Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving Plans

We used to spend every Thanksgiving proper at my in laws.   I loved to see my in laws, and we used to pile into the car on Thanksgiving and drive 4 hours round trip to visit them and eat my mother in law's "green slime" -  it was a lime jello salad with cool whip and celery in it.  We'd also have my brother in law Dan's cranberry relish - it was fresh, not cooked.  I'd bring a dish to pass; once I made an oyster dressing no one would eat.   Another time I made a pumpkin swirl cheesecake and broke a glass in the kitchen when I was making it.  My brother in law cut his tongue on a stray shard and suggested that I was "trying to kill him".  I was so embarrassed!  We'd all play Trivial Pursuit (Boys vs. Girls) and then get back in the car to do it all over again at Christmas.   Now, Thanksgiving has gone to the wayside; my sister in law Kathy, the family matriarch, doesn't cook much and is a nurse that usually works Thanksgiving.

We get together with my family on another day during the long weekend; this year, it is Friday.  My Aunt Lauretta just passed away and her funeral will be on Saturday, so we pushed back our meal until 4 pm so we could hit the funeral home first.   I can't believe Aunt Lauretta outlived them all, but she did!  Her husband, then my mom, then my dad.  She always went to the funerals and told stories of the old days.   She was a spunky gal and we always believed she was a gypsy.  She had dark hair and looked exotic.  She was full of superstitions - if you dream about a baby, it meant someone was going to die.  I didn't dream about a baby this time, so I was caught off guard.   Another thing is that she could predict a newborn baby's birth date and time with eerie accuracy just by asking a few simple questions like when your birthday was, how old you were when you got your first period and the date of your wedding.   It was some kind of gypsy mathematical formula.  She guessed my daughter's birth date and time and only missed it by 18 minutes....considering she was due on Dec. 8 and she was born on Dec. 22, that kind of accuracy still gives me pause.    I can remember celebrating Thanksgiving at her house when I was a kid .  She made the best gravy with lots of mushrooms in it and her own jello salad - it was made with black cherry jello.  My mother had decreed long ago that my sister would host Thanksgiving and my brother Christmas because she didn't want to risk the drive from Warren to Ann Arbor because there could be "black ice" on M-14   She was a very fearful driver.   Even though she died in 2010, we still hold her schedule.   I get Easter at my house so that the risk of  "black ice" will be mitigated.    Christmas will be at my brothers....

Since my mother in law died back in 2008, we have celebrated Thanksgiving on the actual holiday with just our family, which is very relaxing.  I get a small bird and roast it.  I usually start the day by cleaning out the fridge or the pantry, whichever needs it more.  This year, it's the pantry.  Then, I listen to Lynn Rosetto Kasper's Turkey Confidential while making sides and dessert.   I'm not sure what I am going to make this year, outside of the classic Campbells Soup green bean might be:

Ann's Mom's Layered Cranberry Salad - a challenge to make, but very, very good.   Lime sherbet is difficult to locate, but if you can get it, make this salad.

Cranberry Apple Crisp -  can also be made with pear.  Very easy and very good

And for the day after Turkey Soup with Lemon and Barley.  So good that I wonder why I don't make it more often.  I should! It would work equally well with a roast chicken carcass, too.

What are your plans for Thanksgiving?  Do tell!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My Christmas Wish List

I told my husband I was going to put together a Christmas Wish's the start....

Magnetic knife strips - I keep acquiring knives and have no place to put them.   I need to ditch my knife block and hang my knives up on the wall using a magnetic knife strip.  I'll need a couple of them....this is the one recommended by Cook's Illustrated:

Messermeister 16-1/2-Inch Bamboo Knife Magnet

A new pressure canner!  I am teaching a pressure canning class this would be great to show my class this top of the line model:

All American  21-1/2-Quart Pressure Cooker/Canner

A popover pan....specifically, this cast iron muffin pan.   I had the most delicious popovers at a wedding that I can't wait to try to make myself at home.  Plus, I can take it camping with me.

Lodge L5P3 Seasoned Cast Iron Cookware Muffin/Cornbread Pan

I am sure I will think of some more kitchen items I just absolutely need.  Your thoughts? 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Pasty Making 2013

I work in the automotive industry, and so each November (thanks to the UAW) I have a paid holiday called "Veterans Day Observed" which is actually always timed to be as close to November 15 as possible.  Why November 15?  That's the start of firearm deer hunting season here in Michigan.   So many people would take the day off that cars and trucks couldn't get built, so we just get the day off now.   Deer season lasts from November 15 until the end of the month, and in some parts of the upper peninsula of Michigan, some schools don't even have classes because so many of the students are hunting the first days of the season.  

As is our family's custom, my husband and son have traveled up north to my sister's cottage to go deer hunting with my brother and my brother in law.   I'm not quite sure how much hunting actually happens; mostly it's a time for the menfolk to hang out together and drink beer and play poker and eat chili, I think.   We ladies are back here at home - we are called "hunters widows" - and my friend Alison and I always take the opportunity to use our day off from work to make pasties.   This year was no exception - we got up early yesterday and went to the gym and shopping first; then by 10:30 am, we were up to our elbows in pasty making.   We make them using this recipe, although over the years, we have changed our techniques a little.   Yesterday, we cut up our meat smaller than a 1/2 inch - instead we made it about the size of the tip of the pinky finger.   And we diced all the vegetables instead of using the food processor, since Alison doesn't have one.  We also used lard in the crust instead of the shortening, too.    We made about 80 pasties yesterday, including some little appetizer sized ones as shown in the upper left corner of the picture.

When the pasties are cool, we split them, wrap them in foil and freeze them.  Then we eat them all winter.   So I don't forget for next year - I need to remember to bring these kitchen gadgets with me to make pasty making even better:

A good knife sharpener is a must!  I prefer this one to a honing steel or even an electric one.  It's cheap and easy to use.  Cutting rutabaga is hard!  Without a sharp knife, it would be impossible....

half sheet pan like this one is perfect for pasty baking, because it is larger than a typical cookie sheet and thicker, too.  Years ago, I ditched all my cookie sheets and switched to food service style half sheet pans for any task that a cookie sheet is required.

bench scraper like this one makes keeping the counter top clean a snap, plus it makes moving pasties easy from the counter to the pan.   Plus, we can never have too many cooling racks....when your entire kitchen is full of pasties, they need to cool off somewhere!