Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Day, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, has officially been an annual tradition in the United States since 1863, when during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26. As a federal and popular holiday in the U.S., Thanksgiving is one of the "big six" major holidays of the year (along with Christmas, New Year's Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day). Together with Christmas and the New Year, Thanksgiving is a part of the broader holiday season.
The event that Americans commonly call the "First Thanksgiving" was celebrated to give thanks to Native Americans for helping the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony survive their first brutal winter in New England. The first Thanksgiving feast lasted three days, providing enough food for 53 pilgrims and 90 Native Americans. The feast consisted of fish (cod, eels, and bass) and shellfish (clams, lobster, and mussels), wild fowl (ducks, geese, swans, and turkey), venison, berries and fruit, vegetables (peas, pumpkin, beetroot and possibly, wild or cultivated onion), harvest grains (barley and wheat), and the Three Sisters: beans, dried Indian maize or corn, and squash. The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating "thanksgivings"—days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.
In the United States, certain kinds of food are traditionally served at Thanksgiving meals. Firstly, baked or roasted turkey is usually the featured item on any Thanksgiving feast table (so much so that Thanksgiving is sometimes referred to as "Turkey Day"). Stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet corn, various fall vegetables (mainly various kinds of squashes), and pumpkin pie are commonly associated with Thanksgiving dinner. All of these are actually native to the Americas or were introduced as a new food source to the Europeans when they arrived. Turkey may be an exception. In his book Mayflower, Nathaniel Philbrick suggests that the Pilgrims might already have been familiar with turkey in England, even though the bird is native to the Americas. The Spaniards had brought domesticated turkeys back from Central America in the early 1600s, and the birds soon became popular fare all over Europe, including England, where turkey (as an alternative to the traditional goose) became a "fixture at English Christmases".
Traditional Thanksgiving foods are sometimes specific to the day, and although some of the foods might be seen at any semi-formal meal in the United States, the meal often has something of a ritual or traditional quality. Many Americans would say it is "incomplete" without cranberry sauce; stuffing or dressing; and gravy. Other commonly served dishes include winter squash; yams; mashed potatoes; dumplings; corn on the cob or hominy; deviled eggs; green beans or green bean casserole; sauerkraut (among those in the Mid-Atlantic; especially Baltimore), peas and carrots, bread rolls, cornbread (in the south and parts of New England), or biscuits, rutabagas or turnips; and a salad. For dessert, various pies are often served, particularly apple pie, mincemeat pie, sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate cream pie and pecan pie.
"Cranberry sauce or cranberry jelly is a sauce or relish made out of cranberries, commonly associated with Thanksgiving dinner in North America and Christmas dinner in the United Kingdom. There are differences in flavor depending on the geography of where the sauce is made: in Europe it is generally slightly sour-tasting, while in North America it is sweetened."
- 1 pound fresh cranberries, approximately 4 cups
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1/4 cup 100 percent cranberry juice, not cocktail
- 1 cup honey
Wash the cranberries and discard any that are soft or wrinkled.
Combine the orange juice, cranberry juice and honey in a 2 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cranberries and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and the mixture thickens. Do not cook for more than 15 minutes as the pectin will start to break down and the sauce will not set as well. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Carefully spoon the cranberry sauce into a 3 cup mold. Place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours and up to overnight.
To unmold and serve, immerse bottom of mold in hot water for 10 to 15 seconds and turn upside down on plate or serving dish. If necessary, carefully run a warm knife around the edge of the mold.
*Sweet Potato Souffle*
"Sweet potato side dish - so good it is almost dessert. Even if you don't like sweet potatoes, you will like this."
- 3 large sweet potatoes cooked and whipped
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick butter
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 bag marshmallows
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
Peel and cook potatoes until tender. Drain potatoes and whip. Add sugar, eggs, salt, butter, milk and vanilla. Mix well and put in a greased 1 1/2 quart casserole. Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 25 minutes. Place marshmallows and pecans on top and return to oven for about 5 minutes or until brown on top.
*Green Bean Casserole*
For the topping:
- 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Nonstick cooking spray
For beans and sauce:
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1 pound fresh green beans, rinsed, trimmed and halved
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 12 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 cup half-and-half
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.
Combine the onions, flour, panko and salt in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. Coat a sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray and evenly spread the onions on the pan. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes. Toss the onions 2 to 3 times during cooking. Once done, remove from the oven and set aside until ready to use. Turn the oven down to 400 degrees F.
While the onions are cooking, prepare the beans. Bring a gallon of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil in an 8-quart saucepan. Add the beans and blanch for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and immediately plunge the beans into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.
Melt the butter in a 12-inch cast iron skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to give up some of their liquid, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg and continue to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and simmer for 1 minute. Decrease the heat to medium-low and add the half-and-half. Cook until the mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 of the onions and all of the green beans. Top with the remaining onions. Place into the oven and bake until bubbly, approximately 15 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.
Because turkey is the most common main dish of a Thanksgiving dinner, Thanksgiving is sometimes colloquially called “turkey day.” In 2006, American turkey growers were expected to raise 270 million turkeys, to be processed into five billion pounds of turkey meat valued at almost $8 billion, with one third of all turkey consumption occurring in the Thanksgiving-Christmas season, and a per capita consumption of almost 18 pounds.
*How To Cook A Turkey-Part One*
"The biggest myth in all of American cookery is the belief that a juicy, perfectly cooked turkey is difficult for the novice cook to achieve. This video recipe for how to cook a turkey will show a very easy method for producing a moist, delicious, and beautiful turkey every time."
