Thanksgiving can be a flurry of cooking and when you get overwhelmed in the kitchen, dishes start to get messed up. That’s how I ruined the Brussels sprouts last Thanksgiving. So anything you can do ahead of time is going to save you about seven headaches on the big day. Here are four recipes for things you can make right now and freeze for Thanksgiving.
Turkey stock is essential for gravy. After Thanksgiving, you can also use it to make turkey soup, which is probably the easiest way to use your leftovers besides a sandwich, and how many sandwiches are you going to eat?
This year we made our stock with a turkey back. It may seem off-putting at first, but the back makes for flavorful stock and is a great way to make sure you use the whole bird. A high-quality butcher should have a turkey back on hand this time of year. Call the butcher ahead of time to make sure that they have a turkey back.
3 tablespoons butter
1 large turkey back, cut in half
2 large onions, halved
4 carrots, halved
4 stalks celery, halved
4 cloves garlic, smashed
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
Heat the butter over medium-high heat in your largest stock pot. Add the back and cook each side until it’s seared, roughly 5 minutes. Then add everything else, and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Next add enough water to cover all of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, and then turn heat to low. Simmer for several hours, skimming the top and stirring occasionally. For optimal flavor simmer until all of the meat has fallen of the bones, 7 hours or more. At this point it’s usually late, so I take the pot of the burner, cool slightly, and put the whole thing in the refrigerator. The next morning, I skim and impurities, or fat (optional) off the top, and stain. Then ladle into clean jars or other containers, and be sure not to fill above the freeze line. Seal and label your stock and freeze for the big day.
2. Squash or pumpkin puree
Planning on making butternut squash soup or pumpkin pie? Why not make make the puree now? It freezes wonderfully and saves you having to deal with the mess on Thanksgiving.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Peel and seed the squash or pumpkin. Slice into half moons, halving the moons if you want to fit more. Arrange with a bit of space on a baking sheet (or two if needed). Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil and make sure each piece is coated. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes, or until the squash is quite soft and cooked through.
Remove the squash into a large bowl and mash with a potato masher, or puree in a food processor. Spoon into clean containers, below the freeze line, label, and pack into the freezer.
3. Dough for pies and tarts
If you’ve already made the pumpkin puree, go ahead and make the pie dough, too. It keeps well for a couple of months, and now your pie is almost done. Make some extra to do pot pies with your leftovers.
Here’s one of my go-to dough recipes. Make the dough and flatten into discs. Seal with several layers of plastic wrap and then put into a thick, sealed bag for safe keeping. Your dough will keep in the refrigerator up to 4 days, or label the bag and stick it in the freezer for up to 3 months. To thaw, place dough in refrigerator 12-24 hours ahead of time, then move out to thaw completely at room temperature.
4. Homemade Breadcrumbs
The problem with making homemade breadcrumbs is that you rarely have bread that’s stale enough. Then you have to dry them out in the oven and on Thanksgiving, you have more important things that need to be in there. So it makes a lot of sense to make them ahead of time.
To make ahead, simply cut a loaf of bread into thin slices. Put into a 200 degree oven and bake for an hour until the bread is quite hard. Cool, tear into pieces, and then put them in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse one or two times for stuffing, or more for a fine crumb. Pack into containers, or thick plastic bags, seal and label, and put into the freezer. Bread crumbs will store well for at least 6 months.
Looking for more ways to be organized this holiday season? Check out these helpful Family Kitchen posts: