Articles in Thanksgiving

Turkey Joints from Nora's Candy Shop in Rome, N.Y. Credit: Tina Caputo

When November rolls around and the scent of cinnamon is in the air, you may look forward to traditional holiday treats like pumpkin pie or your mom’s gingerbread. But for people in Rome, N.Y., in the foothills of the Adirondacks, the holidays wouldn’t taste the same without Turkey Joints.

They’re not made from turkey; they’re not even shaped like turkeys. Turkey Joints look like bones. Imagine a knobby 5-inch-long candy, similar in girth to a pretzel rod, covered in a crunchy, pearly-white sugar coating. Inside each “bone” is a creamy chocolate and Brazil nut “marrow.” Bizarre, yes, but also delicious.

Rome residents don’t make Turkey Joints at home; they buy them at Nora’s Candy Shop. Nora’s is owned by the Haritatos family, which began making the chocolate treats in 1919, and they’re still made by the same (secret) handmade process. No one knows for sure where the idea for the bone-shaped candies came from, but they’ve been a local Thanksgiving and Christmas tradition for decades.

“I don’t know how many jars we sell during the holidays,” said Sharon, a Nora’s employee who handles in-store and online sales. “But I will say it’s a lot. All I know is, at the end of the holiday season I am extremely tired!”

As New York Romans have moved away to other parts of the world, the Turkey Joints tradition has spread. Each year, Nora’s ships the candies to homesick people all over the United States, and beyond.

Turkey Joint candy. Credit: Tina Caputo

Turkey Joint candy. Credit: Tina Caputo

I was introduced to Turkey Joints several years ago by my friend Doug Gallaher, who grew up in Rome and moved to San Francisco in the early ’90s. At 45 years old, Gallaher has never known a Christmas without Turkey Joints.

“I don’t know anyone who is from Rome, or who had a relative from Rome, who does not think of them as a holiday food,” he told me. “What I like about them is that they are tied so closely to Christmas memories, but they are a tangible, unchanged thing. My mom still sends me a jar every year in my Christmas care package.”

Like many former Rome residents, Gallaher also gives Turkey Joints to friends each year during the holidays.

“I typically buy between six and eight jars and bring them to holiday parties instead of wine,” he said. “I try not to have any myself until after Thanksgiving and really try to hold out until Christmas Eve. I typically fail at this.”

Turkey Joints sell for $19.99 a jar, and are available only between October and May. (They don’t fare well in warm weather.) Due to the weight of the glass jars and the delicacy of the candies, shipping costs $15 for a single jar — nearly as much as the Turkey Joints themselves. But when you think about it, that’s a small price to pay for a sweet, unchanged taste of childhood, even if it’s someone else’s childhood.

To order Turkey Joints online, visit www.turkeyjoints.com or www.tasteofcny.com. Along with Original Turkey Joints, Nora’s also offers newfangled flavors such as Chocolate Covered Turkey Joints, Coco-Monds (a coconut/almond version) and Peanut Butter Sticks.

Top photo: Turkey Joints from Nora’s Candy Shop in Rome, N.Y. Credit: Tina Caputo

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Patrick Thiel. Credit: Lynne Curry

At 8 p.m. on the Saturday before the first snowfall, organic grower Patrick Thiel harvested the last of his 50,000 pounds of potatoes in eastern Oregon. His crew — an itinerant chef, some furloughed firefighters and day laborers — unearthed the haul by hand. Alby’s Gold, Corolle and La Ratte Fingerlings were among the heirloom varieties Portland’s top chefs demanded of Thiel’s tiny Prairie Creek Farm.

When Gabriel Rucker, Naomi Pomeroy, Vitaly Paley and Portland’s other culinary all-stars create a potato side dish or make French fries, they don’t accept any old spud. That got me thinking about Thanksgiving.

