Seasons at Our Table: Harvest Season

Harvest Season

Dinner on Thanksgiving Day is a meal when extended family and friends come together to celebrate and share the harvest.  It’s a holiday when we talk a lot about food, sharing cooking tips and family recipes.. and it’s the final season we’ll be featuring in our 3-part series, Seasons at Our Table.

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Taking a look back this year, at the beginning of Maple Sugar Season in late February, we invited our readers to share with us how Maple Sugar Season gets their family outdoors and participating in the harvest with their community. We also invited them to share their favorite recipe that they like to make for/with their family breakfast/brunch hour.  Read what they had to share in our first installment of Seasons at Our Table, “Maple Sugar Season.”

Then at the beginning of the summer we invited our readers to share a family recipe using fresh local produce.  We highlighted submissions our readers shared, featuring local produce often bought fresh from our farmers’ markets and road side stands.  Read their submissions in our second of three installments of Seasons at Our Table,Farmers’ Market Season.”

It’s now we conclude with the “Harvest Season.”  We’ve ask our readers to share what they serve for their Thanksgiving Dinner and to offer cooking tips.  We started by asking for kitchen tips on how to cook a turkey, followed by a request for favorite vegetarian dishes to cook up too:

COOKING A TURKEY

One of our readers asks, “This is the first year our family is to host Thanksgiving Dinner at our house (ack!). I’ve never cooked a whole turkey and don’t even know where to begin. I could surf the net, but many of your readers seem very savvy and I’m hoping these more experienced family cooks could offer their advice- from how to pick out a turkey to how to cook it?”

Kara Kitchen writes, “There are a great selection of local fresh turkeys here in Western MA. We like to do ours on the gas grill; keeps the heat outside, more room in the oven for sides, takes less time, and is so juicy! Just keep it covered w/tin foil and keep adding water to keep a constant 3/4″ in the bottom of pan (we use the one-use tin ones w/handles)-this will keep the meat moist but let the skin get crispy-no need to baste w/the steam caught under the foil!… cuts time in half (>4hrs).”

Michele Yargeau Sexton writes, “You need 2lbs of turkey per person when selecting the size. Remove all the stuff out of the turkey, rinse and dry. salt and pepper cavity, and stuff with celery, carrots, and a little onion. No need to peel the carrots, or trim the celery, it’s only for flavor. Soften butter in your hands, and massage the turkey all over. Make a thick paste of all purpose flour, orange juice, salt and pepper. Brush all over the buttered turkey with a pastry brush. Put in a roasting pan, add about an inch of chicken broth, and cover tightly with foil. Put Turkey in oven @ 250-degrees about 11 hours before you want to eat it (yes, that usually means about 2am.). DON’T TOUCH IT FOR 9 HOURS, DON’T OPEN THE FOIL, NOTHING. The 10th hours, remove the foil, turn heat up to 350-degrees for browning. Remove from oven, let sit about an hour. Carve and Serve.”

Katie Stetson writes, “I usually just truss and oil it put it in the oven at 350-degrees then pull it out just before it is fully cooked – tent it with foil and let it rest for 45 minutes during which time it will finish cooking but not get dry. In that 45 minutes you can finish up the sides in the now empty oven.”

Deborah Hackett writes, “Ok, I know I am old school but…I still put stuffing inside my turkey, the heat kills the bacteria. Cover with foil and cook at 350-degrees for 25 minutes per pound.  The last 1/2 hour uncover to crisp skin. Make sure oven rack is low or top will burn. Let rest while getting other side together and serve. Or if you choose ham, I put mine in the crock pot on low for 12 hours.”

LOCAL TURKEYS

Aimee Costa Lalime asks, “Where do you get the fresh, local turkeys?”

Kara Kitchen replies, “This year we got ours (most have to pre-order) from Berkshire Organics in Dalton (they had 3 local choices!), but in years past we’ve ordered through the Cummington Creamery or Lightning Bug Farmstand (on the Plainfield/Cummington town line), which I believe are from Diemand Farms. I think the River Valley Market Co-Op (Northampton) should carry them as well, or at least direct you to one… or find a hunter, they are in abundance out here in the Hilltowns! ;)”

VEGETARIAN THANKSGIVING

For Thanksgiving, some families skip the turkey and serve up a delicious vegetarian feast using local roots, squashes, greens, apples, pumpkins, cranberries and mushrooms instead! What’s your favorite vegetarian dish to cook up for your family Thanksgiving dinner?

Kara Kitchen writes, “Roasted root vegetables! Tossed in EVOO, salt+pepper…even the kids can’t resist the caramelized goodness.”

Bevan Brunelle writes, “Homemade cranberry sauce served warm with orange zest.”

Sienna Wildfield writes, “Tonya Lemos turned me on to fresh from the garden Brussel sprouts sauteed in butter and tons of chopped garlic…. Now it’s a staple for Thanksgiving dinner! Grew 12 plants this year in our garden… just can’t get enough of this deliciousness!”

Tonya Lemos writes, “One of my favs is a Greek dish that seems to have made its way to our Thanksgiving tables over the years… it is Peas cooked in Olive Oil with Garlic and Pearl Onion with A LOT of fresh dill.”

Marya Kozik LaRoche writes, “Lentils and caramelized onions.”

Jennifer Fox writes, “There is a terrific loaf recipe in the Greens cookbook that I make every year. It isn’t vegan (plenty of cheese), but is a huge hit with even the vegetarians who are extremely picky eaters and jealous meat-eaters. The recipe also suggests a mushroom gravy, which is great. – My family veggie “recipes” are also naturally vegetarian. My favorites are candied parsnips and mashed rutabaga (Florida mountain turnip around here!)”

Robin Morgan Huntley writes, “Almond gravy! Delicious and full of vegetarian protein.”

Ana Araujo writes, “Homemade pumpkin ravioli. We’ve been doing this for years.”

Mary-Jane Sackett writes, “Mac and cheese seems to be a favorite around here.”

Anne Schlereth writes, Lentil Balls recipe from the Meatball Shop in NYC. The recipe can be searched on the NYTimes website. They are perfect with all the root veggies at the Thanksgiving table!”

Deanna Dariusz Raczkowski writes, “We are trying Field Roast Cranberry Hazelnut roast this year!”

Robin MacRostie writes, “Pickled pumpkin; cornbread chestnut stuffing.”

Laurie McCullough writes, “I appreciate all these wonderful ideas, thanks!”


Funding for Seasons at Our Table was made possible by a grant from the Massachusetts Woman’s Home Missionary Union, administered by the Parent Education Workgroup of the Communities That Care Coalition.

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