Tag Archives: thanksgiving

A Peck of Applesauce

I am packing for our week in the midwest and I’m a little stressed. We’re planning to spend Thanksgiving with my in-laws, and before you ask the answer is NO, they are not what is stressing me out. I can’t wait to see them as it has been too long between visits. What I’m worried about is if I’ve packed all the kitchen essentials. How to pack what I truly need vs. what can be improvised.

"Michigan house"

Our plan is to meet in Michigan at the house my husband’s grandfather built and have a big, huge, classic family holiday meal. Something along the lines of Cynthia Rylant’s fabulous children’s book When the Relatives Came. Only we’ll add turkey and cranberry sauce to the story.

"Grandpa Tyskling and Judy"

Grandpa Tyskling and Judy

There will be one Grandmother (my mother-in-law Judy), three siblings (my husband plus his brother and sister), their spouses (my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and me) plus all nine cousins. It’s not the number of people which has me concerned, since I agree with Rylant and think the more the merrier. Rather will the house have pots and pans big enough for the mountains of mashed potatoes, rivers of gravy, and vats of green beans? Or will we need to cook the food in shifts? To stave off my anxieties I’ve started cooking a few things to pack and bring along. Cooking is my therapy. I’ve also packed a few bottles of wine, which in a pinch, can be used as rolling pins after they’ve done their duty during cocktail hour. My stress level is dropping as I write this.

"Clarkdale Fruit Farm"

What I started with making was applesauce. This almost doesn’t qualify as a recipe, but perhaps there are a few people out there who don’t know how to make homemade applesauce. It couldn’t be easier or more stress-free if you live in apple country. The trick, as I have mentioned before when you are cooking with fruit, is to mix up your varieties – in this case apples. Then your only other decision is chunky or smooth.

"many apples"

50 Apple Applesauce

Buy as many different apple varieties as you can get your hands on. Trust me, there is no such thing as too much applesauce. If you want smooth you will need a foley food mill. If you prefer chunky all you’ll need is a huge pot and a reliable paring knife. The real difference between the two is prep time vs. clean up time. Chunky is all in the prep. Smooth will mean more time at the sink.

"cast iron enameled pots"

Vintage cast iron enameled pots

Smooth Applesauce

Wash as many apples as will fit in your pot (my giant cast iron enameled pot can hold a lot). Cut them into eighths add a splash of water and cover (that’s right, apples, seeds, skin and all). Cook over low heat (with your pot sitting on a flame tamer), stirring every once in a while to prevent the apples from burning. Cover the pot to help things along.

When the apples are soft and cooked down ladle everything into your foley food mill. The food mill will grind out the skin, seeds and stems while at the same time giving you a lovely pink toned applesauce (if your apples were red skinned). This applesauce is a thousand times better than jarred because it has a depth of flavor you can’t get with just one type of apple.

For those of you who may never have used a foley food mill be aware that they can often make noises of the rude, immature kind. Hearing applesauce burp, fart and squelch seems to cause giggles in children of all ages from toddlers to teens to middle age men. You have been warned.

Chunky Applesauce

Pretty much the same as for smooth only this time you peel and core the apples before cooking them. I can fit around 50 apples in my giant blue pot. Don’t forget the splash of water before you turn on the stove top. I always use a flame tamer to keep the heat well-distributed under the pot. This is what it will look like when things really get cooking:

"applesauce cooking"A few stirs and when the applesauce is fully cooked it will “deflate”. Stop cooking when there look to be a few too many chunky apple pieces. The applesauce will continue cooking with it’s own heat and you should end up with a perfect chunky sauce.

"chunky applesauce"

Once the applesauce is cooked you can either ladle it into jars and process in a water bath* or you can cool it down and freeze it in portions. Or you can spoon it hot into dishes and sprinkle with a little cinnamon sugar. It just depends on how much you want to eat now and how much you want for later.

"applesauce with cinnamon sugar"

"jarred applesauce"Next I’ll make cook up turkey stock so I can make the gravy while the turkey is cooking. Gravy prep is one of Tom Hirschfeld’s tips along with how to keep a turkey warm. I’ve never met the guy, but he appears to give some very sound advice in the kitchen. It’s going to be a very relaxed Thanksgiving.