Next to turkey, mashed potatoes play the best supporting role. They are essential. You may mess around with a vegetable side dish, invent a salad or even mix in a new pie, but mashers are on the menu each and every year.

How, I wondered, could this year’s mashed potatoes be their very best?

Storage and starch

Snow flurries scattered on the silver roof of a makeshift potato shed in Prairie Creek Farm’s fields. My feet were cold within moments, but I’d come to learn what I could from the most renowned potato grower in Oregon. Gene Thiel, the farm’s founder known as “Potato Man,” died in July at 77 and left the legacy to his son, Patrick. They’d worked side by side on their leased patch of glaciated soils making their root crops — beets, carrots and potatoes — memorable highlights of many menus.

Looking like a miner with a helmet and headlamp, Thiel led me inside his potato shed. The earthy air was noticeably warmer and dark as night. Hills of soil-caked potatoes reached head height — 50,000 pounds, Thiel estimated with undisguised disappointment.

“It should be 100,000,” he said. But he couldn’t get enough organic seed potato for a full crop. Shaking his head, he noted that meant rationing the smaller yield to his 50 chefs to fulfill deliveries from now to spring.

Bent over a bulwark of 50-pound bagged potatoes, Thiel commented offhandedly, “Cooking potatoes is a question of sugar content and temperature.”

I realized my lesson had begun. He explained that in cool storage (within 40 to 45 F), the potatoes retain their sugars. So, you want to store your potatoes, whether from the store, farmers market or your own garden, as cool as you can for long keeping.

When they’re warmed up, the potato’s sugars convert to starches. Because the best mashed potatoes require a starchy potato, Thiel’s key advice was simple: Warm your potatoes before boiling.

“If your sugars are high, you’ll get glue,” Thiel said. Then, he added, “My dad could tell the good chefs who set their bag of potatoes by the stove.” Their French fries had the best color and their mashed potatoes the best texture. Flavor is another story.

Not your ordinary Russets

Thiel is a soft-spoken father of four with a brown cap of hair who harbors fervent opinions on potatoes. I asked him outright, What is the best potato for mashing?

“If you like light and fluffy, use Russets,” he replied. “If you like flavor, use better varieties.”

Buttery mashed potatoes. Credit: Lynne Curry

Buttery mashed potatoes. Credit: Lynne Curry

He was speaking, of course, of heirloom potato varieties. Not the Idaho potato, the Burbank Russet, grown for uniformity in size, starch, color and flavor. Commercial potato growers are paid to produce to specifications and penalized if their tubers don’t make the cut. Thiel and his dad left behind commercial-scale potato growing many years ago and became committed to producing diverse breeds, including Alby’s Gold, a yellow variety that is the farm’s mainstay.

On this topic, Thiel is passionate. “No potato has better color, flavor and texture than Alby’s,” he said. “They come alive like no other potato.”

More brightly colored than Yukon Gold, Alby’s is the only potato that can hold an astonishing amount of butter when mashed, according to longtime Chef Pascal Sauton. Just 1 pound of Alby’s potatoes can absorb 1½  sticks of butter.

“Put that much butter in anything, it’s incredible,” Thiel conceded. He also recommended blending them with good quality olive oil, duck fat, bacon fat or truffle oil.

Prairie Creek Farm grows roughly eight potato varieties, including Ranger Russet, best adapted to the growing conditions in Oregon’s alpine region. Throughout the country, small farms offer their own favorite heirloom breeds. (Find the one closest to you at LocalHarvest.com.)

“When you’re using different potatoes,” Thiel advised, “you need to know your potato.” On his weekly delivery runs, he informs chefs about the storage conditions, but stops short of the direct instructions his father shot off for cooking them. “I don’t have the courage to argue with them like my dad,” he said with a shy smile. He does confide in me that when he wants an extra fluffy mash, he’ll mix a few of his Russets in with his favored Alby’s.

