Cathi Litzenberger: Giving thanks and upholding tradition

Thanksgiving recipes

On Jan. 31, 1957, our Canadian Parliament proclaimed:  “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed…to be observed on the second Monday in October.” And so it has been celebrated ever since. It was a time when we, as Canadians, were not afraid to openly use the word God in government sessions and at other public celebrations in thankfulness.

Today, sadly, we often skirt around the word in intimidation and fear of offending a tiny, loud minority. As W.J. Cameron said of thanksgiving: “Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.”

In Canada we traditionally celebrate Thanksgiving with family and a feast of turkey with all the trimmings, including dessert of pumpkin pie. Today’s recipes include a brined bird and my favourite pumpkin pie. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Brined Herb-Crusted

Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy


7 quarts water

1 quart apple cider

3/4 cup kosher salt

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 large onion, diced

1 large or 2 small carrots, diced

3 ribs celery, diced

1 head garlic, cut in 1/2 equatorially

1/2 bunch fresh rosemary

1/2 bunch fresh sage

6 bay leaves

1 (12-14 lb. turkey

Herb Crust: 1 bunch fresh rosemary, leaves finely chopped

1 bunch fresh sage, leaves finely chopped

3 sticks butter, room temperature (1-1/2 cups)

Kosher salt

Gravy: 1 large onion, cut in 1/2-inch dice

1 large or 2 small carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

4 cloves garlic, smashed

2 Granny Smith apples, cut into 1/2-inch dice

5 bay leaves

1 cinnamon stick

1 bunch thyme

Kosher salt

1 quart chicken stock, divided

2 cups apple cider, divided

1/2 to 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Combine all the ingredients for the brine in a large container. Add the turkey and let it brine in the refrigerator for two to three days.

To cook the turkey, remove from brine a day before roasting and pat thoroughly dry with paper towels.

Herb Crust: Combine the rosemary, sage and butter in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt. Work the butter mixture under the skin of the turkey and massage it into the breasts and the legs. Massage the butter on the outside of the skin as well (stuff with your favourite dressing if desired). Tie legs together.

Gravy preparation: Put the onions, carrots, garlic, apples, bay leaves, cinnamon stick and thyme in a roasting pan and season with salt. Arrange the turkey on top of the veggies and refrigerate overnight, uncovered. This will help the skin to dry out and become really brown and crispy.

Preheat oven to 450 F. Put 2 cups chicken stock and 1 cup apple cider in the bottom of the roasting pan. Roast the turkey in preheated oven until the skin gets really nice and brown, about 40 minutes.

Lower the heat to 350 F for the remainder of the cooking time. Baste turkey every 30 minutes or so and add more stock to the pan, if needed; once the bird is to the proper colour, tent it with foil to prevent any further darkening.

Cook about 17 minutes per pound unstuffed and 20 minutes per pound stuffed.

Remove turkey from oven and roasting pan to a cutting board; cover with foil and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

Strain all veggies over a bowl to separate them from the stock. Discard the vegetables. Skim off the fat and add it to the roasting pan. Put roasting pan over low heat and whisk in the flour. Cook 4 – 5 minutes until it takes on a little colour. Slowly whisk in the remaining 1 cup cider, remaining chicken stock and the stock/cider mixture. Cook until mixture has thickened and reached a gravy consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Pour into a serving pitcher or bowl. Give thanks for such a great turkey!

Prize Pumpkin Pie

1 unbaked 10-inch pie shell

2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ginger

1/2 tsp. mace

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 cup scalded condensed milk (not sweetened)

2 eggs, well-beaten

1-1/2 cups canned pumpkin

Whipped cream (optional)

Mix all ingredients together except whipping cream. Pour mixture into unbaked pie shell. Bake in pre-heated hot oven at 450 F for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 325 F and bake 30 to 40 minutes longer until filling is firm (knife inserted in centre should come out clean).

Cool before serving. If desired, serve with whipped cream.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist.