Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: A taste of summer all year long

On Jan. 31, 1957, the Parliament of Canada 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.”

As a nation, this was the first set date for Thanksgiving, which has been celebrated since the first explorers arrived on Canadian soil. It is during October that most all of our harvesting is complete and life slows down a little; it’s the perfect time to reflect and celebrate the abundance of harvest and the many other blessings this country gives us.

It has become a weekend of eating ourselves silly with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. For some, a weekend of football games, taking last hiking ventures in the mountains before the snow, and for many, a time of family gatherings. Today’s recipes are perfect for the coming weekend. The soup is a one-pot meal, perfect for the cool days of fall and best yet, it can be made a day ahead and heated when you come in from tramping in the bush or puttering outside. It makes a large batch, perfect for freezing. And what would Thanksgiving be without a pumpkin pie? Let’s all take a little time to calm our souls and be thankful this weekend.

Pea Soup with Sausage and Bacon

2 hot Italian sausages, casing removed, crumbled

8 slices bacon, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

10 cups chicken broth

2 cups dried green split peas, washed and picked over

2 bay leaves

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce

1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, over medium-high heat, sauté sausages for 6 to 8 minutes or until browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain fat. Add bacon to the pan and sauté until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a separate plate lined with paper towels to drain fat. Pour off all but 1 tbsp. of the fat from the pan.

Add carrots, celery and onion; sauté over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes or until softened. Stir in chicken broth, peas, bay leaves, thyme, salt, hot pepper sauce and black pepper. Reserve 2 tbsp. bacon for garnish and return the remainder to the pan, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, leaving lid ajar, and simmer for for about an hour or until peas are very soft. Discard bay leaves.

Using an immersion blender, or in a food processor or blender, purée soup in batches (including the bacon that’s already in it) until smooth. Return to pot and stir in reserved sausage and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, hot pepper sauce and black pepper, if desired. Serve garnished with the reserved bacon. Serve with rye bread and mustard.

John’s Pumpkin Pie

1 single 9-inch pie crust

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin purée

3 egg yolks

1 large egg

1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon fine salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder

1 cup whipping cream, whipped

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

Whisk together pumpkin purée, egg yolks and egg in a large bowl until smooth. Add sweetened condensed milk, cinnamon, ginger, salt, nutmeg and Chinese 5-spice powder; whisk until thoroughly combined.

Fit pie crust in a 9-inch pie plate and crimp edges. Pour filling into the pie shell and lightly tap on the work surface to release any air bubbles.

Bake in preheated oven 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake until just set in the middle, 30 to 40 mins. A paring knife inserted into the filling, 1 inch from crust, should come out clean. Cool completely before serving. Serve with whipped cream.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every other Wednesday and one Sunday per month.