A Family Tradition…

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A home economist and wife of Commissioner Andy Ainslie, shares with the Citizen her family Thanksgiving traditions and a few of her prized Thanksgiving recipes. Carolyn prepares Thanksgiving Dinner each year for a large family. She has carried on this Thanksgiving tradition for 38 years. Her recipes have evolved and been perfected over the years through cooking with her grandmother, mother, aunts, and in-laws. Carolyn took the best contributions from each family member and created delicious Thanksgiving recipes packed with flavor and family history. Over the river and through the woods has new meaning for Andy and me (aka Grammy and Grandy Andy). We have hosted my family for Thanksgiving for 35 years here at Ardenlea Farm and it means that we have three generations of blessings! It is a special holiday because we make it a priority to gather once a year for Thanksgiving on our farm and spend time together. We host about 30 folks and most of them gather on Wednesday night for supper either at our farm or cousin’s lake house to kick off the festivities. We usually have hotdogs and chili or BBQ and Andy makes Percolator Spiced Cider and homemade snack mix. Bed and breakfast accommodations include the guest barn, deer camp, our house, and sleepovers at the cousins. The most popular activity is the hay maze and hayride along with hunting and sometimes playing Scrabble. Thanksgiving to us means time spent together. Eating is a big part, but the family time together is the main attraction. Like all families, we lead busy and sometimes stressful lives. Once a year we find time to set everything aside and focus on the strength of being a family. It has sustained us through many years of the great joy of the birth of a new generation and the sorrow we have experienced during the loss of our older generation. We like to grow as much of the food for our Thanksgiving Dinner as possible. We plant a spring and fall garden. The grandchildren help plant and harvest (which is quite an adventure in itself) and we freeze and can the vegetables. We also like to purchase jams, jellies, and relishes from different parts of the country during our travels. This year we are having Thimbleberry Jam from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with our Refrigerator Yeast Rolls. Everyone pitches in by bringing appetizers and desserts to make the meal a culinary feast of family favorites. It’s a traditional meal with very little change from year to year. My favorite Thanksgiving tradition is one we have added now that we are the oldest generation. At 12 Noon or thereabouts on Thanksgiving Day we all gather in the dining room for the blessing and Andy asks each person present to say what they are most thankful for this year. We begin with the oldest, my brother “Chigger” (Joel Glendon) who is now the patriarch of our family, and we end with the youngest. The food is blessed and we have a seated dinner with assorted plates and flatware collected over many years and handed down from generation to generation. After the meal, we all gather on the front steps and make pictures of the children. Times and people change, but Thanksgiving at Ardenlea Farm remains an important tie that binds us together. Carolyn shares her personal favorite Thanksgiving Dish: [My favorite Thanksgiving food is] Cornbread dressing! It’s the only time of the year I make it and I have such fond memories of making dressing for 25 years with my aunt. She was never quite sure that I had accomplished the art of making the dressing correctly, but she never gave up on coaching me every year. The most important part was drying the sage and rosemary from her garden and grinding it…no herbs from a can! And, we cooked a hen for the broth so we could use the turkey pan drippings for the gravy. Combining cornbread and biscuits, broth, eggs, celery, onion, and herbs along with salt and pepper, the dressing was cooked in a pan, not stuffed in the bird. We always cooked an extra pan with a pint of oysters added for those who liked oyster dressing. The art of making dressing is just the right balance of herbs and plenty of rich broth. And, I continue the tradition every year quite sure of her watchful eye from up above. Carolyn shared some of the easiest and most difficult items she prepares each year. The easiest is Fresh Cranberry Sauce made in the microwave ahead of time and chilled. Leftover turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce on toasted olive oil and rosemary bread are a treat for Thanksgiving supper. The most difficult can be roasting the turkey while maintaining the moistness. The art of keeping the turkey moist and tender, cooking to a safe temperature, and achieving a golden brown and crispy skin while timing it for a 12 Noon meal requires some careful planning. I like to stuff the turkey with fresh sage, rosemary, an onion, and celery stalks with the leaves. Before roasting, I baste the outside of the turkey generously with mayonnaise, grated sea salt, and cracked fresh pepper. I use an open roasting pan and a rack for a thawed (in the refrigerator) 12- 14 pound turkey with the oven temperature probe inserted between the leg and the thigh. Then I convection roast the turkey until the probe signals 170 degrees F; remove the turkey, tent with aluminum foil and allow 20 minutes to rest before carving the bird. If the turkey browns quickly, I tent the breast with foil and switch to the bake setting and continue to use the temperature probe. I use the same method to bake an additional turkey breast; inserting the temperature probe into the thickest part of the breast. Use an instant read thermometer to check for doneness, if you do not have an oven with temperature probe. You may cook the turkey to 180 degrees F if desired, but no less than 165 degrees F.

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