We don’t have Thanksgiving. We have Thanksgivingses. On Thursday, its off to a familial location with a few side dishes in tow. I get to skip the stresses of hosting (though I suspect it will change in the future) and spend all day eating and Skyping with those who couldn’t join us. On Saturday, we have a bunch of friends over for a potluck Thanksgiving Redux. No leftovers allowed. This one we usually host, but it’s carefree and relaxed, with plenty of nostalgia and lots of… ahem… alcohol.
Where does that hosting Thanksgiving pressure come from anyway? I have no problem doing the turkey and gravy. I am one of those people who think knowing how to roast a whole chicken or turkey should be a kitchen requirement upon moving out. When friends bring side dishes, bread and pie – hosting a Thanksgiving is as stress-free as it gets. Our house is full and noisy and loud. And messy. But joyful. I fully admit to the fact that I will never be Martha Stewart. In fact, I particularly suck at table setting. We might even break out tablecloths this year (!) and I might decoratively pile some candles and butternut squash on the table, but that’s about it.
Truth is, I have different priorities. Like a lot of you, it’s all about the food. If the turkey is dried out – I’m going home. Well, not really. But the thought will cross my mind. That’s why its important to a) for the love of God – use a meat thermometer! and b) don’t take on too much. It’s very, very easy to go overboard.
As of Tuesday night, here is my Thanksgiving To Do List:
Cranberry Relish, Rosemary Squash Side Dish (Thanks Kaela!), Brandied Cherry Crostata
Appetizers – Hummus (Caramelized Onion? Preserved Lemon? Roasted Tomato?), White Bean Rip with Rosemary, Bacon & Apple Bruschetta, Assorted Pickles, Cheese, Mustard, Bread.
Dinner – Dry-brined Dry Rubbed Turkey, Polish Holiday Kielbasa, Mushroom & Thyme Gravy, Sausage Apple Cornbread Dressing, Cranberry Relish.
I’m hitting publish and starting on the crostata dough. Tomorrow I bake off the crostata as well as the rosemary squash side dish. Friday is shopping (anything needed is on sale!), brining, making the dressing and dips. Everything else is for the day of. And the cranberry relish? Made this past weekend.
We never really did the canned cranberry sauce growing up, so I don’t have those great memories (and great plates!) like Marisa. She makes excellent points about all the reasons to skip traditional jellied cranberry sauce – high fructose corn syrup and BPA, to name a few. She leaves out the nasty, nasty hidden pesticide use by the cranberry industry. The Pesticide Action Network reports that conventionally farmed cranberries have multiple carcinogens, hormone distruptors, and neurotoxins. Moreover – the pesticides are toxic to honeybees, which is a whole other problem unto itself. Need any more reasons to make your own? No? Good.
This recipe really is spectacularly easy. Something to make on the back burner while cooking other things. Definitely my kind of project. The dried cranberries deepen and enrich the flavors and texture. I happened to have some of Easy Pickins Asian Pears in my kitchen, so in they went too. Apples would also be a lovely add in in a pinch.
Asian Pear Cranberry Relish
One pound ORGANICALLY FARMED cranberries
5 large/10 small asian pears, cored and diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup spiced rum (I like Kraken)
Juice & zest of an orange
1/4 cup candied ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
Pinch of kosher salt
Rinse the cranberries well and pick out any bad ones. Add the water, cook over medium heat until the cranberries start to burst. At that point, add everything except the ginger and orange zest and cook until it reaches the consistency you like – about 10 minutes. Stir in the ginger and the orange zest, and then spoon into your glass jar of choice. Serve at room temperature and never think of the industrial stuff again.
PS: As far as putting this in jars – I suspect it would transition well to a waterbath recipe with a splash of lemon juice as the pears are low acid. After the usual prep, process in pints or half pints for 10 minutes.