|     |  

Thanksgiving 2020

Here are my preparations for Thanksgiving dinner 2020. Actually, I copy and pasted this from the Thanksgiving 2019 post and only edited the changes, so a bunch of the pictures are from 2019 and 2018.

Also, this is the COVID-19 pandemic year, so it will be a remote holiday. I purchased a bunch of containers so I can prepare the food, refrigerate, and distribute with reheating instructions.

Non-perishable and frozen supplies

I got these way ahead of time (November 8) with my regular grocery shopping to reduce the amount of stuff I need to get later on.

They didn't have the frozen turkeys out yet, but were clearly getting ready as the giant open freezer where they normally put them was completely empty.

Monday, November 16, 2020

The turkey was oddly inexpensive this year: $0.37 per pound; $5.07 for a 13.69 pound turkey.

Friday November 20, 2020

Saturday, November 21, 2020

I got a small 13.69 lb. turkey so I only needed to defrost it for 3 days, 12 hours at 40°F following this guide.

Because I'll pre-cook the turkey on Wednesday around noon, a day earlier than usual, that means:

Grocery shopping

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

I had a 4.0 oz. package of frozen loose sweet Italian sausage frozen. I defrosted it overnight the refrigerator for use in the dressing (stuffing) tomorrow.

Cranberry sauce

I made the Food Network cranberry sauce recipe. It's basically just a 12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries, 1 cup of sugar, a strip of lemon zest, and 1 oz. water. I like it. Normally I make this on Wednesday but since I'm making the turkey on Wednesday I moved it up a day.

Add the cranberries, 1 cup of sugar, lemon zest and water to a sauce pan and heat over low heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves, about 10 minutes.

Increase the heat to medium and cook until the cranberries burst, about 12 minutes, then continue to cook until it reaches the desired consistency.

Season with salt and pepper.

The original recipe calls for adding some reserved uncooked cranberries at the end, but I like it better without.

Normally I'd refrigerate in a 1 pint Pyrex bowl until serving day. This time I packaged two servings: A 2.0 oz. ramekin for me and a 1 pint plastic container for the lake group.

Mama Stamberg's cranberry relish

I made a half batch of Mama Stamberg's cranberry relish. It's a famous recipe from NPR, that contains onion and horseradish! It's not a huge hit, though I like it, so I only make a half batch. Normally I make this on Wednesday but since I'm making the turkey on Wednesday I moved it up a day.

1 cup cranberries (less than half a bag) 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 of a small onion, diced 1 tbsp. prepared horseradish

I minced the onions a bit in the food processor. Then added the cranberries. Finally, at the very end I added the remaining ingredients and pulsed for a few times.

That's it!

Freeze for an hour or two before serving so it's a little icy but not a frozen block.

Normally I'd refrigerate in a 1 pint Pyrex bowl until serving day. This time I packaged two servings: A 2.0 oz. ramekin for me and a 1 pint plastic container for the lake group.

Homemade whole wheat and oat bread and dinner rolls

Baked two loaves of homemade whole wheat and oat bread and two dinner rolls.

This really isn't part of Thanksgiving dinner, though I will have a roll on Thursday. I just needed sandwich bread. Sliced and froze the two loaves and one dinner roll.

Turkey Prep

The turkey, insides removed, drained and seasoned with salt, freshly ground black pepper, garlic powder, and rubbed sage. It will sit uncovered in the refrigerator until ready to cook tomorrow morning at 11:15 AM. (This is based on the Michael Symon technique for cooking turkeys.)

For personal reference: this roasting pan does not fit in the kegerator! Put it in the lasagna pan and transfer to the real roasting pan tomorrow.

The neck, gizzards, and the other random stuff stored inside. Also the wing tips. Vacuum sealed and refrigerated until I make soup.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

All of the cooking is today due to the pre-prepared pandemic meal. Normally I'd roast the turkey on Thursday.

Sweet and spicy meatballs

The sauce will be the standard chili sauce and grape jelly, normally reheated in a small crockpot. Two years ago I made the meatballs from scratch but this time I used frozen, which is way easier!

One 18 oz. package of pre-cooked mini-meatballs (1/2 oz each, 36 count) works well. And the sauce of Polaner All Fruit Concord Grape (10 oz. jar) and Heinz Chili Sauce (12 oz. jar).

They didn't have those meatballs this year so I got a 40 oz. package and only used 18 oz. of it.

Normally I'd vacuum sealed and refrigerate, ready to cook tomorrow in the crockpot.

This time I heated it 20 minutes in a large saucepan to meld the flavors and defrost the meatballs.

