About this time of year – a week or so before Thanksgiving, I start getting ready for the big day. At this point, it’s mostly paper work. I only feed 6 people but I need enough food to cover a big Thanksgiving dinner at noon, leftovers for supper and a huge bag of food to send home and eat over the weekend. This requires organization, so this week I do my lists: Menu, groceries needed, groceries on hand, shopping list, to do list, cooking schedule. I do all of the cooking myself – my choice – and do as much as possible beforehand. My family likes pie so I make a lot of them – one apple, three pumpkin and sometimes one by popular request (in past years these have been pecan, blueberry peach, grape, cherry). Two crust pies can be made in advance and put in the freezer. The trick is to take them out the night before and in the morning, do a quick bake to crisp them up. I also make the pie crust for the pumpkin pies ahead of time but like these pies baked fresh on Thanksgiving day.
My schedule calls for picking up the turkey on Tuesday so I can have Wednesday free for advance cooking. On Wednesday, I make a Polish Sausage Stuffing, bake sweet potatoes (less marshmallows), steam cauliflower, and get fruit pies and yeast rolls made the previous week from the freezer.
Thanksgiving Day starts with having the turkey stuffed with regular dressing in the oven by 5 AM. With more space in the refrigerator, I put the cranberry sauce inside to chill, then fill the pumpkin pies and take the turkey out long enough for them to bake. At the same time, I crisp the fruit pies, then put the turkey back in the oven and sit down for breakfast – usually pretty light on Thanksgiving. I prepare the relish tray, put other items in the refrigerator to chill and peel, cook and mash potatoes. These can be kept warm in a crock pot for up to 2 hours. Then I set the table and get the turkey out of the oven to rest. I use this time to heat the sweet potatoes and Polish stuffing. In the final minutes, I fry the breaded cauliflower that my daughter always requests, put the rolls in the oven and get the turkey onto a platter. By noon, it’s time for everyone to come to the table.
Every year, I make up a souvenir menu for each person, usually using a photo from the year before. My menu photo last year was of my youngest daughter and her children doing the traditional testing to see if the turkey is done.
I always call this my yearly cooking marathon. I’ve had marathons in past years when I had fruits and vegetables to process quickly from a large garden and a lot of baking to do in preparation for a fair, but this is my only marathon now and I enjoy it.