On-farm Thanksgiving 2011

Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday, and possibly favorite day of the year. The meal we prepare and serve functions as a reminder and celebration of the year’s work to support ourselves, and the value of the food we produce, as well as the reality and potential of locally sourced food from independent farms. We take no notice of consumerism, stress, or arbitrary cultural prescriptions, and simply prepare a special meal that reflects both real seasonal food, and the accumulated results of a year’s farming. This year we celebrated alone, a word that in our increasingly urban society has negative connotations, but is often just the way we like it. Throughout the day, we interspersed food preparation with relaxation, reading, and conversation, leading up to a mid-afternoon meal that had no schedule but the timing of the food, which took only moderate concentration to get right, and whose component dishes were no more complicated than any other meal we normally make. Here is the meal we sat down to, with thoughts on its sourcing, preparation, and the holiday’s place in our lives. As always, on-farm ingredients listed in italics; compare to last year if you like.

The dishes

Above left: roast chicken, freshly butchered the day before. A young Rhode Island Red rooster, healthy and fat, with exquisite flavor, one of many extraneous roosters resulting from on-farm breeding this year as we increase the size of our laying flock. We’ve found that our farm-processed heritage-breed birds aren’t very fussy in the oven; the breast is still tender and juicy when the deep inner thighs are finally done. I hardly baste or fiddle with such birds; we think the inherent quality of the meat (the moisture is natural, not injected), and perhaps the quantity of fat, keeps it from drying out. Above right: my customized stuffing, the only version Joanna has ever really liked:  onions, sage, thyme, parsley, egg, fresh-made bread cubes, organic Missouri pecans, organic Missouri apples, Missouri honey, Missouri Norton wine (adapted from p. 23, In a Vermont Kitchen).

Above left: roasted vegetables, including onion, carrot, potato, sweet potato, parsnip, sunchoke, garlic, leek, daikon radish, salsify, herbs. Above right: fresh-made rolls from a family recipe, including Missouri wheat flour. Not shown, farm-grown/canned strawberry jam, garlic butter.

Above left: fresh-made applesauce from organic Missouri apples. Above right: fresh salad of spinach, goat feta, organic Missouri pecans, organic Missouri apples.

Above left: fruit salad of preserved blueberries, strawberries, Missouri peaches, plus fresh organic Missouri apples. Above right: pumpkin pie: pumpkin, sweet potato, egg, goat milk, sugar, spices etc. with homemade crust. Note: all such pie recipes call for evaporated milk. We hate purchasing such processed products, and in the past have spent time cooking down our own milk to make an equivalent. This year we just used straight whole goat’s milk, which worked perfectly. 

Final thanks
The day before, I happened to run across this quote from John F. Kennedy, which seemed especially fitting for our celebration of this holiday:

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

When we assess our current lives, it’s easy to see that our choices and actions directly support those things we value most and are most thankful for, such as independence, food, health, physical & intellectual stimulation, variety, and perhaps most of all, each other. We’re grateful for the opportunities we’ve been given in this life, for the families that raised us to make the most of these opportunities, and for the mutual support, dedication, and love that continually help us build a comfortable and meaningful life on this humble but infinitely worthwhile farm.

I’m thankful this is my morning commute, even in inclement weather.

5 thoughts on “On-farm Thanksgiving 2011

  1. Wow looks like a great feast, especially that chicken! How did you manage to get the chicken skin such a nice golden brown on the legs? Spatchcock or something else?

  2. No special technique, other than rubbing a bit of olive oil on it before roasting. That chicken was stuffed, vaguely trussed by looping the legs together with some string, the wings tucked back over the body, and stuck in the oven for two hours. No brining, no spatchcocking (though I do want to try it). I made a few attempts to baste it, but find that our birds rarely release enough juice for that to work well. Even at close-to-done, I couldn't pick up more than a spray of juices with the baster. So I just let it be until the thermometer read properly and the juices ran clear from the leg. Don't know what else to tell you; having not cooked chicken from any other sources for over five years, I don't even have a clear memory of how others behave in an oven.

  3. Oh, I have brined older birds before, and that also really keeps them moist and evens out the cooking time. But I don't bother with fresh young ones like this.

  4. Yeah I've never brined a chicken. I will salt the skin the day before while it sits in the fridge, which some call a "dry brine." Anyway, that chicken looks really really good! I mean everything else does too but that golden brown chicken skin caught my eye.

  5. congratulations on a lovely and delicious looking thanksgiving meal… i wanted to mention that for several years now we have been making our pumpkin pies, completely from scratch, including roasting and puree-ing our own pumpkin… i did not grow up with evaporated milkiin our milk (or pumpkin pie for that matter!) but could fairly quivkly see that if the industrial food complex could convince us that the only way to make pumpkin pie was the "traitional way" with milk from a can, there had to be a recipe that used just milk and eggs to make what is essentially a custard… i hunted online until i found a true from scratch recipe and lo and behold whole milk, or even low fat stuff works just fine… now our pumpkin pie tastes like pumpkin instead of a bunch of pumpkin pie spices…fwiw..