. The first year I didn't put it up, one of our guests all of a sudden asked, "Where's the Thanksgiving Tree? I've been thinking all week about what leaves I want to fill out and put on the tree!". I'd figured, like my "First's of Spring" chart I've posted on before - by now, it's so ingrained, we automatically think about it - that I didn't need the Thanksgiving Tree chart either. Wrong! And now with Grandkids, it's going to remain as an ongoing tradition. I'll probably put it - the bare-branched tree drawing on paper - on the refrigerator door with colored markers nearby, as I ended up doing that year after Kristen's remark!

November Tradition for gratitude thoughts

I often got frustrated at the Thanksgiving table when I asked what people were thankful for. Usually someone would say something silly and then everyone else would. So that's when, on a large piece of paper, I started drawing a tree, with lots of branches and no leaves, to hang on the wall. I cut a variety of leaves from colored construction paper, leaving them sit on a counter with a pen and glue stick. If this is done a week or so before Thanksgiving everyone who comes to our house could write something they're thankful for on a leaf and glue it on the tree. Then by Thanksgiving, we've had time to think beyond tangibles like food, family, God, friends, pets etc to firemen, police, doctors ...
and then beyond to intangibles like Truth, Love, Integrity ...

Two gals had heard me talk about it at MOPS years ago and brought examples of their trees. One drew the tree skeleton and they'd ripped brown paper bag pieces and glued them on, filling in the tree. Pieces were loose and it looked like bark. Another gal had gathered lots of colored aspen leaves and color copied them to cut out for the leaves - reminding me of an old one of mine, still in the garage, on cardboard with real aspen leaves we'd pressed dry.

It's shaping up to be a houseful for Thanksgiving: sons and families, and friends. Looking forward to friends coming from afar, over the rivers and thru the woods ... and yes, to Grandmother's House they'll go. I'm a grandma now!

Me scooping stuffing out of cooked turkey

I do a very traditional Thanksgiving meal. Since stuffing is one of my favorite dishes, I stuff my turkey for that taste contribution to the stuffing. The day before: I brine the turkey, and I cut up a loaf of homemade bread in small cubes to occasionally stir and let dry in a large bowl. First thing Thanksgiving morning I melt a cube of butter in a skillet and saute a chopped large onion and a few stalks of celery. In my mortar bowl I put a few Tb of home dried sage and thyme and oregano, and with the pestle I grind them fine to add to the bread cubes along with several tsp salt and pepper. I also start cooking the turkey organs and neck for broth - both to moisten the stuffing and to have later for the gravy. So once I've added the sauted onion and celery to the seasoned bread and stir to moisten, adding broth if needed, I pack both the turkey neck and body cavity. Then skewer and tie closed, tying in the wings and legs close to the body too. 

I cook my turkey covered the whole time - then there's no need to baste. It sits on a rack in the pan. I put the pan in a preheated 450 degree oven and immediately lower the temp to 325 degrees. Since I always do large stuffed birds, I always cook them 18 minutes per pound. They've always cooked through (stuffing should be at least 165 degrees) and browned well. We remove the bird to a cutting board. I make a paste of about 1/3-1/2 cup flour and water to start cooking the gravy in the same pan the turkey came out of. I'll add broth and potato water to the pan drippings for making a great gravy. This'll need to simmmer at least 30 minutes to rid any raw flour taste, and it'll need salt.

When you invite guests you have to let them bring food. So I let them do what they want with green beans, sweet potatoes and pies. I'll start cooking the potatoes just before the turkey is done. I save all the drained potato water. I let butter melt into the potatoes. The potato water will be used for mashing the potatoes (since I add in lots of butter, I don't use milk) and adding to the gravy. Sometimes I make rolls, or else let a guest bring some. My favorite pie is mystery pecan, so usually make a couple of them the day before.

I often make a fresh cranberry relish with a whole orange (someone will often bring traditional canned cranberry sauce), but this year I'm going to try a fermented version of the relish. And I'm wanting a veggie tray with dip for earlier in the afternoon snack. SO ... today I'm doing to make up the cranberry relish and start veggies fermenting as well. I've got cucumbers, carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli. I'll start tasting them all in a couple days to see if I want to refrigerate to slow the process or let them keep on fermenting till Thanksgiving. I'll take pics and post ... so check in later for a report!

One year I wrote 'gratitude' instead of 'thanks' on the tree chart. It's just something I'd been pondering ... It's an 'at the heart level' thing. Gratitude could change the world!

Linked to: Or So She Says, Food Renegade, Six Sisters Stuff, Frugally Sustainable, Farm Girl Blog Fest, Dandelion House, Simple Lives Thursday, My Cultured Palate, Beyond the Peel, Traditional Tuesday, Pickle Me Too, Whole New Mom, Fat Tuesday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday Real Food Wednesday, Monday Mania, Melt In Your Mouth Mondays
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