Giving Thanks

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Autumn happens to be my favourite season.  In this part of Canada we experience all four seasons to their extreme, and autumn is the best of them all. 

The landscape is stunning, with the leaves on the trees turning to brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow.  When the sun shines on the trees at just the write angle they almost look as though they’re on fire.  Did I mention the heady scent in the air?  The earth and the air smell like renewal, and the fresh cool air refreshes the soul.

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It’s the season when we bundle up to go for beautiful, brisk walks in the forest, and stoke a fire in the fireplace.  Steaming hot chocolate, mittens come out of hiding, children throw leaves in the air just for the joy of it.  Theo loves it too: notice the Halloween prop he stole on a walk through our community’s haunted forest event?  And did I mention that there’s not a whole lot better than wrapping in a throw blanket, sitting outside in a Muskoka chair, and enjoying a warming glass of red wine? 

Not only is autumn a feast for the senses, it’s also a feast for the table.  The harvest is upon us, and it’s the season of thanksgiving.  Apples, pumpkins, squash, tomatoes … just to name a few.  Bounty is everywhere!

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We celebrate the annual Thanksgiving holiday with a tradition meal of turkey with stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, cranberry chutney, beans, and of course apple pie and pumpkin pie.  The table is so bountiful I wonder if it just might sag in the middle under the weight of the feast!

As this is a traditional meal, it stands to reason that the menu is also born of tradition: recipes and wisdom passed along orally and with guided practice from generation to generation.  So, I’ve written a few of the main items here, and tried to capture the pearls of knowledge and tradecraft that I’ve absorbed from my mother, grandmother, and mother-in-law. I hope you enjoy them!

Turkey dinner is a full day event, so ensure all ingredients are in the house and have fun!  The first step is making the stuffing, first thing in the morning.

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Dianne’s Turkey Stuffing

This is simple recipe, which delivers incredible flavour. 

  1. spread two loaves of sliced white bread over baking sheets and leave out overnight to stale the slice
  2. crumb the slices of bread through food processor
  3. grate 2 or 3 yellow onions, 3 stalks of celery and 2 large carrots through food processor
  4. sweat above veggies in lots of unsalted butter
  5. add melted butter, veggies, and sage (2 loaves = 2 tablespoons) to crumbs: include some salt, but not lots because the inside of the turkey will be salted
  6. any extra stuffing can be baked in a casserole dish

Roasted Turkey

Allow 20 minutes cooking time per pound: for a very large bird budget 15 minutes per pound.   For example, an 18 pound turkey will take approximately 5.5 hours to cook, and also an additional 20 minutes to rest.

Ingredients:

  • one thawed turkey (fresh, or if previously frozen ensure the turkey is thawed before cooking)  average size is 18 lbs, which serves 6 – 8 and allows for leftovers
  • unsalted butter
  • salt
  • lemon
  • prepared stuffing

Method:

  1. preheat oven to 325° F
  2. clean turkey with water inside and out and then pat dry with paper towels
  3. place turkey on a roasting rack in either a roasting pan or a large cast iron skillet
  4. rub a little bit of salt on the inside of the turkey
  5. stuff stuffing into the neck and cavity of the turkey
  6. use small metal skewers to close the neck and cavity
  7. if necessary tie legs with string, or stick them under the turkey
  8. rub exterior turkey with melted butter, fresh lemon, and salt
  9. loosely cover turkey with aluminum foil and place into oven
  10. baste turkey every hour or so
  11. approximately 1.5 hours before turkey is finished cooking, remove aluminum foil
  12. the turkey is finished when a slight puncture near the thigh allows the inner juices to run, and the juices are clear (rather than red)
  13. when turkey is finished, remove from oven and transfer to a platter, cover with aluminum foil, and let rest for approximately 20 minutes

Note: a frozen turkey can be thawed in the fridge for approximately 2 or 3 days.  Alternately, an 18 pound turkey will thaw submerged in cold water in approximately 24 – 36 hours.  Be sure to change the water every 4 to 5 hours or so.

Homemade Gravy

  • in the same cast iron skillet that the turkey roasted in, skim fat off of the juice that was left in the skillet
  • add 3 to 5 tablespoons of flour to a little bit cold water (this prevents clumping) and whisk, then add mixture to the skillet
  • add salt and pepper as desired
  • cook on low heat, stirring frequently, until thick and juicy
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