Update *Do not think you can be lazy and just pour boiling hot applesauce into a sterilized jar and call it a day. I did that and then because I “heard” the jars seal them selves (they make a little tink sound) thought I was fine and dandy. Silly me. A week later at Thanksgiving we opened a jar and there was mold on top. You must either refridgerate the applesauce (for up to 10 days), freeze, or process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes if you want to store it properly. Or you could just eat it all up then and there, in which case I would recommend making a smaller batch.


Filed under 50 Recipes

Thankful Pie

It always seemed to me that in America we celebrate Thanksgiving at the wrong time of year. A Thanksgiving meal, for which you have endless gratitude for the abundance of the crops, should be held when the stalls at the farmer’s markets are overflowing with the summer’s harvest. Anyone not thankful for the end of summer bounty is the worst type of curmudgeon and should be shunned by society at large. The trick is that for the calendar shift I envision to happen I’d either need to move to Canada, convert to Judaism or become queen of the world and since I’m pretty sure none of those things will happen soon (though I like the idea of being Queen of the World…) I’ll clam up about the when and concentrate on the what. Simply put what I adore about Thanksgiving is the gathering of family and friends around delicious food.

"Dad carving the turkey"

Dad carving the turkey ca. 1970

I have a fondness for all the foods associated with Thanksgiving from butternut squash to cranberry sauce to pumpkin pie and beyond. I love seeing what other folks make for their family traditions as much as I delight in reading what the food magazines cook up each year for this holiday. I have an affection for long storing root vegetables, hardy above ground foods like brussel sprouts, kale, and leeks, as well as fall squashes of all shapes and colors. Once in a while the tastes of Thanksgiving do show up in months other than November. It was September a number of years ago when my friends Bill and Elaine Streeter told me about this amazing dish they’d eaten at The Old Creamery in Cummington. Bookbinder by trade, Bill comes from a long line of Cummington farmers, many of whom still live near the family homestead. On the drives up Bill and his wife will often stop by The Old Creamery to just to see what temptations are available in the bakery and deli.

"Bill and Elaine Streeter"

Bill and Elaine helping out at their daughter's farmer's market stall.

Referred to by locals as the Creamery it’s the kind of store I wish we had in my town. If you were to mix together a grocery store, bakery, craft gallery, wine store, deli, and local hang-out, then squished them all into a store with a life-size model cow on the roof you’d have something akin to The Old Creamery.

"creamery cow"

The Old Creamery cow last winter.

Located off Route 9 as you drive into the hilltowns the Creamery isn’t near anything unless you live out that way. If you do live in the vicinity of the Creamery its well stocked shelves will save you from having to drive 20+ miles into one of the bigger towns down valley. Need some bulk dried beans? They’ve got them. Motor oil? Check. A dozen organic eggs, head of lettuce, and loaf of bread? It’s there. Local beer, hard cider or valley brewed gin? They’ve got those too. Want to sit and eat a freshly baked apple muffin while you sip some coffee? The Creamery. Like I said, they’ve got just about anything you could need. The only problem is since I don’t live in Cummington, getting there requires a special trip.

"auto supplies at the Cummington Creamery"

Auto suppies

"wines at the Cummington creamery"


"local pottery at the cummington creamery"

Local pottery

When Bill and Elaine described this vegetable shepherds pie I immediately thought of Thanksgiving. The dish has so many of the flavors I associate with the holiday it seems like a natural to make not only when butternut squashes first hit the farmer’s markets but also as a wonderful addition to a Thanksgiving table or as a great combo of turkey day leftovers. I’ve played around with the recipe tweaking it to fit my family as well as to what I have in my cupboards. The original recipe went something like this–creamed butternut squash, a layer of wild rice, mushrooms, cheese and toasted nuts, all topped off with a mashed potato crust. Since we have dairy and non-dairy folks in our house I’ve made this into a vegan dish by tweaking the mashed potatoes and leaving out the cheese. I don’t always have mushrooms on hand so they’re another thing you’re welcome to experiment with but they didn’t make it into the final version of this recipe. I’ll be interested to hear how you tweak this dish in the comment section.