As I stepped gingerly between piles of potatoes to exit the shed, Thiel shined his headlamp to the roof to show me droplets suspended there. Entombed, the potatoes make their own moisture, respiring and living in a state of waiting until we claim them for our own Thanksgiving Day feast.

Top photo: Patrick Thiel. Credit: Lynne Curry

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Barrels of wine at Domaine Barraud, Maconnais, Burgundy, France. Credit: Sue Style

With such a blizzard of flavors on offer at the Thanksgiving table and so many different tastes to cater to among family and friends, a creative approach to wine selection is required. You need wines that are not too fancy price-wise, nor too hulking taste-wise, with enough interest and originality to make them a bit of a talking point.

Here is a totally Eurocentric selection of wines that I’ve found especially convincing on my travels this year. They’re the kind that will not be too bossy or overpowering with a bland meat like turkey, but with enough character to look all those trimmings squarely in the eye. It’s a good idea to provide both white and red wines, to cover all tastes. Or you could be very brave and go for just one delicious sparkling wine that will take you seamlessly through the meal from appetizer to dessert.

Check Wine Searcher for your nearest stockists.

White wines

Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile, F. E. Trimbach, Ribeauvillé, Alsace, France

Cuvee Frederic Emile by Trimbach. Credit: Sue Style

Cuvee Frederic Emile by Trimbach. Credit: Sue Style

Iconic is an overworked word, but Riesling Frédéric Emile for once merits the moniker. A deep golden wine with fugitive elderflower-linden blossom aromas, always a little lean (true to the house style) but with the suggestion of gorgeous curves to come, it’s a perfect match for white meats, rich sauces and sweet-spicy pumpkin flavors.

Crémant d’Alsace Grand Millésime 2009, René Muré, Rouffach, Alsace, France

Alsace is producing some fine Crémants these days, the best of which are a far better bet than regular, non-vintage Champagne and at a fraction of the price. This vintage Crémant, from a blend of Chardonnay and Riesling, is redolent with orangey-peach aromas and would take you gracefully through the meal from start to finish.

Pouilly Fuissé En Buland, Domaine Barraud, Vergisson, France

The Mâconnais region of southern Burgundy offers some fine drinking at distinctly non-Burgundian prices. This one, from 78-year-old Chardonnay vines growing beneath the landmark Rock of Solutré, is crisp and elegant with just a suspicion of oak so as not to be overpowering.

El Quintà Garnatxa Blanca, Barbara Forés, Terra Alta, Catalonia, Spain

Seventy percent of the total world plantation of white Garnatxa is found in the Terra Alta region of Catalonia, where it performs to perfection. This elegant, lightly oaked one from 50- 60-year-old vines has a fresh, expressive minerality that would work wonders with a parade of rich dishes.

Yvorne Grand Cru, Collection Chandra Kurt, Bolle et Cie, Morges, Switzerland

Chasselas Chandra Kurt Selection by Bolle. Credit: Sue Style

Chasselas Chandra Kurt Selection by Bolle. Credit: Sue Style

In Switzerland’s canton Vaud, on the steep, sun-baked terraces that plunge down to Lake Geneva, they do wonders with Chasselas, scorned by most of the world as a rather uninteresting table grape. Zurich-based wine writer and consultant Chandra Kurt has worked with the Bolle winery to make this prize-winning wine with firm structure and citrusy-honeyed tones, fine with this seasonal menu.

Red wines

Tschuppen Spätburgunder, Hanspeter Ziereisen, Efringen-Kirchen, Baden, Germany

A self-taught winemaker, Hanspeter Ziereisen swept the board at a recent international Pinot Noir taste-off in London, with two of his wines in the top 10. Tschuppen, the lightest of his three Pinots, captures all the magic of the grape and is just the right weight for a Thanksgiving menu.

