The Circle of Gratitude

Every Thanksgiving, I am reminded that gratitude is a circle. Welcome to Honeysuckle Hill is both an open thank-you letter to the people in my past who have so graciously shared their culinary treasures—and a trail of seasoned breadcrumbs that I hope will lead our daughter into a future rich in “kitchen tradition.”

But this year, there’s a new ripple that I’m thrilled to share. Since the book launch party last month, I have started to receive personal notes from people who are working their way through the chapters—including pictures of everything from kids making cookies, to sumptuous full spreads pulled right from my pages! I am so grateful to know that I have brought people together for a few hours, to share in the joy of creating something. It means so much to me, and I hope you’ll consider sharing yours.



Whether you can’t wait for the magic to begin or just cannot deal, the holidays seem to bring out strong emotions in everyone. Everybody has at least one relative who is an accomplished button pusher, and it can be difficult to take the high road when you’ve spent two days toiling in the kitchen. So let’s all take a moment to express our sincere thanks for my favorite holiday coping mechanism: Apple Pie Moonshine.

Another helpful contribution from our friend Jimmy the Fur (and his partner in crime, Amy), this stuff kills THREE holiday birds with one stone: it tastes amazing, makes your house smell great, and makes your mind and body comfortably numb. I’m not sure you could really ask anything more of any holiday libation. Try it once, and see how little you care about Aunt Debbie’s snarky comments or Uncle Joe’s open-mouthed chewing. Trust me—it works so well, you may be tempted to hook up an IV.

Apple Pie Moonshine

1 gallon fresh apple cider

1/2 gallon apple juice

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

8 whole cinnamon sticks

4 whole dried cloves

1/2 gallon grain alcohol or Everclear

In a large stock pot, combine apple cider, apple juice and sugars and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, add cinnamon sticks and cloves, and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and allow mixture to cool for a full 3 hours. When mixture has completely cooled, skim any remaining foam from top, remove cinnamon sticks and cloves and add alcohol. Stir well to combine. Pour into mason jars, seal tightly with lid and store in refrigerator until use.  Serve cold.  Makes approximately 2 gallons.



There’s a whole chapter in the book dedicated to Thanksgiving, so let’s just cut to the leftovers situation—specifically, how can we make all of that sliced turkey just as amazing the second (and third, and fourth) time around? My cousins Danny and Barbara offer this easy solution: a special sandwich spread made specifically to complement the flavors of roasted or smoked turkey. On rustic bread, this makes an amazing sandwich.

Danny & Barbara’s Turkey Sandwich Spread

3/4 cup Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

2-3 tablespoons sour cream

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped

2 teaspoons fresh chives, finely chopped

Salt, to taste

Black pepper, freshly ground to taste

Makes 1 cup.

Done cooking—at least until the next holiday? Pick up a jar of Robert Rothschild Farms Anna Mae’s Smokey Mustard. It’s the best jar mustard out there, and you’ll love it on everything all year long.



In Northern Michigan, near the town where I went to summer camp, local Native American tribes are busy preparing spirit feasts—a November tradition that goes back hundreds of years. These ceremonial meals (including traditional tribal foods like fry bread, venison and of course, roast turkey and dressing) are a way to pass along an important oral history while sharing the bounty of harvest time with friends and family.

But as much as they’re a celebration of the present, spirit feasts are also a way of connecting to ancestors who have “walked on”. After the living have finished enjoying their meals, the food is left on the table for the dead to enjoy during the night. Family members take special care to prepare loved ones’ favorite dishes, as a reminder that they remain alive in heart and spirit. This Thanksgiving, I invite you to celebrate your own dear departed with a special dish or two. A minute in the mouth, but a lifetime in the memory.

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