"mashing butternut squash"

Butternut Squash

"raw wild rice"

Wild Rice

"mashed potatoes"

Potatoes ready to mash

Thankful Pie

A few things to note when making this dish. The first is that I expect everyone to experiment and play with this recipe. Not a vegan then by all means add milk and butter to your mashed potatoes! Love toasted nuts? Add more. Hate them? Leave them out. It really is a flexible recipe that you shouldn’t feel you need to follow too literally. Secondly making this dish from scratch is a bit of a juggle. You need to roast the squash while you simultaneously boil the wild rice and potatoes in separate pots. It’s doable, it just takes a bit of time and coordination. Another thing to be aware of is that if you make the pie up a few days ahead and refrigerate it the brown from the wild rice can sometimes bleed a little into the mashed potatoes. It doesn’t affect the taste but if it offends your visual appetite I suggest squinting at your fork or looking at your dinner companion across the table while you eat. It still tastes delicious!

Layer #1

1 Butternut Squash, split, seeded and roasted till soft

3 – 5 Tablespoons vegan margarine or butter

3 – 6 Tablespoons maple syrup

salt & white pepper

Layer #2

12 – 16 ounces wild rice, cooked

one medium to large onion, finely chopped

3 Tablespoons olive oil

3/4 – 1  1/2 cups pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped

2 – 3 teaspoons thyme

salt & pepper

Layer #3

3 – 4 pounds of potatoes (depending on how deep you want your “crust”) cooked until soft

3 – 6 Tablespoons vegan margarine or butter

leftover water from boiling or milk, enough to make the mashed potatoes creamy

a few pinches of freshly ground nutmeg

salt & white pepper

If you don’t know how to roast a butternut squash read about it here. When the squash is cool enough to handle scoop out the flesh and season with the margarine, maple syrup, salt and white pepper. Mash until smooth and adjust seasonings. I find that a normal squash fills roughly two 9-inch pie plates or one 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Try to use glass or ceramic rather than metal for this dish.

"layer one of thankful pie"

Layer #1 seasoned butternut squash

In a large pot of water boil the wild rice in a generous amount of water. Wild rice is not the same as regular rice where you want to have a specific ratio of rice to water and want all the water absorbed. Instead you want wild rice to swim in the water as it cooks. Usually a 4:1 water rice ration works. It takes about 45-55 minutes for the rice to soften enough to open and start curling backward. You don’t need every grain to do this, but a significant portion should be “popped”. If during the cooking time your water level boils down so not all the rice is covered, simply add a little more water. Drain when done.

While the wild rice is cooking dry roast the pecans until toasted and fragrant, about 5-9 minutes in a cast iron frying pan over medium heat, making sure to stir often so they don’t burn. After the nuts are toasted pour them into a bowl and saute the onions in the olive oil in the same pan (yes, there will be a lot of dishes to wash) until translucent over a medium low heat for 10-15 minutes. Season with thyme, salt and pepper and add them to the nuts. Combine the drained wild rice with the nuts and onions and mix. Layer on top of squash.

"cooked wild rice"

Wild rice ready to become layer #2

Mashed potatoes. I’m hoping I don’t really have to tell you how to make them. Skins on or off, add some roasted garlic if you like, or not. Just don’t use a food processor to mash them as you’ll end up with glue instead of mashed potatoes. Use a potato masher instead. If you’re doing the vegan version you can use some of the water the potatoes cooked in or you can use a little unsweetened soy or rice milk. I prefer the potato water but any of those three will work. If you really need help you can email me at 50recipes at gmail dot com and I’ll try to answer your mashed potato questions.

"thankful pie ready to bake"

Thankful pie ready to bake

If you have made the Thankful Pie from scratch you just need to heat everything up until it’s all hot again and the potatoes are browned slightly on top. If you made a Thanksgiving Pie in advance or are using leftovers you’ll need to bake it for longer as your ingredients will be cold. I usually bake a fresh pie at 350ºF for about 25-35 minutes. A cold pie will need 60-70 minutes or until hot all the way through and browned on top. You can also raise the temperature a bit if you’re in a hurry, just be careful the top doesn’t brown too much before the pie is hot all the way through.

"thankful pie"

Thankful Pie


Filed under 50 Recipes