I've had a hell of a lot to give thanks for this year; 2018 has been a big one. First there was the launch of Jack's Meat Shack, where I can legitimately claim to be working whilst I chow down on good food and drink beer. Then there was the launch of Jack's Meat Dust, the success of which came as a complete surprise as it was originally a recipe I threw together for my incredibly fussy, non-sugar eating wife but quickly gained interest not only in the barbecue scene but also in the worlds of the health conscious, keto and paleo worlds and continues to grow. I am also thankful for the fact that my barbecue children are growing in the garden with my new Weber gas which joins me next week. Finally I am thankful that Mrs Shack didn't murder me in my sleep when I finally confessed to being the one responsible for the crack in her precious butler sink or losing my wedding ring. As she keeps reminding me though, "there is still time, just you watch your back".
hell hath no fury like a woman scorned
Which brings me to the point of today's story, we are talking about THANKSGIVING. A day where all Americans across the Country throw caution to the diet winds, don there loosest fitting attire and prepare for a feast of epic proportions. So I wondered why us Brits haven't yet jumped on the bandwagon of this gigantuous excuse to pig out after all we have Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving, the day I have grown to know and detest as the day when Mrs Shack drags me across every single shop in the precinct scouring through rails full of crap which store owners have clearly dragged from the deepest ends of their store rooms as the British public genuinely think they're getting a bargain. I actually witnessed two suspect looking "patrons" physically fighting over a Bluplunket television set in Tescos (of all places) one year as I wandered past with my trolley shaking my head. Any other day of the year you would walk past that crap disapprovingly as it gathers dust on the shelves, but stick a label with "Black Friday Deal" on it and all of a sudden it's precious unicorn shit.
Nope, you can count me out this year.
Thanksgiving can be traced back in history to 1621, when Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast. Americans began to celebrate this event on various dates across the states as a day to give thanks until in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War Abe Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.
It's actually all a bit lovely to get wrapped up in Thanksgiving preparations and the Yanks start well in advance. Everyone gets gushy and every restaurant has numerous items with the words "Pumpkin Spice" all over it. There's decorations galore weeks ahead of the main event so when I suggested to Mrs Shack that we get involved she didn't need to be asked twice exclaiming that she was going to make a Fall (Autumn) Disney wreath for the front door. Now I'm not stupid enough to ask what the hell Mickey Mouse has to do with Thanksgiving and I quite like my testicles where they are. Plus whilst she disappeared upstairs with her glue gun it gave me a few hours on the X box. Our house currently looks like a giant pumpkin chundered on it.
Yep, just what every household needs, a bloody great big Mickey Mouse head which takes up the entire width of the door frame.
The star of the Thanksgiving show is obviously the Turkey. Whilst we wait around all year for our annual dose of this glorious bird on Christmas day, by the time that Americans are over and done with their Thanksgiving pig out they have generally overdosed on Turkey and many will opt for Roast Beef or Ham for their Christmas dinner.
But what about the sides? These were a bit unknown to me so we decided to ask our American chums for advice for our first English Thanksgiving. Now it was at this point that although it may appear evident that the English and Americans are cousins, we have some very different opinions when it comes to the essentials of a roast dinner. I thought the gloves were going to come off.
Yorkshire puddings? No idea what this was. Not a clue. Until the magic of Google explained to our table of friends that in America this is known as a popover and generally a breakfast food.
Roast potatoes? Again, no idea, they have tatties but they are mashed. Trying to explain an English roast potato and the use of beef dripping to make sure the outsides go nice and crispy was met with blank expressions. "What's beef dripping?".
FFS Someone get me a chalk board.
Me, trying to explain a British roast to American cops
To preserve our sanity we instead asked what their staple side dishes were for their Thanksgiving meals. They explained that as it is a day for families to come together, generally it is a mash up of famous family recipes all bought together as one meal. One friend who is Mexican explained that they have Tamales ... Another friend who has Italian heritage makes a family favourite lasagne.
But there are some classic Thanksgiving side dishes too and I feel that I have to give a precautionary warning before I explain these to you. They are damn right baffling to the brain. Remember, these dishes are eaten with turkey.
First there is Sweet Potato with Marshmallow Casserole. No, you heard me right. Sweet potatoes. Topped with marshmallows. Baked in a casserole. And served with Turkey. I had no words.
There's also Green Bean Casserole (they bloody love a casserole) which is essentially green beans mixed with cream of mushroom soup, topped with crispy fried onions and baked in the oven.
For dessert, it's generally Pumpkin Pie. I've got to say I was a bit relieved to be unsurprised at this point as everything is pumpkin related at this time of the year in the states. I was worried that I'd be in for some deep fried mole rat or something given the way this conversation was going.
Fast forward a few weeks later, settling in to an English autumn and the jet lag a distant memory we have been prepping our Thanksgiving feast and trying out the recipes (all of which are linked below the post).
First stop, our friends at Herb Fed Poultry for a show stopping turkey. All Herb Fed birds are Bronze slow grown which means that the meat does not shrink upon cooking as it does not retain water. Herb Fed turkeys are allowed to grow slowly and develop to full maturity reared for a minimum of 20 weeks before slaughter compared to the general 12 weeks of a supermarket bird. Because there has been time for the bird to develop, plus the fact that Herb Fed birds are fed a varied diet containing 80% cereal, oats and low protein, the result is a naturally plump turkey with a good layer of fat. Perfect opportunity to get outside on the rotisserie.
Turkey and meat dust - the perfect combination
Now if you're one of those people who claims not to like turkey because it's "too dry" then you may well just want to get your order in now in time for Christmas and let me know how much you loved it so I can do my best "I told you so" face. This bird was ridiculously juicy and full of flavour. Mrs Shack even used the carcass to make a Bone Broth and was running around like a possum on crack for days because it gave her "so much energy"...
And as for those sides... a classic case of "don't knock it til you've tried it" my friends. Both were actually quite delicious and a keeper for the now annual Shack Thanksgiving event. Like what you see? why not give it a go for yourself, Thanksgiving falls on Thursday 22 November this year. And as usual please share your experiences with us by leaving a comment or tagging us on Instagram @jacksmeatshack.
Editors note: No Americans were harmed in the writing of this post.