Thanksgiving Abundance

I struggled this month on whether I should write about Thanksgiving-themed dishes or do something out of the ordinary and highlight some late-season produce or recipe you’ve never heard of. But just like at Thanksgiving dinner, I decided I wanted the warm fuzzy feeling of those comfort-food favorites.

Nobody likes showing up to Thanksgiving and seeing that your host has decided to do an avant-garde holiday spread complete with things that barely resemble food—or that this year’s dinner is “Nordic Cuisine” themed or some such insanity. It’s the holidays. We want what we know. Holidays are really about preserving tradition, and without the turkey, ham, sweet potatoes and collards, it’s just another Thursday.

So with the preservation of tradition in mind, I reached out for recipes from some people who know culinary history better than anyone else, people who know food inside and out, and who are never at a loss of ideas for a local product: farmers. Jane Cullipher of Cullipher Farms in Pungo—in traditional Thanksgiving abundance—delivered a bevy of her recipes as well as some from her legendary in-laws, Louis and Becky Cullipher.

Check out Louis and Becky’s recipe for collards, which doesn’t give exact measurements for every ingredient and gives a lot of wiggle room on cook time (because they knew the food they grew too well for a precise recipe), but play around with it and have fun. Jane suggests for the novice collard cooker to substitute sugar for salt and pepper. But if you’re like me and you grew up on greens, then go to town on the pepper and don’t forget the jalapeno apple cider vinegar on the side. We’ve also included instructions on how to freeze prepared collards, so you can save time by making a big batch this month, then thaw and serve the rest at Christmas dinner or for other holiday meals throughout the season.

But just because we want tradition, doesn’t mean we can’t draw a little bit outside the lines. Jane’s recipe for butternut squash with sage and pine nuts will impress the most refined guests, while still fitting the comfort-food bill.

And let’s not forget the most important part of the meal: the wine. You thought I was going to say turkey, didn’t you? The truth is it’s really quite simple. Buy a locally raised turkey, roast it with some fresh herbs and veggies, and be amazed.

Now back to the wine. It’s impossible to pick a wine that is sure to please all palates at the table, so here are my two humble suggestions. For the white wine fans, serve Church Creek Steel Fermented Chardonnay from Chatham Vineyards on the Eastern Shore. The crisp acidity and mineral elements of this steel-fermented chardonnay will cleanse the palate after spoonsful of sweet potato fluff and mac and cheese. This wine reflects the Eastern Shore terroir beautifully and at $15 a bottle, you can’t go wrong.

And for my fellow red-lovers out there, try Holly Grove Vineyard’s Merlot, which has won silver awards in the Virginia Wine Lover Classic and the Virginia Governor’s Cup. This smooth wine is aged 14 months in Hungarian oak and has hints of blackberry, blueberry, and vanilla ($19/bottle). Both wines are available online and can be shipped anywhere in Virginia.

Thanksgiving is a feast that celebrates the bounty of the local harvest. Let’s take the time this month to be thankful for all the delicious food our region has to offer, as well as the wonderful people who grow and produce it for us. Happy Holidays!

A Pot of Collards
by Becky and Louis Cullipher

2 pounds collards
pinch of sugar *
1 to 2 pounds meat (Becky and Louis recommend country ham)
salt and pepper to taste (may not require salt if your meat is very salty)
water to cover well after they are wilted

Look collards over and remove any bad spots. Wash in several waters, if needed. Cut stems out then roll several leaves together and cut into ½ strips. Winter collards are tender after the first frost and are usually put in the pot after the meat tenders. Use your own judgment. Cook until done. When done, take collards out of pot. Drain collards well and put in bowl. Chop or cut through collards well. Then, if you like, you can spoon some of the fat off the top of the pot liquor and put on top of the collards.
* There is just a bit of “know-how” required in cooking a good ‘mess’ of collards. Some people like to add a little sugar while others do not.

Freezing collards for later use:
Prepare greens as follows: Discard damaged or yellow parts of leaves. Cut away the tough ends from each leaf. Place greens in a colander, and wash thoroughly until rinse water is clear of dirt. Fold each leaf in half at its center vein, fold over once or twice more, and then cut in half. Blanch one pound at a time for 3-4 minutes in boiling water, remove with a slotted spoon and cool in a bath for 5 minutes. Place desired amount in freezer storage bags. Kept frozen, the collards may keep up to a year. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and prepare using method above or to taste.

Roasted Butternut Squash
with Garlic, Sage and Pine Nuts
Serves six.
3 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeds scooped out & cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 Tbs olive oil, divided
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs chopped fresh sage
1/3 cup pine nuts

Preheat oven to 450°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper, or spray lightly with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, toss butternut squash cubes with 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread out on prepared baking sheet. Roast for 35 to 45 minutes, until squash is as tender as desired.

While squash is roasting, heat 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil in a small skillet. Add garlic, sage, and pine nuts, and sauté until pine nuts are lightly browned. Remove from heat.
Scoop butternut squash into a large bowl. Scrape contents from the skillet onto the butternut squash and gently toss. Serve immediately.
Recipe Courtesy of Jane Cullipher, Cullipher Farms


Rachel Burns
 is the director of Buy Fresh Buy Local Hampton Roads. Visit
 www.buylocalhamptonroads.org, www.facebook.com/buylocalhr, and www.twitter.com/buylocalhr.

Rachel Burns

Rachel Burns is the owner at The Content Chop Shop, a small shop providing content marketing services to small businesses, designers and nonprofits. She is also the co-owner of Burn Both Ends, which develops and presents educational opportunities and resources for small businesses looking to grow. She is a local to Hampton Roads and a vocal spokesperson for all its myriad advantages, her favorites of which is the Atlantic Ocean. She has been published in The Virginian Pilot, Tidewater Women, and AltDaily, among others. She lives in the Hickory section of Chesapeake with her husband, two pugs and several feral cats.

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