Hey there and welcome to another instalment of the Meal Plan. Well folks, today is Thanksgiving for we Canadians, and while we don’t celebrate it with nearly as much enthusiasm and patriotism as our American cousins, I’m sure each and every one of you is going to celebrate this holiday in your own special way. We here at Hawley Crescent hope to help you out by providing you with some context for the holiday and some ideas for its most iconic dish: turkey.
Despite the similarities to the U.S. holiday, Canadian Thanksgiving’s roots come from ancient European traditions. Since ancient times, Europeans would give thanks every fall for all their prosperity they’d had that year. Traditionally this holiday was held in the month of October.
The first recorded Canadian Thanksgiving was held in 1578 by an English explorer named Martin Frobisher, who arrived in Newfoundland 43 years before the pilgrims landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Frobisher’s journey to Newfoundland was a tricky one, filled with storms and ice. So when he and his fleet of ships finally made anchor in the New World, he wanted to give thanks for the safe journey.
Canadians continues to unofficially celebrate Thanksgiving for the next few hundred years until it was made a national holiday in 1879. It was decided that it would be celebrated on November 6th every year, but after the world wars, Canadians found themselves celebrating Thanksgiving on the same week as Remembrance Day. On Jan 31st, 1957, the Canadian parliament declared that the second Monday of every October would be the new day to celebrate Thanksgiving, which they declared, “a day of general thanksgiving to almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.”
So as you can see, while we share the same name as the holiday held in the United States, our two countries have completely different reasons for celebrating. For the States it’s to remember the pilgrims arrival, but for us it’s a time to give thanks for our fortune, which makes more sense when you remember that Canada is further north than the States. Winter arrives sooner for us than it does for them, so our forefathers would have needed all the time they could get to bring in their harvests. And sure, we might not have the same hardships they did (let’s face it, ours are probably worse), but it’s always good to take a moment to step back and focus on all the good things that have happened in our lives and the lives of our loved ones.
And as we all know, big social get-togethers hinge on the right food being served. Since its Thanksgiving, we’re going to talk turkey about turkey.
Turkey is a large wild fowl native only to the Americas, though they are more prominent in North America over South America. The specimen seen on the market is generally domesticated turkey, though it is possible to buy some wild turkey depending on where you get your meat.
Turkey has always been regarded as an excellent source of protein, but recent studies have given light to new nutritional values as well. For one, it is believed that eating skinless turkey can actually help to prevent pancreatic cancer. This can probably be linked to turkey’s overall nutritional value; a three ounce serving of boneless and skinless turkey meat has approximately 28 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat, and 0 grams of saturated fats, making it a much healthier alternative to red meats. These high levels also allow your body to stabilize insulin levels after consuming a hefty meal, which in turn helps keep your blood glucose levels in check.
There are dozens of ways to prepare a turkey, and I’m sure everyone has their own home made tried and true recipe. But for those of you maybe wanting to step outside of your usual methods, here’s a beautiful whole turkey recipe to cut your teeth on from allrecipes.com.
Maple Roast Turkey
- 2 cup apple cider
- 1/3 cup real maple syrup
- 2 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram
- 1 ½ teaspoons grated lemon zest
- ¾ cup butter, softened
- Salt and pepper
- 1 (12 lbs) whole turkey, neck and giblets reserved
- 2 cup chopped onion
- 1 ½ cup chopped celery
- 1 ½ cup chopped carrots
- 3 cup chicken broth
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cup apple brandy
- Combine apple cider and maple syrup in a saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking until reduced to ½ cup, then remove pan from heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon thyme, 1 tablespoon marjoram, and lemon zest. Stir in butter until melted, and season with salt and pepper. Cover, and refrigerate until cold.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Place rack in lower third of oven.
- Place turkey on a rack set in a roasting pan. Reserve ¼ cup maple butter for gravy, and rub the remaining maple butter under the skin of the breast and over the outside of turkey.
- Arrange onion, celery, carrots turkey neck and giblets around the turkey. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon thyme and 1 tablespoon marjoram over vegetables. Pour 2 cups broth into pan.
- Roast turkey for 30 minutes in the preheated oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Cover entire turkey loosely with foil. Continue roasting for about 2 ½ hours, or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 180 degrees F (85 degrees C). Transfer turkey to platter, and let stand 30 minutes.
- Strain the pan juices into a large measuring cup, and then remove any excess fat. Add enough chicken broth to pan juices to measure 3 cups. Transfer liquid to a saucepan, and bring to boil. In a small bowl, mix ¼ cup maple butter and 1/3 cup flour until smooth. Whisk flour and butter mixture into broth mixture. Stir in remaining thyme and the bay leaf. Boil until reduced to sauce consistency, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Mix in apple brandy, if desired. Season with salt and pepper.
- Makes 12 servings.
I hope you give this recipe a try sometime – it is a real Canadian style turkey recipe that I’m sure that the entire family will love. We at Hawley Crescent would like to wish you all a safe and happy Thanksgiving, enjoy your turkey – leave room for some pumpkin pie!