Thanksgiving comes first
Oy vey. No one tells you that as you age you stop staring at your navel and start slowly looking at the world around you through the lens of experience. Which is making me into a complete Debbie Downer.
I love Thanksgiving and I am not sure exactly why I should still. It signaled the brutal eradication of an entire civilization which we mark by stuffing ourselves stupid.
Can you imagine if in Germany there was a national holiday to give thanks for Kristallnacht? Maybe now is too soon, but in two or three hundred years? Who can say. What I do know is I can't discuss this with most people because pretty much no one wants to talk about sh*t that happened in the past, especially if they think they are going to be made to feel guilty about it. Everything ugly gets swept under the rug and we hope for better tomorrows.
You see where I am at with this kind of thinking? Debbie Downer City.
However I can't bring myself to not have some kind of fall celebration of gratitude. It's as though I am genetically programmed to do so deep down in the primordial goop of my DNA. Thanks for that Pilgrims.
And so here it is the Sunday before Thanksgiving and I am finally getting into the spirit of it.
It should also be said that since Grandpa passed away, I haven't really been as enthused about this weekend. I miss him terribly right about now. I miss picking him up, getting Dunkin Donuts coffee (small with cream and sugar) and donuts (cinnamon for him, honey-dipt for me), driving out to Wendell, getting the Turkey at Diemand Farm, and then heading home with a pit stop at the Old Mill in Westminster for a late lunch. He was my Thanksgiving buddy and it's just a small ritual that I miss.
Now I send Dad out to get the turkey since he works out in those parts. And I sit here in the comfort of my cozy kitchen and think up a menu. I used to be totally OCD about it. I would plan out the menu in October and put it all into excel. My shopping list would be organized by the supermarket's planogram to save time.
I think about it now, and I get a headache.
These days I wing it. I get an idea of how many people are coming, add three to that number, and adjust my recipes accordingly. Experience tells me that I will need LOTS of stuffing, always double or triple that recipe because it's the one dish that you will want to eat the next day and possibly through the weekend. And buckets of gravy as any mistakes, food or otherwise, can been forgiven with a gravy bath.
Lastly you should have a really good cranberry sauce.
There are only two kinds you should consider: the canned kind that splorches out of the can ready to slice, OR Brandied Cranberry Preserves from the Joy of Jams and Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves by Linda Ziedrich*. This is hands-down my absolute favorite way to eat cranberries. I make more of it than I need at Thanksgiving and then I eat it for days. It's good on toast, on pancakes, on roasted pork, on ice cream, just with a spoon... You get the idea.
It's easy and it bakes in the oven, no splattering or scorching on the stove top. Anyway, here is the recipe. :
Brandied Cranberry Preserves
Makes about 1 1/2 pints
12 ounces cranberries
2 cinnamon sticks
Zest of 1 orange, in thin shreds
1 1⁄2 cups sugar
1⁄3 cup brandy or Grand Marnier
1. Spread the cranberries in an ovenproof 8 x 11-inch pan and nestle the cinnamon sticks among them. Sprinkle the orange zest and sugar over the cranberries and pour the brandy over all. Tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil and put the pan into an oven heated to 250°F (preheating isn’t necessary).
2. After 30 minutes, gently stir the berries. Replace the foil and continue to cook the mixture for another 30 minutes, or until the berries are tender.
3. Store the cooled preserves in a covered container in the refrigerator, where they will keep, tightly covered, for at least several weeks. Or ladle them hot into pint or half-pint mason jars, add lids and rings, and process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath.
Personally I reduce the sugar to about a cup, maybe a little less. It's a lot of sugar, but that is my palate - I like spicy and tangy and sour so if you don't, keep the sugar at a cup and a half.
And that my friend is my Thanksgiving editorial for 2012. I hope that you and yours are able to gather together and share a meal and a laugh. And if not, let me know - I will have extra gravy and stuffing.
*I happen to work for the publisher of this book however this recipe is SO fricking good that I have no problem promoting it. Plus, I love this particular book.