I always look forward to Thanksgiving! It’s the time when we gather together as a family — big or small — and just enjoy each other’s company. We don’t have to worry about presents; it’s just good food and fun for people of all ages.
But this year everything is different. It’s that once in a hundred years pandemic. It’s all over the world. It’s in every state, every community. And in Ohio it is in our small towns, our rural areas and our cities. So this year, just to be safe, we are not having our traditional Thanksgiving. It breaks my heart not to continue our tradition, but when I think about my 94-year-old mother (who LOVES family gatherings), our two new babies, and our kids who go to grade school and high school and college, I know that I want to protect them all so that we can all be together next year. The vaccine really is on the way. There is a light at the end of this long dark tunnel. And I want all of us to be there to celebrate once we get through it!
I’m still going to roast that turkey, and make dozens and dozens of homemade rolls. I thought I would make my friend Brenda’s sausage-cornbread dressing, an old Kentucky recipe. Brenda always formed it into individual patties and baked them on a cookie sheet. That will make them nice and portable! I’m making lots of pumpkin pies, in all sizes, and I’m making some apple dumplings, too — a special request from my husband!
I started my pie crust yesterday. I made crusts for the pumpkin pies and put them in the freezer — different size crusts for different size families. I’ll fill them and bake them on the day before Thanksgiving. I’ve prepared crust for the apple dumplings, too. I’ll bake most of them in large 9-inch x 13-inch glass casserole dishes, but I’m also putting some of them in single pot pie pans to bake individually.
But what my grandkids love most is not the desserts or the mashed potatoes or the turkey. It’s the homemade rolls. I make them with honey and they are light and delicious. The little kids brag to each other about how many they can eat! So I make a lot. I’ve found that I can make the dough and form and place the rolls on a cookie sheet and freeze. Then I take them out to thaw and rise about three hours before I want to bake them.
I’m preparing my baskets now. Some of our children that live close by will pick up their dinner and take it to their homes to eat. We will make deliveries to mother and others. I hear that they will be making some things to share with us as well, so it will be fun. Our families that don’t live close enough will be having their own dinners in their homes.
Instead of games and chatter around the tables after dinner, we’ll have lots of FaceTime and Zoom calls with each other. I can hear it now — each bragging about how good their food was. It will be a very different Thanksgiving, but we will all be together in spirit. I am looking forward to us all being together next year! We have so much to be thankful for.
Fran’s Favorite Rolls
2 packages yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups scalded milk
1/2 cup butter or canola oil
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon salt
6 to 7 cups all purpose flour
1 stick soft butter for spreading
Dissolve yeast in warm water (105 degrees, not much hotter than your body temperature). Combine milk, butter or oil, honey, eggs and salt in large bowl. Add yeast mixture. Mix in flour, a little at first, until easy to handle.
Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead for 3 to 4 minutes. Place in greased bowl and turn greased side up. Cover and let rise until double, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Punch down dough and divide into 4 balls.
To make crescent rolls: Roll each ball into 12 inch circle, about 1/4 inch thick. Spread with soft butter. Cut into 12 wedges. Roll up, beginning with wide edge. Place rolls on greased baking sheet. (At this point you can cover rolls and put in the freezer if you want to bake them later.)
Let rolls rise about 30 minutes (or 3 hours if frozen). Heat oven to 350 degrees and bake 15 to 20 minutes. Brush with butter and serve.
Brenda’s Sausage-Cornbread Stuffing
1 recipe corn bread (or 2 boxes Jiffy mix), cut in 3/4 inch cubes (about 8 cups)
1 pound sausage
4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt, pepper
2 tablespoons sage (finely chopped if fresh)
Make cornbread ahead (can freeze or refrigerate).
Cook sausage over medium-high heat in large skillet, stirring until browned. Remove sausage and set aside. Add 4 tablespoons butter to skillet and add the chopped onions and celery and sauté. Beat together eggs and milk and seasonings. Combine cornbread, sausage, onion mixture and egg mixture in large bowl. Add a little more milk if too dry. Form into patties and put on greased cookie sheet. Bake about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve hot with turkey, potatoes and gravy.
You can add some chopped apples to the recipe if you like. This can also be baked in a casserole. I usually add some extra chicken or turkey broth so it is not dry.
Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.