"A compound butter is simple a culinary term that refers to any butter to which other flavorings are added. This technique is wonderful for chicken as well. It really keeps the breast moist, adds flavor, and gives the skin a great crisp, shiny finish. The "secret" ingredient is a small dash of Chinese 5-spice, which contains ginger, cinnamon, and star anise, which gives the turkey a very subtle and delicious aroma."
*How To Cook a Turkey-Part Two*
"This is Part 2 in the How to Cook a Turkey miniseries. We join the turkey in progress, with about an hour left to cook. Gravy is the lifeblood of any real thanksgiving feast. It will moisten the driest turkey, and saturate the most solid stuffing. Lumpy mashed potatoes are no match for its slow-moving seduction. I like gravy, I like it a lot.
*Maple Walnut Pumpkin Pie*
"This pumpkin pie has just a hint of maple and is served in a sweet graham cracker crust. A cinnamon walnut topping makes the perfect finish."
- 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
- 1 (14 ounce) can Sweetened Condensed Milk
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon maple flavoring
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- Walnut Topping:
- 1 (9 inch) Graham cracker pie crust or unbaked pie shell
- 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- In large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, cinnamon, maple flavoring, ginger, nutmeg and salt; mix well. Pour into pie shell.
- Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes. Reduce oven to 350 degrees F; continue baking 30 minutes.
- In medium mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, flour and cinnamon; cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in nuts.
- Remove pie from oven; top evenly with crumb mixture. Return to oven 10 minutes. Cool. Garnish as desired. Store covered in refrigerator.
*Potato Crescent Rolls*
"Be sure to allow enough time for these delicate rolls, as the dough must rest for at least eight hours in the refrigerator. Of course, that makes preparation on the day you serve them so much quicker!"
- 2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
- 2/3 cup white sugar
- 2/3 cup shortening
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- Place potatoes in a saucepan, and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, cool, and mash.
- In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
- When yeast is ready, mix in 1 cup mashed potatoes, sugar, shortening, eggs, salt, and 3 cups flour. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough has become stiff but still pliable. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, and up to 5 days.
- Deflate the dough, and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces, and form into rounds. Roll out each round to a 12 inch circle. Brush generously with melted butter, and cut each circle into 16 wedges. Roll wedges up tightly, starting with the large end. Place on lightly greased baking sheets with the points underneath, and the ends bent to form a crescent shape. Cover, and let rise for 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
- Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
*Roasted Potatoes w/ Rosemary*
"Potatoes, simply roasted with fresh rosemary, make the perfect side dish to your Thanksgiving meal."
- No-Stick Olive Oil Spray
- 3 tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 pounds potatoes, cut in half or fourths (red skin, Yukon Gold, fingerling)
- Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Coat 15x10-inch baking sheet with no-stick spray.
- Stir together oil, rosemary, garlic powder, salt and pepper in large bowl. Add potatoes. Toss well until coated. Spread evenly in prepared pan.
- Bake 30 to 35 minutes, stirring occasionally until potatoes are fork-tender and golden brown.
"Dressing and stuffing are essentially the same, but Southern cooks usually don't stuff the bread mixture into the bird. Instead, they bake it in a separate pan - and call it dressing. No one is quite sure why, but it likely has something to do with their preference for cornbread dressing's irresistible buttery crust and the fact that the bird probably wouldn't hold enough to satisfy holiday appetites."
- 3/4 pounds bacon, cut into chunks
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 4 ribs celery, chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- 2 cups chopped pecans
- 2 (16-ounce) bags dried corn bread stuffing mix
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 stick butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Cook bacon in a heavy skillet until crisp. Turn heat down and add onions and celery; saute until tender, about 6 minutes. Add the thyme and sage and saute until fragrant. Stir in pecans.
In a large bowl, add the cornbread mix, bacon and vegetables, and stir in the chicken broth. Add to a 13 by 9 by 2-inch casserole dish. Add butter slices to the top of the casserole and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes then remove foil and cook until top is crisp, about 15 more minutes.
*Fresh Broccoli Salad*
"You can never have enough vegetable side dish recipe ideas, so I hope you give this tasty, easy-to-make salad a try. Enjoy!"
*Spicy Crab Stuffed Mushrooms*
- 12 ounces white mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed
- 1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
- 1/2 cup chopped pickled jalapenos
- 1/4 pound pepper Jack cheese, grated
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
- 2 heads radicchio, cut in half and grilled
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place mushroom caps on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix together crabmeat, garlic, jalapenos, pepper Jack, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt, mayonnaise and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Place a heaping tablespoon of the crab mixture into the cap of each mushroom. Bake the mushroom caps for 30 minutes. Serve warm with grilled radicchio.
*Praline Sweet Potatoes*
"In this recipe for sweet potatoes with a candied pecan crust, the potatoes are whipped with cream, butter and eggs, and baked in a casserole with a pecan and brown sugar topping."
- 4 cups mashed sweet potatoes
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 pint heavy cream
- 1/4 pound butter
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups chopped pecans
- Butter one 2 quart casserole dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- In a mixing bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, sugar, vanilla extract, eggs and cream. Blend well, and spread evenly in casserole dish.
- Prepare the topping by combining the butter, brown sugar, flour and pecans. Mix until crumbly, and sprinkle over sweet potato mixture.
- Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven.
*Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes*
"Classic mashed potatoes are rounded out with a creamy finish. Chives and dill give them even more flavor. "
- 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
- 1/2 cup butter
- 8 ounces goat cheese
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- 1/2 cup milk
- potatoes into a large pot and fill with enough lightly salted water to cover. Bring to a boil, and cook until tender enough to easily pierce with a fork, about 10 minutes. Drain and mash partially, then add the butter and milk. Continue to mash until smooth. Stir in the goat cheese, chives and dill.