Gamay de Chamoson, Cave du Vidomne, Saint-Pierre-de-Clages, Valais, Switzerland

The Swiss are about the only people to do anything interesting with the Gamay grape outside of Beaujolais. This one, which took away first prize in this year’s Grand Prix du Vin Suisse in the Gamay category, is full of raspberry fruit flavors with nicely balanced acidity to cut the richness of the meal.

Beaujolais Villages, Domaine des Terres Dorées, Charnay, Beaujolais, France

Jean-Paul Brun makes highly prized, exciting, long-lived wines down at the southern end of Beaujolais. His Beaujolais Villages is an especial pleasure, bright, lively and keenly priced — serve it slightly chilled to bring out its zesty best.

Barbera d’Alba, Cascina Fontana, Perno, Piedmont, Italy

Barbera ticks all the right boxes for a turkey feast: bright, fresh, not too alcoholic and loaded with red fruit flavors. If you can track down a bottle of Mario Fontana’s (produced in tiny quantities and dismayingly quick to sell out), it may just make your day.

Tocat de l'Ala by Coca i Fito and Roig Parals. Credit: Sue Style

Tocat de l’Ala by Coca i Fito and Roig Parals. Credit: Sue Style

Tocat de l’Ala, Coca i Fitó and Roig Parals, Empordà, Catalonia,Spain

A crunchy, crazy blend (the name means “daft in the head”) of old-vine Garnatxa and Carinyena, made in a joint venture between two Catalan wineries. Big but not over weighty and bursting with cranberry flavors — what could be more appropriate?

Top photo: Barrels of wine at Domaine Barraud, Maconnais, Burgundy, France. Credit: Sue Style

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Brussels sprouts for hash. Credit: Clifford A. Wright

Thanksgiving dinner in my family is not the time for experimentation. We have old favorites whose recipes we pull out because, after all, we make and eat this food only once a year. Turkey may be the star of the show, but side dishes, including Brussels sprouts, deserve some spotlight treatment too with preparations that go beyond everyday recipes.

Two of my children were born in Boston and grew up in Cambridge, Mass., where we lived for 15 years, so we still lean toward traditional New England Thanksgiving food even though we’ve all moved to Southern California. On Thanksgiving Day nary a jalapeño would appear on our table but rather maple syrup, cranberries and bread stuffing. We’re very “pilgrim” in our approach. Although Thanksgiving dinner is not codified, there is general agreement as to what will be on the table.

Many families make the turkey the centerpiece of the whole experience, and it should be. But this is no time to relegate the side dishes to the sideline. If you put as much care, consideration and love into those side dishes Thanksgiving dinner truly becomes memorable.

A real winner of a green vegetable dish is our hash of Brussels sprouts with maple-glazed bacon and hazelnuts.

Making new Brussels Sprouts fans

A New England Thanksgiving menu — the only truly proper one, I believe — has some prescribed dishes besides turkey, pumpkin and cranberry, and one of them is Brussels sprouts.

I like Brussels sprouts but many people don’t care for them. For people who don’t like them, this may be the ideal preparation because the final dish is hardly recognizable as Brussels sprouts. This is a terrific recipe and everyone at our Thanksgiving dinner always takes big servings.

This dish can be made Thanksgiving morning and left in the skillet to be reheated for 2 minutes on high when it is time to serve. Be careful not to overcook the Brussels sprouts.

Brussels Sprouts Hash With Bacon and Hazelnuts. Credit: Clifford A. Wright

Brussels Sprouts Hash With Bacon and Hazelnuts. Credit: Clifford A. Wright

Brussels Sprouts Hash With Bacon and Hazelnuts

Serves 8

Ingredients

Oil for sautéing

2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise

Coarse sea salt

8 thick-cut rashers maple-cured bacon

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup crushed or chopped blanched hazelnuts

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

1. Preheat a cast iron skillet or griddle over medium heat for 10 minutes. Pour enough oil into the skillet or griddle to cover the cooking surface with slightly more than a film of oil.

