Are you planning to celebrate Thanksgiving in Northern Italy? Take care of orders and ingredients at least a week before this year’s 28th of November! Unless you live on an American base, or your hotel or “pensione” is run by Americans for Americans be aware that Italians serve turkey at Christmas and not at Thanksgiving! In fact, they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving!
For those loyal Americans who wish to remember the Wampanoag Natives, Squanto e the Pilgrims let me mention again that the first THANKSGIVING was proclaimed by Pilgrim governor William Bradford in the fall of 1621; that the first THANKSGIVING of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was observed on July 8, 1630.
Later in 1789, President George Washington proclaimed November 26 as the first national THANKSGIVING DAY. In 1863 Abraham Lincoln made it the last Thursday in November. In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt made THANKSGIVING the third Thursday in November by proclamation that was reversed by the U.S. Congress two years later. Since 1941 THANKSGIVING DAY has been celebrated on the last Thursday of each year. Thus, this year, THANKSGIVING DAY will fall on the 28th of November!
As for those almost mandatory foods: Don’t expect the turkey to be readily available at the Italian supermarket! You will have to order it ahead of time, either at the meat counter of a large food store, or in a butcher shop. Please specify whether the turkey should be a “tacchinella” [transl. young female turkey] of 1 and 1/2 to 2 kg [about 3-4 pounds or so] or a “tacchino” [transl. turkey] which usually weighs between 8 to 10 kg [between 16 to 20 pounds]. The frozen bird will be labeled “congelato” and the fresh one will be advertised as “fresco.”
TURKEY WITH GRAPES, ALSO CALLED TACCHINO CON L’UVA
This recipe turns out well with a small young “tacchinella” (about 5 lbs in weight) and fresh grapes, of the variety called “uva fragola” also called by Italians “uva Americana.” These grapes taste very much like the American Concord grape; in fact they are an Italian variety of Concord brought by Americans probably around the time of world war I. They grow easily throughout the Veneto region and are also used to make a type of beverage similar to wine and called fragolino.
4-5 lbs fresh whole turkey, ready to cook (emptied, cleaned, rinsed, with gizzards set aside)
2 lbs [3 bunches] fresh either red or blue grapes (possibly seedless)
12 fresh leaves of sage
1/3 cup + 3 Tbsp olive oil
Enough Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Enough water to moisten periodically the bird (about 3 times over a span of 3 hours)
You will also need:
A manual or electric juicer
A suitably sized Dutch oven pan with lid
Rub the turkey in and out with kosher salt and season the bird with pepper. Pour 1/3 cup of olive oil in the Dutch oven; add the turkey and the sage leaves. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and roast the bird covered for 3 hours. Periodically every 40-60 minutes or so turn the turkey over and moisten it with a shot of water. While the turkey roasts in the oven, prepare the grape juice by squeezing the grapes either manually or electrically. Toss the skins and if necessary the seeds of the grapes. After 90 minutes of roasting (about half of the roasting time) pour half of the freshly squeezed juice over the bird and set the buzzer to 40-50 minutes. While the turkey continues roasting, mince the gizzards; in a small frying pan or skillet, heat the remaining olive oil and sauté the gizzards for 40 additional minutes while moistening them occasionally with the remaining grape juice.
When the buzzer rings, check the turkey, season the gizzards and turn off the heat. Measure the internal temperature of the turkey; the bird will be ready to serve when golden brown breast will measure 160 degrees Fahrenheit and the rest 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
Before placing the turkey on the serving platter, set it aside to rest for 10 minutes while you strain and press through a fine meshed sieve the sautéed gizzards and some turkey gravy of the Dutch oven pan. Heat up the gravy and serve it with your cut up bird, mashed potatoes and roasted garlic flavored Brussels sprouts.
TURKEY STOCK FROM A CARCASS
Makes about 10-12 cups of stock
1 meaty carcass from a 5-7 lbs turkey, broken up
1 trimmed but not peeled onion
1 peeled carrot (cut into pieces)
1 fresh rib of celery with leaves (cut into pieces – you may substitute with 1 fully grown leafy stem of lovage)
1 small fresh bunch of parsley (with the stems)
3 fresh sprigs of thyme or marjoram or oregano
1 bay leaf
1 clove of garlic
Enough water to cover the ingredients in a large stock pot (about 18 cups of water)
In a large 1 gallon stock pot cover with cold water the turkey carcass and all other ingredients; bring everything to a boil and simmer gently, covered, for 3 ½ hours. To keep the carcass covered with broth and to allow the stock to gain flavor periodically add water to the cooking ingredients; occasionally skim the impurities with a fine meshed straining spoon. When the buzzer rings turn off the heat and set the stock aside to allow it to cool off. When the stock has cooled off, strain all ingredients and pour the liquid into a suitable container. Refrigerate and before using the stock remove the fat on the surface.
MORE TURKEY RECIPES? Visit https://www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/recipes
If with the turkey you wish to serve mashed potatoes, great, however, choose the yellow or the white potatoes which make a fluffier dish. If at home in the States you have used a bag of fresh cranberries, orange juice and sugar to make your cranberry sauce, in Northern Italy you probably will have to replace it with “marmellata di mirtilli rossi” [transl. red cranberry jam].
For cranberries be aware cranberries that they are called “mirtilli rossi” while blue berries are called “mirtilli neri” and in the German speaking areas of Alto Adige they are called “Preiselbeeren” and “Heidelbeeren”.
And…If you wish to bake your own pumpkin pie, find a good butternut or an acorn squash; both are available throughout the region especially for those who like preparing “gnocchi di zucca” [pumpkin potato dumplings]. If you are from the North American South you may also look for sweet potatoes or yams called “patate dolci.”
And last but not least…the wine: With my friends Dixie, Noelle, Brian and James I will cheer with white Italian Soave Classico during the turkey course and with Recioto Classico during pie time; both wines are produced by the Cantina di Soave in the Veneto region and sold at the wine shop of Rocca Sveva in Soave not far from Verona, Northern Italy.
CANTINA DI SOAVE – Casa Vitivinicola fondata nel 1898
Viale Vittoria 100 – 37038 Soave (Verona)
Tel. + 39 045 6139811
Note: The red and white wines of this Cantina (Amarone, Ripasso, Soave Classico, Recioto and Rosato) are distributed in the United States by FREIXEBNET Mionetto USA and are available by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org – https://www.freixenetmionettousa.com
Cantina di Soave wines are available also in North and South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Puerto Rico and Tennessee
In case you don’t have a kitchen at your disposal, or you stay in a typical Italian place, but wish to celebrate Thanksgiving with excellent food, reserve and eat at the LOCANDA DEL BORGO which is located right within the premises of the Rocca Sveva Wine Shop; ask for Mara and tell her you would like to eat what her mother has prepared for the day. I hope for you that you can taste Mrs. Maria’s brasato al ripasso, the best wine moistened stew I have eaten in a long time. Try also her prosciutto d’oca [goose prosciutto] e sample Rocca Sveva’s wines!
LOCANDA DEL BORGO
Borgo Covergnino – 37038 Soave (Verona)
Tel + 39 045 7608092
HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL OF YOU!!!!!