I got a call from my baby sister the other day asking what my plans were for Thanksgiving this year. If any of you know us, you know we don’t usually have plans for next week, much less for some holiday almost eleven months away. But we do now. Seems my brother hatched a crazy idea about Thanksgiving and it involves all of us, and my sister volunteered to present it to the rest of the family since she was least likely to be called crazy for it.
The plan is to meet at my mom’s and make Thanksgiving dinner entirely from foods we grew, raised, or hunted ourselves. Like the old days. Because we can. Or at least we hope we can. Which is why we’re starting this early. A quick inventory of the family’s skills and available resources have found a few areas lacking. We’ve got some work to do if we want to eat what we want instead of just what we end up with.
Feeding up to twelve adults and ten children one meal plus desserts made from foods we grew, raised, or hunted this year.
My mom. Colorado. Normally grows a garden, herbs, and a pumpkin patch every year. Has chickens in a large enclosure and is hosting the feast. All around amazing lady, so whatever we can’t figure out, she’ll probably have a solution for.
Big brother. Louisiana. I hear he has a deer tag this year.
Me. Utah. I can grow a decent garden, but I always lose my squash to the squash bugs so I’m a no go for providing squash or pumpkin. Dry corn and beans and some herbs are easy. Regular at making bread and cooking from scratch and I have bee hives.
Little brother. Colorado. This was all his idea and he volunteered to go fishing Thanksgiving morning which the sister in Louisiana promptly nixed, claiming her fish tastes much better. Not sure what other skills he has, but when things get frustrating we all know who to blame for hatching the idea in the first place.
Sister 1. Colorado. Grows a decent garden with some out of the ordinary veggies.
Sister 2. Louisiana. Has the longest growing season and access to citrus on her in-laws’ property so we may just get our lemon meringue pie after all.
As we’re looking at the traditional menu, we’ve come across a few problems we’ll need to address.
1. Nobody has access to dairy. Not one cow or milk goat among the whole crew.
2. Most of us will have had a killing frost at least four weeks prior to the meal, leaving a lot of fresh foods out of the mix unless they are canned, dried, or frozen.
3. How restrictive do we want to get? Do we need to grow wheat if we want rolls and pie crust? What about basics like baking soda, salt, and sugar, or spices we can’t grow like cinnamon and nutmeg? My husband wants to try growing wheat, but we may have to bend the rules a tiny bit for salt.
4. Nobody grows cranberries!
5. Or sweet potatoes.
6. If nobody grows something maybe we can trade for it as long as we know the grower. Still hammering out details.
What are your Thanksgiving plans? Want to join in the “I Grew Thanksgiving” challenge? You don’t need to show up to my mom’s house (unless you grow cranberries, in which case we may adopt you for the day). Decide what your rules will be, but don’t make it too easy on yourself! Challenge yourself to do something more than you’ve done before to have a self sufficient Thanksgiving meal with your own family.
I’ll be chronicling preparations for this Thanksgiving meal throughout the year. Feel free to share what your plans are and any challenges you encounter along the way!
Keep preparing! Angela
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What a wonderful idea..how about if you barter for what you need. ? No money exchanged. Maybe barter eggs for milk or fresh caught fish for cranberries? Just a thought.
I made a meal last night that was from all our own grown food…we have our own chickens so butcher one…ouir own potatoes, squash , carrots!!
Angela's Mom says
Wow! So we really are going to give this a shot??? Tried growing sweet potatoes but no good. We had roasted butternut squash this past Thanksgiving instead and I tho’t that was tastier anyhow! I can grow those. I’ll experiment w/ pumpkin pie made w/ your honey…so you may have to send me more :). I vote for being able to use spices, salt from the store unless you want to go into the Salt Lake flats and scrape up some salt and make it usable…. Little Brother could actually provide pheasant, then maybe I could get out of growing a turkey? Yum.
M and I have been plotting. We’ll have to get a real menu put together and see what everyone wants to pitch in. Maybe we can set up a group skype or something? M’s stressed about the pumpkin roll now. And growing garlic. And what about oils? See how complicated this can get? It will be fun. One of brother’s better ideas. Better than tandem sleds behind the explorer by far!
Angela's Mom says
WHAT??? I thot the sled idea was a hoooot! but then I was the driver…
Really??? Pumpkin roll???? Who’s gonna make the cream cheese???
Cream cheese is on my list of things to learn but we’d still need powdered sugar. And yes, the brilliance of the sled idea really depended on which position you were in. The one getting run over by the second sled didn’t think it was such a good idea. :)
Baby sister says
As the one having been run over by the second sled, tandem sledding was not brother’s best idea…
I think we should be as restrictive as possible but agree that seasonings and oils will be difficult. All I am guaranteeing from here is fish and citrus. I also have access to fresh sugar cane in addition to A’s honey.
I support eating the pumpkin roll on Wednesday. And another on Friday. I am not sure I want to mess with perfection.
Angela, that is a very neat idea! I am jealous of your bees! I love raw honey, we have gone through a gallon in 6 months! Just using it on oatmeal.
Eggs are easy, no one wants a goat or cow?? Why not? ha ha
The last two years we have done chickens for Thanksgiving. The kids fessed up and said they really don’t like the taste of turkey, but they like turkey gravy. So we made chickens and did chicken gravy. It was delicious! You don’t have to stick with poultry. Fish, trout or whatever you can get in November will be tasty if caught the day before or day of cooking. Weiner pig is tender and usually succulent.
We actually prefer the flavor of honey in baked things like pies and cakes, muffins to sugar. One daughter hates powdered sugar, she says it tastes like chemicals or something. Another daughter can’t have powdered sugar because of the corn starch in it.
If you can barter for some raw milk you can make cottage cheese or cream cheese yourself.
I look forward to seeing what ends up being for dinner.
Melissa Eickhoff says
We are doing the same thing. Raising a few turkeys, utilizing the garden however we are buying wheat and sugar. Everything will be homemade and home grown with tha exception. We dont have cranberries but will have black cherries.
Practical Parsimony says
This all sounds like fun. Remember, pioneers had to buy their salt, sugar, and flour and often some spices. It’s not Thanksgiving without cranberries, so maybe you should adopt a cranberry grower. Pumpkin can be used in any recipe that calls for sweet potatoes. My mother’s mother made sweet potato pies and pumpkin pies during the Depression. Maybe someone canned pumpkin that you can try substituting for the sweet potato dish.
Of course, maybe some pioneers had wheat farms.
I think trading with a person who grew the item is in the spirit of growing it yourself.
PL C says
I just listened to your podcast (?) on my computer (Aug. ’15), and thought about your lemon pie. I have a different recipe that my family loves, no thickener in the filling. You’ll have to use food storage for some, though, and figure out a alternative crust. Essentially: Graham cracker crust, baked 15 minutes at 350º. Filling: 2 egg yolks, beaten with 1 can sweetened condensed milk, and half a cup of lemon (or key lime) juice. Use the 2 reserved egg whites, more for more volume, for the merengue. Beat till quite stiff but not dry, adding a 1/4 teaspoon of lemon extract per egg white, as well as sugar to taste. Put filling in still-hot crust, spread merengue on top, and bake again 15 minutes or so at 350º, till a lovely golden color. There are recipes out there to make sweetened condensed milk from dry milk and honey, but I don’t know if whipping egg whites will deflate with honey. I’ve heard this version called lemon chess pie, but it’s our ‘welcome home’ pie tradition for 3 generations.