Wednesday, November 6, 2013

It's Not Too Late to be Local: Fresh Ingredients for Your Thanksgiving Feast

Hey guys! Today, we have a Thanksgiving-friendly guest post from Trisha JeffordTrisha is a local food enthusiast, caterer, and mother. When not testing new recipes on her daughters, Trisha occasionally writes for the site EZ Cater

The panic sets in as quickly as the first frost: you forgot to harvest enough beans to blanch and freeze for your homemade green bean casserole. You know that when the pilgrims ate local on Thanksgiving, they probably didn’t have fried onions. It may be difficult for your mother to imagine, but the “traditional” Thanksgiving menu has shifted with the times. It may be too late for beans from your garden, but fall’s bounty provides a wealth of locally sourced holiday options.

A Word on Planning
Is your cousin's boyfriend a vegetarian?  Can your aunt not digest gluten? These are things that you should know as soon as possible in order to pick recipes that align with your guests' dietary needs. I like to know these things at least a month in advance, but if you're hiring a local caterer or joining a Thanksgiving CSA, you may want to know if you should go for the turkey or the veggie loaf a little sooner than Halloween.

Of course, there are ingredients you can prepare months in advance, such as zucchini bread and green beans. Shredded zucchini keeps in the freezer, and canned tomatoes can add flavor to any grain-driven side dish. For a real treat, consider renting a cider press: apples are in season well into the fall. For more information on what else is in season in your neighborhood, this site will lead you to your state's seasonal produce guide.

Heritage Turkey, Heirloom Vegetarians 

Most omnivores know that the ubiquitous white, broad-breasted turkey is often dry and flavorless, but many don't know that these birds travel further to your feast than your average guest. Luckily, multiple breeds of heritage turkeys are being bred across the country, and while smaller on average, they are also moister and boast a richer flavor. Often local food co-ops can connect you with a breeder. The bird will cost more per pound, but the decreased carbon footprint makes the bird worth the price. 

If you're going turkey-free, there are a number of vegetarian main course options that can be made local by substituting whatever beans or grains are grown in your region. Co-ops often have this information, or Local Harvest can help lead you in the right direction. 

Squash and Local Sweeteners 
Besides greens like kale and arugula that are available through autumn, squash and root veggies are also available for your local Thanksgiving feast. Squash and roots are slow to spoil, so you can buy them early without the worry that your organic carrots hail from California.

Pumpkin pie may be the most traditional dessert, but any squash can be made into pie filling with the right local sweetener. Honey is available wherever folks raise bees, and those in the northeast are blessed by proximity to maple syrup. If you're worried about local crust, simple flours can be made with local grains and a Vitamix. With the use of tools like this, putting multiple varieties of squash on the table may be the easiest way to succeed at hosting a local and delicious Thanksgiving. 

What's on your Thanksgiving menu this year?

Please note: all photos used in this post are stock photos.

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