2. Place the Brussels sprouts in the skillet, cut side down, and cook until blackened in spots and golden brown. Turn the vegetables with tongs and cook until the convex side is also browned, 5 to 8 minutes in all. Sprinkle with sea salt and set aside. By the time you place the last cut Brussels sprout down you will probably need to begin turning the first. Chop the cooked Brussels sprouts coarsely.

2. Lay the strips of bacon down in the skillet or griddle and cook until browned and crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon and cool, then break it into ½-inch pieces.

3. In a large sauté pan or flameproof casserole, melt the butter over medium-high heat and cook the hazelnuts, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes.

4. Return the chopped Brussels sprouts, bacon and cooked hazelnuts to the pan and season with pepper and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.

5. Serve or reheat when Thanksgiving dinner is ready. (If reheating, do not cook for more than 2 minutes.)

Top photo: Brussels sprouts for hash. Credit: Clifford A. Wright

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Cheese twists for a Thanksgiving appetizer. Credit: Clifford A. Wright

Long before the turkey comes out of the oven golden and glistening, our family has gathered, preparing all the myriad dishes, drinking, laughing and nibbling on Thanksgiving appetizers since the morning.

We start about 10 a.m. and have Thanksgiving dinner around 4 p.m., so it’s important to have appetizers that are traditional, tasty and do not require us to sit down since we want to be hungry but not starving for the main meal.

We prepare a number of Thanksgiving appetizers but one favorite that needs to be guarded for any late-arriving guests (countering the family motto, you snooze you lose) are Vermont cheddar cheese twists. This is a dish that made it up to the majors from the minor leagues in our family about 10 years ago, and it’s a perennial hit.

Cheddar Cheese Twists

You can use frozen puff pastry but make sure your cheddar cheese is the best and not aged; it should be less than a year old. We double this recipe if there are more than nine people.

Makes about 36 twists

Ingredients

3½ cups (about ½ pound) finely grated sharp white Vermont cheddar cheese

1½ teaspoons dried thyme

1½ teaspoons dried sage

1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 pound frozen puff pastry, defrosted according to package instructions

Directions

1. In a bowl, mix together the cheese, thyme, sage and pepper.

2. Lightly flour a work surface and roll out the puff pastry until it is 18 by 10 inches. Sprinkle one-third of the cheese mixture over half of the pastry. Fold the plain half over the cheese half and press with a rolling pin so it adheres. Roll out again to 18 by 10 inches and sprinkle the next third of the cheese and repeat the process a third time with the remaining cheese, rolling it out to a final shape of 18 by 10 inches. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 425 F.

4. Line two large 10-by-14-inch baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut the pastry in half crosswise to form two 10-by-9-inch rectangles. Trim off the uneven pieces of pastry. Cut each rectangle crosswise into ½-inch wide strips. Twist each strip a few times and place on the baking sheet about ¾-inch apart, dampening the ends with water and pressing them to adhere to the parchment.

5. Bake until golden brown, reversing the position of the sheets halfway through baking, about 10 minutes in all. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet. Serve warm or room temperature.

Top photo: Cheese twists for a Thanksgiving appetizer. Credit: Clifford A. Wright

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Fresh foods you find at your local market often make suitable substitutes for traditional Thanksgiving ingredients. Credit: Cameron Stauch

Being away from your family and friends while living overseas can make Thanksgiving one of the loneliest days of the year for a North American expat. For that reason, trying to prepare your family’s traditional Thanksgiving meal with turkey and all the trimmings becomes an obsession for many.

The sourcing of ingredients and having the right cooking equipment are the biggest obstacles to re-creating the typical dishes found on your family’s festive table. During my years living in Asia, I have prepared traditional Thanksgiving meals for more than 1,000 people from a home kitchen, but not without having to substitute ingredients, change cooking methods or simply break away from tradition. Here are some tips to assist you when thrown a culinary curve ball.

