I imagine picking favorite food holidays is a lot like picking your favorite child. My sister once said Thanksgiving food had the worst offerings, and that she’d rather eat bagels on Yom Kippur. To each their own, but after that comment I did begin to question her sanity.
As someone who always makes a home cooked meal on Thanksgiving, I believe the nice thing about this particular holiday is the fact that everything is relatively easy to make. You don’t have to plan and think too hard about it – the menu is pretty much already decided for you. Sure you can get creative, but you know there’s always going to be turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, some kind of potato dish, roasted veg, and voila – menu is planned.
One way you CAN spice/flavor things up is by bringing in fresh, delicious ingredients from local farms and artisans. Consider this your local Thanksgiving Spread Checklist!
Turkey is turkey, right? Wrong. Frozen turkeys at the grocery store cost ~$1.36 per pound. At that price, do you really think the turkey is being taken care of and being fed properly? Brick Farm’s turkeys are antibiotic and hormone free, eating natural things they find on pasture and non-GMO local feed. They are never frozen. Your average grocery store turkey isn’t known for its deep, rich turkey flavor, but heritage breed turkeys are unique. Since a heritage bird is so distinct in its flavor, you run the risk of losing its rich flavor when you wet-brine it. So instead, try a dry brine. Last year, I dry brined my turkey with salt and it was one of the best turkeys I have ever had.
You make cranberry sauce once a year. Eat This makes chutneys every single day. So why not leave the compote to the pro’s? Their Heirloom Cranberry Compote is the perfect accompaniment to your holiday table. Made with heirloom cranberries from New Jersey’s Paradise Hill Farm, candied ginger, D’anjou pears and tawny port wine. This is one Thanksgiving staple you cannot do without! You can find Eat This at many local markets in NJ and Eastern PA.
I don’t know about you, but my favorite part of the Thanksgiving spread is the stuffing. I require multiple homemade stuffings: one with sausage & vegetables, and another with just vegetables (but a different vegetable assortment than the sausage-vegetable stuffing). For example, a Sausage Stuffing with Mushrooms, Carrots & Celery… and a Kale Dressing with Fennel. And since stuffing is 75% bread, you don’t want to skimp here! Lillipies has a wide range of artisanal, gourmet bread in their Princeton bakery, from sourdough to focaccia.
There’s nothing like GOOD wild rice on Thanksgiving, and I’m talking about the real Minnesota grown grain. When my dad visits family in Minnesota he will sometimes bring me home some and it’s unlike anything you would buy locally. If you can’t get access to real Minnesota wild rice, then the wild rice you find at the grocery store isn’t worth eating (no offense). Instead, swap in Blue Moon Acres’ Black & Tan rice, which has a unique flavor and texture unto itself. This New Jersey grown Certified Organic rice can be used in rice salads, soups or simply by itself to soak up all of that gravy! One recipe I turn to again and again is this Roasted Sweet Potato, Rice and Arugula salad.
Apple, Pumpkin AND Pecan Pie
How can you possibly pick favorites between these three?? Even if you have a small Thanksgiving gathering, there’s nothing wrong with pie leftovers, so pick up all three. Since I am not a baker, I always pick up my pies from the best local spots. No matter where I am visiting family in central New Jersey, I am always close to delicious pie from either Americana Diner in East Windsor NJ, Homestead Farmer’s Market in Lambertville NJ and Emery’s Berry Farm in New Egypt NJ.
Potatoes, Brussels & Root Vegetables From Your Local Farm
Whether you choose to au gratin or mashed, yams or yukon, beets or carrots… you can find everything you need at your local farm market. And if you need some recipe ideas, click here!