I reserved for 5 meatballs for me tomorrow in a sous vide bag and put the rest in a 32 oz. deli container for the lake group.


In the past I've cut it the day of and boiled it at the lake. I've also prepared it ahead and only reheated it in the microwave, which also works better for pandemic Thanksgiving.

Divided into a 1 cup Pyrex for me and a 16 oz. deli container for the group at the lake.

Cold balsamic green been salad

This is loosely based on this one .

To prepare:

I reserved some in a ramekin for me and the rest in a 16 oz. deli container for the group at the lake.


Normally I just bring 3 cups of dry, uncooked rice to the lake and cook it there.

However since I was preparing everything ahead of time, I cooked 2 dry cups of Nishiki white sushi rice in my rice cooker. Packaged the cooled rice in a 32 oz. deli container.

Yes, we have both rice and mashed potatoes.

Mashed potatoes

I made 3 pounds of mashed potatoes.

3 pounds of mashed potatoes just fits in a 7 cup Pyrex container, which I normally reheat in a crock pot. 1 hour on high. This works the best of the oven, stovetop, and microwave.

This time I separated out:


I got a 13.69 lb. turkey which I'm cooking today so it can be packaged for delivery tomorrow, cooked. I normally roast it at the lake on Thanksgiving day.

I cooked it earlier since it doesn't need to be timed for meal time, and this gives more time to slice and prep it, and get the carcass into the Instant Pot to make turkey stock and soup today. Normally I make stock on Friday morning.

After turning over and tenting

I set the remote probe thermometer (Thermapen Dot) for 160°F but checked it in a few other locations with an instant read probe thermometer before removing to rest for 45 minutes. This is the first year I've used the remote probe and I highly recommend it. Much better not having to open the oven and poke a hole in the turkey each time to test it.

Leave the oven on for dressing, traditional green bean casserole, and sweet potatoes.


Defrosted 32 oz. of turkey stock. I vacuum sealed and froze it last year, and will be the base for the gravy. I put the frozen bags in the sous vide at 140°F which also had the advantage of making the stock warm to add to the roux.

The gravy is based on this recipe and is:

This time I made it in a 6-quart pan on my induction hot plate, which is much better for precisely controlling the heat.

Add the butter to the pan and melt. And the flour and cook for 5 minutes or more to make a roux. It should smell slightly nutty, but not burnt. I started out at a setting of 3.5 and kept lowering it in steps to 1.5 on my induction hot plate to prevent the roux from burning.

Add the warm turkey stock and combine. Putting it in a large Pyrex measuring cup makes it easier to add in batches while stirring.

Increase the heat and stir for a several minutes until thickened while bringing to a low boil. It will start out shockingly thin, but it thickens quickly.

I'm used to having soy sauce in my gravy because Mom always made it that way, so I add that too, several ounces.

Normally I'd cool and refrigerate. 4 cups easily fits in a 7 cup Pyrex container. Then I'd add 16 oz. defatted pan drippings (and possibly water) when reheating on Thanksgiving.

However, since I'm making everything ahead today I can just put the completed gravy in a 32 oz. deli container. Reserve four servings of 4.0 oz.. One vacuum sealed and refrigerated for tomorrow for me. Freeze the three remaining servings for leftovers.

I got a fat separator and it works great!

Adding the pan drippings and enough water to make 16 oz. worked great and definitely improved the flavor.

Traditional Green bean casserole

Prepped a traditional green bean casserole, based on this recipe . Last year I used fried jalapeños instead of fried onions and it was a little on the spicy side for others. I went back to regular fried onions this year. This is a half recipe.

Combine the ingredients except the fried onions in a bowl.

Normally I used a 1 quart Pyrex bowl with lid for easy transport but since I was cooking today I used a 4.5"x8.5" (1.5 quart) Pyrex loaf pan.

Spray the pan with olive oil spray and add the ingredients from the bowl.

Bake for 1 hour at 325°F, or 45 minutes at 350°F, uncovered, adding the fried onions during the last 10 minutes of cooking. This goes in after the turkey comes out, while the turkey is resting.


I used this recipe to make the dressing/stuffing. Stuffing, if I stuffed it in the turkey, which I don't. I also added in sausage from this recipe to give it some more flavor.

Prepare the bread. I previously used 1 pound of Heidelberg white bread, about 3/4 of a loaf chopped into 1/2" squares. Bake on a sheet pan for 1 hour at 250°F. After cooking, let cool before combining with the other ingredients.

This time I used a 12 oz. package of Pepperidge Farm Country Style Cubed Stuffing in a bag. This is way less work, and is actually how Mom made it.