Plan early

Roughly plan your menu at least a couple of weeks ahead of celebrating Thanksgiving. During your regular grocery runs, scout the shops and markets to see if any non-perishable, specialty items you will need are on the shelves. Purchase them if they are available, as other shoppers will quickly follow, looking for those same prized items. Check with market vendors to see if they will have certain items, and place an order with them to guarantee they are part of your holiday larder.

Turkey hunting

Locating a turkey, the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving meal, is of utmost importance for many expats. A few fortunate cooks may be able to purchase an expensive imported bird from a high-end grocer or from friends who have access to an embassy commissary, but most will have to search their local markets to see if any gobblers are for sale. Whether you are able find a local turkey or have to settle for some other type of fowl, make sure you clearly communicate with the market vendor that you want the bird to be dressed, i.e. de-feathered, eviscerated and head and feet removed. If you don’t, you may need to quickly learn some new butchery skills.

If you are lucky enough to get a turkey, you next need to confirm that your oven, if you have one, can comfortably accommodate something this big. Most ovens sold in Asia are still on the small side to efficiently cook a large turkey.

It has been my experience that the turkeys, ducks, geese and even chickens in Asia have lived a roaming life resulting in strong, tough legs. Faced with these challenges, a day or two before Thanksgiving dinner, I routinely take the legs off, brown them with some onions, carrots, garlic, a pinch of cloves and black pepper and then braise them in water or stock for several hours until they are tender. The bonus of using this method is you can take the cooking liquid and reduce it to make a flavorful gravy. I then finish by roasting the breast in the oven. If you don’t have an oven, you can either poach or steam the breast.

If you are looking to change things up, you may want to entertain turning to a local favorite restaurant to help prepare a regional delicacy, such as a Peking duck, a roast suckling pig or tandoori turkey, to use as your meal’s centerpiece.

Trimmings and side dishes

Fresh cranberries most likely won’t be accessible to make cranberry chutney, but there are many local fruits that serve as good alternatives. Apples are currently in season, citrus fruits are making their way into the markets and pineapples or green mangoes bring a nice acidity to the meal. The key is to ensure that the flavors of your chutney compliment the menu and you create a balance of sweet and tart flavors.

Asian markets may lack the root vegetables — parsnips, turnips, celery root — that signal a fall harvest, but there are some fantastic substitutes. Broccoli, bok choy and a host of greens in the cabbage family are good stand-ins for Brussels sprouts, while the varieties of sweet potatoes and yams you find locally are excellent replacements for the orange-fleshed sweet potatoes you may be accustomed to.

If your stuffing gets its crunch and flavor from celery, look to vegetables like kohlrabi, celtuce or Chinese celery instead. Head to a nearby five-star hotel to purchase multigrain bread for your stuffing or, for a gluten-free alternative, use cooked local brown rice.

What about dessert?

No Thanksgiving meal is complete without a pie or two. Nuts such as walnuts, cashews, peanuts or a combination of the three will ease your regret at having no pecans for your pie. Likewise, pumpkin pie elicits oohs and ahs from its devoted following. Canned pumpkin is a challenge to find, and there tends to be only one type of pumpkin available in the markets. To make your own pumpkin purée, peel the pumpkin, roast, steam or boil it until tender, then drain and purée. I find the pumpkin can be a bit watery, and it is best to cook the puree over medium heat on the stovetop for about 10 minutes to reduce the moisture content. The purée is now ready to use for your pie recipe.

It’s still Thanksgiving

The most essential ingredient of any Thanksgiving larder is the people around your table. You may not be able to have immediate family fill the seats, but you can include new, close friends with whom to share your family’s traditions. Ask your guests to bring a dish from their country to add some of their culture to your feast.

Carrying family traditions abroad is a great way to re-create a semblance of “home” to celebrate Thanksgiving, but trying to prepare an exact replica creates added stress and increases the likelihood of failure. Be open to tweaking the dishes with accents from your travels or flavors of your current culinary environment or those of your guests. I can assure you that these creative menu changes bring lasting memories and may even create new traditions that will appear on your table at future celebrations.

