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Thanksgiving Produce Update and the Best Stuffing Debate

You never know what Mother Nature will throw at Thanksgiving. November is always an interesting weather month but the build up to the biggest food holiday of the year starts much earlier in the fall and is almost never without some drama. Tubers (potatoes) and onions have been dug up and cured, so the first phase of the holiday build up has come off well. Apple and pear producers report some labor shortages but fruit is still coming off the trees despite the tight labor market. The big remaining question is: what will the weather will do to all the green onions, herbs, celery, Brussels sprouts, radishes and other row crops in the last few critical weeks of growing before they are harvested for Thanksgiving dinner tables all over the US. The demand for fresh produce for Thanksgiving is enormous. The holiday also coincides with the end of the fall harvest season for the northernmost farms in the US, so demand for transport also increases throughout the month. This can be problematic towards the end of November as fresh produce competes with Christmas trees for trucks in the Pacific Northwest and Southeast regions of the US. Transportation is further complicated by gradually deteriorating road conditions as the arctic jet stream dips further south and the first of the winter weather systems form, so we try to build in slightly longer delivery times as a safety precaution. Despite the seasonal challenges it is still a very exciting time for produce. The 2011 harvest in organically grown cranberries, for example, is shaping up to be a record crop. Past years have delivered spotty availability and, depending on how far from the source you lived, high prices. This year Wisconsin organic production has increased significantly and if all goes well with the final weeks, we should see ample supplies of very reasonably priced organic cranberries all over the US. Thanksgiving is also a time when family food traditions are combined and regional differences really stand out. Nowhere is this more evident with my family than with stuffing (or “dressing” if you are cooking it outside of the turkey). Growing up in the south, my stuffing is cornbread based and my wife’s family recipe is sourdough bread based. I have often argued the merits of mine over theirs but have for the most part given up since mine continues to evolve and I happen to love them both. Here they are: Aunt CeBelle’s Cornbread Pecan Stuffing

1 package cornbread muffin mix – enough to make an 8x8” pie or cake pan (roughly a pound) 3 tablespoons olive oil (or pecan oil if you can find it) 1 medium yellow or white onion, coarsely chopped 1 fennel/anise bulb, top discarded, coarsely chopped 1 ½ cups celery, tops included, coarsely chopped 2/3 cup curly parsley, chopped ½ cup green onion, chopped 3 tablespoons fresh thyme 2 tablespoons fresh sage Salt and pepper to taste 1 small loaf of sourdough bread, cubed and dried (or 8oz of your favorite pre-cut stuffing) 12 oz fresh pecans, coarsely chopped 14 to 16 oz chicken, turkey or vegetable broth

Bake your cornbread according to package directions and set aside to cool, then cube.

In a large skillet, heat the oil and sauté the onion and fennel for a few minutes and then add the celery, parsley, green onion, thyme, sage, salt and pepper and sauté for about 4 to 5 minutes or until the celery color gets deeper and the vegetables are well combined.

I like to roast my pecans briefly (2-3 minutes) to bring out the oils and the toasty flavor.

In a large mixing bowl combine your bread, cornbread, sautéed vegetables and pecans until well blended, adding the broth to whatever level of moisture level you prefer (I generally used an entire 14 oz can or two cups if I am making fresh turkey broth). Stuff in bird or bake separately at 375°F for 25-30 minutes, or until the top browns and gets crunchy.

John’s Northern California Stuffing

(for an 18 to 25 pound turkey)

2 Bags of sourdough bread cubes or 1 pound of sourdough sliced bread lighted toasted at 375°F and then cubed 2 cups yellow onions, chopped 1 cup celery, chopped 1/2 cup parsley, chopped 1 teaspoon dried sage 1 teaspoon dried thyme ½ teaspoon black pepper ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg ¼ teaspoon ground cloves 4 cloves garlic, crushed 1 stick unsalted butter, melted 1 egg, lightly beaten 3/4 cup chicken broth

In a large baking pan combine sourdough bread cubes, onions, celery and parsley. Mix with spoon or washed hands. Add sage, thyme, pepper, nutmeg, cloves and garlic and mix. Add melted butter and egg, stir into mixture. Add chicken broth slowly while stirring.

Note: The stuffing mixture should be moist, but not wet. You may need to add an additional 1/2 cup of broth.

Place stuffing in turkey. Bake per your turkey recipe’s directions.

Alternatively, place stuffing in a baking dish sprayed with oil and bake at 350°F degrees for onehour. Add 1/2 cup of broth after 30 minutes.

Stuffing is only one of many family differences I am reminded of (and cherish) every Thanksgiving. I also marvel at how the same debate plays out all over the country as families everywhere combine old food traditions to form new ones. Food is the common thread and on the farms and in the fields the ingredients are slowly, silently growing.

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vivian says …

Can you stuff meat free stuffing in a turkey that has been cooked partially at your store

says …

@Vivian Every store does things a little differently. To learn what the options are at your community Whole Foods Market, I recommend reaching out to them directly. The link below will help you identify the contact information for your store, where a Team Member will be happy to discuss your Thanksgiving options. www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores


Please notify me when the Haychiya persimmons are available; they're the larger variety, shipped primarily from California. I shop at the Tulsa, OK store, on 41st. Thank you, Darlene Inglish

says …

@Darlene We're so glad you're into the Haychiya Persimmons! The best way to get the most accurate information regarding their availability is to reach out to your store directly. The link below will take you to the contact information for your store on 41st. A Team Member from that store will be happy to get you that information so that you can stock up. http://wholefoodsmarket.com/company/contact_direct.php?tlc=TLS

donna gorman says …

How long is a fresh turkey fresh, or safe to keep before cooking?

says …

@Donna A turkey will keep in your freezer for 6-12 months. If you do not wish to freeze your bird, I would recommend you prepare your bird within 5 days of purchase if you keep it in your refrigerator at an appropriate temperature.

lynda willner says …

I've been waiting for your Thanksgiving menu to be offered - both in the Glendale store or on-line so that I can order an already-prepared holiday dinner from Whole Foods. To date, I haven't been able to get a brochure and no one answers on the "Holiday Table" line in the store. I have several meal challenges with one family member a vegan, one vegetarian and 6 who love everything. PLEASE tell me where, what and when I can order dinner for Thanksgiving... Thanks. p.s. as a Whole Foods shareholder,I've always found Whole Foods to be on top of their game. What's missing this year?

says …

@Lynda Do you use Twitter? This week's Twitter chat will be discussing special diet options for Thanksgiving and other side dishes. Hop on Twitter at 6pm CST and follow the tag #WFMdish to join in or just follow the conversation. ALSO, our online store is open for holiday planning! Just follow the link below and select your preferred store location. From that page you should be able to view all the possible ordering options for your store, from Turkeys to vegan sides and mains. There's something for everyone! I'm so sorry you've had a frustrating experience so far. Hopefully, this site will help! If you decide you want to order online, that's great too. All pre-orders are available for pick up from Nov 18th through Thanksgiving. https://twitter.com/#!/search/%23WFMdish http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/shop/

Wendy says …

Excited to hear about the cranberries! This is my first cranberry relish season with a new lifestyle of more organic, more local, etc. The year has been full of discoveries of things that are just YUMMIER organic (like the cornbread I made last night with Organic buttermilk!), so I am sure this one will ROCK as well!