Thanksgiving 2015! Three hundred and ninety four years of a tradition celebrating bounty. In the autumn of 1621 the surviving fifty-three pilgrims celebrated their first harvest in the New World. The historical accounts of the event tell us that the Pilgrims and some ninety members of the Wampanoag [wahm-puh-noh-ag] tribe gathered in celebration for three days. I’m always about menus so I had to find out what was on that menu… The Celebration of the First Harvest in the New World. What I discovered was this.
Photo courtesy of Pilgrim Hall Museum
Meat, meat, meat! Wild turkey may have been present but it’s more likely that the fowl on the table was goose or duck. We’re also told that the Wampanoag graced the table with venison, fish and shellfish – lobster, clams and mussels. To round out the feast they prepared Indian corn, beans and squashes. Nope, there was no pumpkin pie or cranberries!
Photograph courtesy Gary M. Stolz/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
After the initial day of giving thanks those present spent the next two days beginning the process of drying and smoking meat to help sustain them through the impending winter. You see they too had their methods for dealing with leftovers!
If you’re like me the actual time spent sitting down at the table sharing Thanksgiving dinner with your family and friends will seem to pass in the blink of an eye. Now what? Chances are you will not spend the next couple of days smoking and drying meat for the winter, but you will have leftovers and many options for re-purposing them! But first things first make your stock.
Do not be tempted (as I confess I have been in the past) by laziness to throw out the carcass. Waste not want not! Put the carcass in a large stock pot, add big chunks of aromatic vegetables (onions, celery, carrots, garlic), a few whole cloves, some bay leaves, peppercorns and salt. Fill the pot with enough water to cover everything, bring it to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the bones are falling apart, remove from the heat, let it cool a while and then strain the stock through a sieve. Discard the solids and presto! Your stock is ready for use or to put into containers and frozen.
A note about stock – it can taste bland and adding more salt will only make it taste salty. So when it comes time to use it you may want to experiment with flavor boosters. Some good choices but certainly not an exhaustive list are white wine, honey, miso, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, dried chilies, a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar. When choosing flavor boosters, add one or two suitable to the dish you’re preparing, a little at a time and remember to taste after each small addition. Say you’re making broth for ramen add miso and soy sauce, for minestrone add tomato paste and white wine or for a bean soup you might choose vinegar and a dried chili. Your possibilities are endless.
Turkey, a gift that keeps on giving! You get so much bang for your buck with a turkey. From the first bites of a feast to the countless dishes that follow — soup , pot pie, casserole, chili, enchiladas — I puzzle over why we save turkey for special occasions!
Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Blessings on your bounty… thanks for visiting Palatable Life.