Archive for November, 2009
Even though we’ve had three days of feasting: two dinners and two lunches at our house, one dinner in town with another branch of the family.
Local Thanksgiving bouquet – the very last chrysanthemums
Twelve people ate here between Thursday night and Saturday morning– several of us more than once – so even though the Poughkeepsie branch ( Saturday night) had leftovers of its own we ought, by rights, to be out of turkey.
We are not, even though the bird only weighed 12 pounds after I got done boning it. There was so much other food the turkey was as in my opinion it should be, almost incidental.
If you don’t remember to remove the string that helped restore approximate turkey shape, the starring bird will have a bikini line.
It would be beyond bogus to pretend we’re anything like self-sufficient. We’re not even notably local; I’m too fond of things like olives, lemons and pomegranate molasses.
But at Thanksgiving we always try – ok; I try; I’m the one who makes up the menu – to celebrate our own harvest, both from the wild and from the gardens.
Some years this includes the meat; we have venison. Bill has even on one occasion shot a deer so close to the back garden we were probably eating our hostas and roses along with the rest of the produce.
This year it’s turkey, just so I can keep my hand in. Local but not heritage. And the corn for the pudding ! you absolutely have to have corn pudding! will be a mixture of our own Black Mexican and some kind of tender hybrid from Beth’s farmstand up in Maine.
Corn from the days when we grew more kinds. Top to bottom: Ruby Queen, unknown hybrid (seed purchased and name forgotten by Bill), the Black Mexican we still grow, at the cornbread stage
Over in Connecticut, our friend Eric at Yale’s Marsh Garden has lifted his eyes from his greenhouse’s travails and fastened them on the ginkgo trees. Herewith his overview of the ginkgo’s unique place in the plant kingdom, its fascinating history – and its worthiness in the garden.
Ginkgo biloba, a late-bloomer in the fall color department
In theory, the combination of steam vents and tightly crimped edges prevents the juice leakage visible at left. In my view, if there isn’t so much juice at least a little bubbles out somewhere, there isn’t enough juice.
Inside that crust is a Three Cheers Pie (apple, pear and quince) in honor of this being pie season.
Of course, back last spring I would have said summer is pie season; with rhubarb as the opening salvo. Even before those stalks start getting stringy there will be cherries and peaches, plums and blueberries – all primary reasons for pie to exist.
On the other hand, next thing you know here come the apples and pears and pumpkins and then uh-oh, it’s Christmas, the one time of year when mincemeat pie…
Take your pick for maximum pie pressure, no matter how you slice it that’s a lot of crust. Here are a couple of the recipes I use, starting with that super-fast easy one.
Easy make-ahead piecrust recipes coming your way shortly… Meanwhile, here’s the (probably unneeded) reminder that house cleaning comes first. Nobody minds hanging out while you cook.
It’s also a reminder – should Black Friday find you in appliance shopping mode – that shiny black surfaces in the kitchen are a very bad idea. This is not a room where it’s wise to have water spots look like dirt.
Poor fellow can barely see himself; and I'd just washed it that morning!
As we get ready to fire up for Thanksgiving, I’m reminded how lucky I am. Not many cooks have a huge wood-burning outdoor oven, but thanks to my loving ( and very handy) husband we have two, one in New York and one in Maine.
Bill built the Maine oven so the process could be filmed, so in a way I can thank The Three Thousand Mile Garden for that one. But that one never would have happened if the New York one hadn’t came first, and although Bill did of course build it the ultimate thanks there should probably go to his childhood.
There were several outdoor bread ovens in the neighborhood where he grew up, including one at his grandmother’s place. He never forgot the bread – or the fact that the ovens were home built – so when I started making wistful noises about how nice it would be to have one they fell on receptive ears.
Next thing to be thankful for: he’s a man of action. And that goes not just for building the ovens but also for providing instructions. You too can have one of these things, not without a bit of work and not instantly, needless to say, but very very inexpensively and it ain’t rocket science, either. Here’s his step by step how-to:
This week, my friend Eric over at Yale has his mind on disappearances: the original completion date for the new greenhouse, the promise of post-construction peace and more worryingly, several rare cactuses stolen by someone who obviously knew just what they were after. But thanks to a glitch he will describe ( and fortunately for us) he also found himself thinking about bananas.
The banana at Marsh Garden
Fresh chestnuts, roasted and peeled
Ok, It’s finally time for chestnuts, an autumn/early winter thrill that’s one of the last truly seasonal crops still standing. If you’re anything like me, you’re just about jumping up and down with glee right there in the produce section. But if you’re like I used to be, your joy is tempered by the knowledge that they’re a royal pain to prepare.
They needn’t be, as it turns out. I now eat more than is probably wise, having discovered a couple of tricks that lessen the pain considerably. I still haven’t found an easy way to go from raw in the shell to skinless roasted, but with these methods it’s easy enough to make me glad they’re low-fat.
Roughly 15 years ago I wrote a piece for Yankee magazine titled something like “ The Only Roast Turkey Recipe You Will Ever Need.” Still substantially true, should you be the type who keeps clippings forever, but there have been a few refinements in the intervening years – mostly because there have been refinements in the turkeys themselves. Roast Turkey 101.2, The Upgrade, with Wild Mushroom Stuffing, was therefore rolled out last year.
Wild turkey booking it through the lower garden; she knows what's coming
This post is the debut of a new regular feature: Eric’s Pet Plants, written and photographed by my friend Eric Larson, manager of Marsh Botanic Garden at Yale University. This week, Eric extolls the persimmon, describing the differences between species and pointing out the tree’s many merits: It’s small, it’s not fussy about soils, it doesn’t require a lot of spraying — and the fruit it produces is delicious (if you know the freezing trick).
Student Intern Ben Ashcraft holds a small portion of the Marsh harvest. Most commercially available persimmons are larger, sometimes three to four inches across. But we like them small and tasty.