Top photo: Fresh foods you find at your local market often make suitable substitutes for traditional Thanksgiving ingredients. Credit: Cameron Stauch

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2011 Paul Achs Zweigelt is an ideal red wine for Thanksgiving. Credit: Weingut Paul Achs.

Among the 60 or so Austrian wines I’ve tasted in the past couple of weeks I found my Thanksgiving red for this year. The 2011 Paul Achs Zweigelt from Austria has cherry aromas, soft fruit and spice flavors, and the fresh acidity that will keep palates alive during an hours-long dinner heavy on rich foods.

Elin McCoy's Wine of the Week


2011 Paul Achs Zweigelt

Price: $20

Region: Burgenland, Austria

Grape: 100% Zweigelt

Alcohol: 12.5%

Serve: With turkey and all the side dishes


More of Elin's wine picks:

» The right white wine for Thanksgiving 2013

» A perfect white wine for parties

» A perfect red wine for parties

» A rosé that's ideal for the holidays

» Sting's 2010 When We Dance Chianti

Everyone worries about what wine can possibly go with the many contrasting flavors on a Thanksgiving table, from sweet potatoes to  creamy onions to rich sausage stuffing to tart cranberry sauce to turkey roasted with a rosemary rub. I used to be a purist, offering only two American wines, a white and a red, to match the nationality of the holiday. But this year I’m branching out. My white pick last week was from Italy. Selecting a California Pinot Noir for the red seemed like taking the easy route. And this Austrian red is wonderfully versatile with all kinds of foods.

Zweigelt (pronounced Tsvy-gelt) , a cross between two other Austrian red grapes, St. Laurent and Blaufrankisch, the country’s best red, was developed in 1922 by viticulturalist Dr. Friedrich (Fritz) Zweigelt, for whom it is named. The popular varietal isn’t hard to grow, like finicky Pinot Noir, but the wines from both have a lot in common. Zweigelt doesn’t share the complexity and ageability of fine Burgundies or expensive California examples, though some producers make mouth-filling single vineyard versions.

Zweigelt also reminds me of Gamay or even a light-bodied Zinfandel. The most planted red grape in Austria, it’s a fruit-forward, easy-drinking crowd-pleaser. Most, like this one, are medium-bodied, with silky tannins, juicy acidity and no new oak flavors, all reasons why they’re so food-friendly.

2011 Paul Achs Zweigelt aged in older barrels

The winery, named after owner and winemaker Paul Achs, is in Burgenland, south of Vienna, in the village of Gols. He owns 58 acres of vineyards, all cultivated biodynamically since 2007. This Zweigelt comes from vines planted on gravel in an area between the village and Lake Neusiedl known as the Heideboden, the source of all his young, fresh wines. This one is aged in older oak barrels, which allows it to retain its bright fruit.

This 2011 Paul Achs Zweigelt also fulfills another of my Thanksgiving wine criteria: affordability. When different generations of a family, all with very strong opinions, gather at a table for hours, the key to party success is plenty of wine to smooth over heated discussions and keep everyone mellow. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Hominy (maize) is one of the ingredients in the authentic succotash recipe. Credit: Glane23 / Wikimedia Commons

That Thanksgiving belongs to New England goes without saying. Although there had been feasts giving thanks for the bounty of the land in the Virginia colony, in Spanish Florida and in British Canada, the federal holiday of Thanksgiving declared by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 traces its lineage to the 1621 harvest celebration of Wampanoag Indians and English settlers in Plymouth, Mass.

Edward Winslow, one of the governing leaders on the Mayflower, left an account of that thanksgiving feast that lasted three days with 90 Wampanoag and 53 settlers. The Wampanoag brought five deer for the feast. Although there is no surviving menu from this thanksgiving we know that most of the food was brought by the Wampanoag including various waterfowl, the deer, and corn.

