Of all the holidays, Thanksgiving is the one that reminds me of my Grandmother the most, and probably not for the reason you think. I don’t have visions of my Grandmother wearing a frilly apron rolling out pie dough, though she could make a mean crust. What I do have are Gam’s Rules of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving dinner was always at our house and every year, and I do mean every year, my sister and I (and my poor mother who was actually doing the cooking) were subject to Gam’s lessons / rules / commandments in cooking Thanksgiving dinner.
While we remember those lessons fondly now, at the time we just rolled our eyes. “For a good gravy, first you have to make a good roux. Did you make a good roux?” This lesson was the first in the Gospel According to Gam and has become a battle cry at any family dinner be it Thanksgiving or otherwise. (First You Need To Make a Good Roux became the title to the book of her recipes that I put together for the women in the family.)
The first lesson was quickly followed by the mildly condescending, “If I were making this at home I would have some Kitchen Bouquet” to the gravy. This was a hotly contested addition, and I’m in the you don’t need it camp. We never had Kitchen Bouquet the house except at Thanksgiving, but we ran out and bought some every year, or never heard the end of it.
My favorite lesson, and the one that makes me smile as I write this, is her ritual warning of, “Don’t touch the plates! They’re hot!” And every time without fail my grandfather would touch the plates and say, “Wow that’s hot!” just to bug her.
By far Gam’s best contribution to the Thanksgiving feast was her cranberry sauce, though sauce may be a bit of a misnomer. Year after year it was one of the favorite things on our Thanksgiving table, and now that she’s gone it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without her cranberries.…as well as hot plates…and a really good roux…
Go ahead…Roll your eyes.…
Yields Approximately 3 Cups
1 large orange
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 cups raw cranberries
With a vegetable peeler or a small sharp knife, remove the peel but not the pith from the orange and cut it into very thin julienne strips.
Blanch the strips in boiling water for 1 minute, drain them in a sieve, and refresh them under running cold water.
In a saucepan, combine sugar, water, and lemon juice. Bring the mixture to a boil over low heat, washing down any sugar crystals clinging to the sides of the pan with a brush dipped in cold water, and simmer the syrup for 5 minutes.
Add the cranberries and the orange strips to the syrup and cook the mixture over moderately high heat for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the cranberries have popped.
Let the mixture cool and chill it thoroughly.