There's around 2 cups of Vidalia or other sweet onion (one really large one or two smaller) and 1 cups celery. Also works fine with regular yellow onions.

Cook 4 oz. to 8 oz. loose sweet Italian sausage in a large sauté pan with a little olive oil. This is the addition from the second recipe.

Add 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter and the 2 cups onions and 1 cup celery. Cook for 10 - 15 minutes over medium-low heat until softened. Make sure the onion does not burn.

The recipe calls for 2 tbsp. fresh sage, 1 tbsp. rosemary, and 1 tbsp. thyme. My grocery store conveniently has all three in a single bag labeled poultry blend. Also 1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine bread and the cooled vegetable and sausage mixture in a big bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Beat 1 egg. Combine with 2 cups (16 oz.) chicken broth. Add to the bread, vegetable, and sausage mixture and stir. Wait a few minutes and stir again. Repeat until all of the liquid is absorbed.

Put in a greased 9x13 baking dish.

Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes at 350°F. Remove the foil and cook 20 minutes more. Stir and cook 20 minutes more (1 hour total).

Normally it will be baked once more, uncovered, on Thanksgiving (30 minutes from refrigerated temperature). It can also be reheated sous vide. This time I made four servings of 4.0 oz. vacuum sealed and three frozen for leftovers. The rest I put in a foil pan for the group at the lake.

Sweet potatoes

I made Mom's recipe for sweet potatoes. I used two large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into spears. I test fit them in the 9x13 Pyrex baking dish. 1 lb. 5.2 oz. for two (before peeling) 1 lb. 13.6 for three (with skin) - did not need third

Final preparation is to dice the butter and scatter around the sweet potatoes. Top with brown sugar.

Bake uncovered for 1 hour at 325°F or 45 minutes at 350°F.

Turkey leftovers

I packaged up three servings, each with:

Vacuum sealed and frozen. Normally I do this on Friday, but it was nice to get it done early!

Turkey stock and soup

All that's left is to make the stock and turkey soup .

Into the Instant Pot for a soup pressure cooking cycle (30 minutes) with 68 oz. water.

Let rest for 20 minutes after the cycle, the depressurize. Chill the inner vessel in the sink in cold water.

Most of the solids separated out. I just fish them out by hand before straining the stock through a mesh sieve.

68 oz. of stock. Refrigerate so the fat rises to the top, then skim off the fat.

Packaged into 2 packages of 16 oz. of turkey stock only; that will be used to make the gravy in 2021.

And 3 packages of 12 oz. stock and 3 packages of 2.8 oz. turkey for turkey soup.

And the rest of the turkey made 3 packages of 2.8 oz. for turkey and cabbage stir-fry.

Now I'm done and can really relax Thursday and Friday!

Reheating (lake group)

Here are the reheating instructions for the small group at the lake.

Mashed potatoes

In foil pan. Be careful as this package is heavy and the foil pan isn't very sturdy.

Option 1: Oven for 45 minutes at 350°F. Stir once or twice. Option 2: Microwave. Stir a few times. Option 3: Heat in a saucepan over medium heat until warm. Stir occasionally. Option 4: Reheat in a crockpot, high for 45 minutes then low.

Dressing (Stuffing)

In foil pan. Uncover and put in oven.

Option 1: Oven for 30 minutes at 350°F. Stir once.

Sweet potatoes

In foil pan. Uncover and can leave alone after putting the oven, no stirring necessary.

Option 1: Oven for 30 minutes at 350°F. Option 2: Microwave.

Traditional green bean casserole

In foil pan. Uncover and can leave alone after putting the oven, no stirring necessary.

Option 1: Oven for 20 minutes at 350°F. Option 2: Microwave

If there isn't room in the oven, the microwave is a good choice for the traditional green bean casserole.


In foil pan. Uncover and can leave alone after putting the oven, no stirring necessary.

Option 1: Oven for 20 minutes at 350°F. Option 2: Microwave


In 32 oz. deli container.

Reheat in a saucepan on the stove.


In 16 oz. deli container.

Microwave. Container is microwave safe.


In 32 oz. deli container.

Microwave. Container is microwave safe but it might work better to transfer part of the rice to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

Mama Samberg's Cranberry Relish

Serve cold. In 16 oz. deli container.

Ideally put it in the freezer for an hour before serving so some ice crystals form but it does not freeze solid, but this is optional.

Cranberry Sauce

Serve cold. In 16 oz. deli container.

Fresh balsamic green bean salad

Serve cold. In 16 oz. deli container.

  |     |