My family has a few traditions – I say that tongue in cheek! We have a ton of Thanksgiving traditions. It is the one holiday that we all do our best to gather at the family farm. There are seven of us siblings and now our children and grandchildren. We have a number of great cooks in the family and over the years everyone has owned a "special" dish that we wouldn't want to do without.
My sister-in-law, Beth makes a broccoli/rice casserole and she makes amazing blackberry pies; Donna, another sister-in-law, prepares the green bean casserole and great pumpkin pie. The third sister-in-law, Char, has a delicious creamed corn and makes a fabulous holiday fudge. Some have been known to hide it to make sure they get their share! Another sister-in-law, Renetta, makes the ham, and she does the rolls.
It is nice to have a choice of meats and the ham is alway welcome. My sister, Donna, has a unique way of roasting the turkeys – three to be exact. She also does the stuffing, gravy, and signature cranberry sauce. Andrea, my youngest sister, is very creative and brings a gourmet flare to the meal. Her roasted brussel sprouts, cheeses, and exotic olives are always a treat. I do the potatoes and pecan pie. Most years there are potatoes from Dad's garden and we cook about a five-gallon bucket full. We have an industrial size masher and use lots of cream and butter. No scrimping on the calories for these potatoes.
Some of the grandchildren are adults and they are introducing their own specialties – cheesecake, cupcakes, etc. There are times when a sibling will not be able to attend, and the second generation jumps right in and brings a speciality. We do keep adding great grandbabies and friends. Dad always says, “The more the merrier.” One of the most important things to him is to see the house full of family. It brings him such happiness. Mom passed about three years ago, but she is here in spirit – and in many of the recipes.
My sister Donna and I arrive some days early to help with the cleaning and begin the cooking. One day before Thanksgiving we begin the cooking. Donna starts with roasting garlic – lots of garlic. That smell lets you know that some serious cooking is about to take place. The turkey is rubbed with roasted garlic and oil and sits on a bed of whole carrots and celery. It is cooked at a high temperature and is turned from breast down to breast up part way through the roasting process. It is a sight to behold!!!
We trade off time at the counter, stove and sink – prepping, cooking, and washing dishes (no dish washer here)! We, just like Mom, enjoy cooking, talking and fixing the “big meal” for the family. I see Mom in each of us girls. She was so creative and one of the ways she shared that creativeness was cooking for her family. This year I tried roasting a pumpkin to make pies. Dad had a huge pumpkin that he had cured and was going to save for seed. This was not your typical “pie” pumpkin, and I was amazed at the quality of the pies.
I want to reference an article that I found at Capper’s Farmer by Carol Deppe, December 2012. I would recommend this article and the pie recipe. I agreed with Carol’s thoughts on pie, and this year's pie was delicious. She believes that the pie is more about the fresh pumpkin and eggs and less about bland canned pumpkin and evaporated milk. I agree whole heartedly!
I cut the pumpkin in cubes and roasted (baked) it at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. I added a pan of water at the side to help add steam to the roasting. Just stick a fork in the pumpkin to test if it is done. After it cooled, I put the extra cubed pumpkin in the freezer. The cubes can be unthawed as needed for additional pies. I used a blender to puree the pumpkin and used Carol’s recipe from the article I previously mentioned.
The Perfect Pumpkin Pie Recipe
6 cups baked mashed ‘Sweet Meat’ or other prime squash or pumpkin
2 to 2¼ cups eggs (my note: about 14 eggs)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 to 3 cups brown sugar, packed down, depending upon the sweetness of the individual fruit
2 tablespoons Carol’s Perfect Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix (16:4:4:1 cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves)
1 teaspoon real vanilla powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Mix together and pour into a prepared one-crust pie shell. Bake at 350 for approximately 45 to 50 minutes. Whip up some “real” heavy whipping cream. You went through the work of “real pie” so don’t put fake whipping cream on it!
This year the second turkey came out of the oven around midnight. Donna and I were waiting up for more family to arrive, watching the pumpkin pie bake, and mixing up the pecan pie. She was taking the turkey off the bone while we chatted and I ate crisp turkey wings.
When we all get together there are generally other projects that are on the docket. It could be trimming goats' feet, bottling honey, or any of the other things that come up. On Thanksgiving morning you will usually find the guys out cutting wood for Dad’s winter wood supply and working up a genuine appetite. After the meal, events range from target practice, walks, naps, horseback riding and there have been a few touch football games in the front yard.
Perhaps our best tradition is to value family. Continuing to gather and
investing time in these relationships is honoring what Dad and Mom began more than 60
Thanks for shooting the breeze!
P.S. A special thanks to my niece Kim for most of the photos used in this article.
She is an amazing photographer. If you are in the Columbia, Mo., area check out her
Facebook page - Kimberly Gayle Photography.