Thanksgiving has been an American holiday for nearly 400 years and this year it occurs on November 23rd. Some of the traditions that go along with Thanksgiving have been altered while others have remained consistent. Turkey has been the staple of the meal since the very beginning, though it has been prepared in a variety of ways. The first Thanksgiving celebration was reported to include vegetables such as onions, beans, lettuce, cabbage, carrots, and most notably, corn. Most of these are still seen at the Thanksgiving table today. Seafood and shellfish, however, was reportedly present at the first Thanksgiving but is typically absent from today’s menus. Mussels, in particular, were abundant in New England and could be easily harvested because they clung to rocks along the shoreline. On the other hand, potatoes, whether mashed or roasted, white or sweet, are almost always eaten on Thanksgiving today. Surprisingly, they had no place at the table 400 years ago.
One of the non-food related Thanksgiving traditions that Americans have honored over the past century is watching or playing football. Over the last 8 years, I’ve had the opportunity to do both. In high school, I remember playing in a “Turkey game” in the late morning on Thanksgiving Day. Directly after the game, I would go to my house along with many of my family members who came to watch me play. Thanksgiving dinner was usually hosted at my house but everybody contributed with a dish or two. Some of the dishes that can traditionally be seen at my house are sweet potato casserole, steamed carrots and green beans, homemade mashed potatoes, stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, and our famous pecan pumpkin butter trifle.
My mom’s side of the family is the typical Thanksgiving crew, which includes my grandma, my three aunts and their families, and my family. Since I am the oldest cousin of the group, I haven’t been exposed to alcohol much and how it can get incorporated into food recipes. Since I turned 21 this past June, I’ve discovered new ways to integrate alcohol into our own family recipes. One of the newest trends on this subject is cooking chicken or turkey with beer.
Beer and food are a natural pairing. As much as we love to drink beer while eating, it is also great to cook with and is always nice with poultry. To wow your guests with a beer-basted turkey for Thanksgiving, all you need are the turkey, butter, an optional stuffing of your choice, and 24 ounces of your favorite beer. I recommend using Dale’s Pale Ale for this recipe as it provides a balance of pale malts and citrusy floral hops. Before cooking the turkey, prepare a mixture of melted butter and one can of Dale’s Pale Ale and pour it over the bird. While roasting, baste the turkey every 20 minutes with the beer/butter mixture. About halfway through the cooking, pour the second can of beer over the turkey and let it sit until the bird is ready.
Another family recipe that I thought about incorporating alcohol into is our pecan pumpkin butter trifle. I think Evan Williams Bourbon would fit perfectly into this recipe because of its hints of oak, brown sugar, and caramel. To assemble this trifle, all you need is spiced pumpkin bread, a homemade pecan pumpkin butter cream mixture, pecans, maple syrup, and bourbon. Place a layer of bread in the trifle bowl. Next, use a pastry brush to brush the bread with the maple syrup/bourbon blend and let it soak in. Then spread the butter cream mixture over the bread. Repeat this process 4 to 5 times and top it all off with pecan halves.
Your guests will surely love these unique recipes on Thanksgiving!