It’s likely that the feast was held outdoors as there was no house large enough to hold all these people. Although migrating waterfowl and turkey were plentiful at this time of year, there’s no record that turkey was on the table. There probably were no cranberries, no sweet potatoes, and no pumpkin pie, although there was squash of some kind. One of the dishes they may have eaten was sobaheg, a Wampanoag stew of corn, roots, beans, squash and various meats, perhaps a precursor to succotash.

A New England Thanksgiving of today is somewhat codified, at least in folklore. One must have a perfectly cooked turkey, or at least an understanding of how to cook the turkey if you are a first-timer. Of course you need an excellent turkey gravy. Root vegetables are typical, as is succotash, boiled creamed onions, buttered squash, cider and cranberry juice to drink. You will have at least three pies because in colonial times hosts thought it appeared stingy to offer company fewer than three pies. Probably you would serve a pumpkin pie, a mincemeat pie and a Marlborough pie, which is a glorified apple pie.

Colonial evolution of a Native American tradition

Succotash became a traditional Thanksgiving dish thanks to the Old Colony Club, created in Plymouth, Mass., in 1769. The group favored this dish as part of their annual Forefather’s Day dinner, which was celebrated in early winter.

Plymouth Succotash. Credit: Courtesy of Culinary Historians of Boston

Plymouth Succotash. Credit: Courtesy of Culinary Historians of Boston

The original succotash is a descendant of a local Native American meal based on a corn soup made with beans, unripe corn, and various meats, especially bear or fish. Over time it has evolved into a kind of boiled dinner with corned beef, chicken, salt pork, white Cape Cod turnips, potato, hulled corn and boiled beans with some salt pork. Originally, the beans used were actually dried peas, but over time lima beans have become popular.

The word succotash derives from Narragansett, a branch of the Algonquin language, the word being msiquatash. Hominy are kernels of corn that have been treated in a special way, usually soaked in a caustic solution and then washed to remove the hulls. There are different kinds of hominy with different tastes.

Plymouth Succotash

Serves 4

Ingredients

½ cup dried split peas

2 cups whole grain hominy

1 Cornish game hen (about 1½ pounds), cut in half or 2 chicken thighs and leg

1 pound beef brisket in one piece

2 ounces salt pork in one piece

1 cup water

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 boiling potato (about ½ pound), such as Yukon gold, red or white potatoes, boiled and diced

1 small turnip, boiled and diced

Directions

1. Place the peas in a pot with cold water to cover by several inches. Bring to a boil and cook until very tender, about 3 hours. Drain, and pass through a food mill or mash until it looks like mashed potatoes. Set aside until needed.

2. Meanwhile, bring a saucepan filled with water to a boil and add the hominy. Cook until it is half cooked, about 3 hours. Drain and set aside, saving 2¼ cups of the liquid.

3. Place the game hen or chicken, beef, salt pork and hominy in a large flameproof casserole or Dutch oven and cover with the reserved broth and the water. Season with salt and pepper and bring to just below a boil and let simmer, uncovered, until very tender, about 4 hours, adding small amounts of water if it looks like it’s drying out. The water should never reach a boil, though.

4. Add the pea purée to the meats and stir so all the fat is absorbed. Add the potato and turnip, stir and cook until the potato is soft and the hominy fully cooked, about 1 hour. Serve hot. Do not boil at any time.

Note: A modern vegetable succotash can be made by combining 2 cups of reheated frozen lima beans, 2 cups of freshly cooked corn scraped from the cob, ½ teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, a dash of paprika, freshly ground black pepper and ½ cup of cream in a saucepan. Cook until bubbling hot, about 5 minutes, and serve.

Top photo: Hominy is one of the ingredients in the original succotash recipe. Credit: Glane23 / Wikimedia Commons

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