Contrary to conventional wisdom, putting together a Thanksgiving Day menu is not particularly challenging. After all, the fundamentals of the holiday meal are hardly open to debate.
Sure, you may have a choice in how you’re going to prepare the turkey, but you’re probably going to have turkey. Similarly, cranberries will unquestionably be on the table. And when it comes to dessert, you’ll likely offer some sort of pumpkin treat. No, picking the menu for Thanksgiving is not the hard part. The hard part is deciding what to drink.
Thus, advice abounds in magazines this time of year underscoring the difficulty of finding the right wine for the holiday meal, some even calling Thanksgiving the ultimate challenge for a sommelier.
So what’s the answer? Well, you could forego the wine for the most authentic of Thanksgiving drinks—cider. It’s most likely what the Pilgrims were drinking on that first Thanksgiving Day. They apparently didn’t bring lots of wine with them as it did not travel well across the Atlantic in those days. But they had plenty of apples growing in their new location, and they knew how to turn them into a drink popular in England since Norman times. So if you want the most traditional of Thanksgiving beverages, select cider.
Now, I’m not talking about the sweet cider you get each fall at the farm stand, not that there’s anything wrong with that, especially if there are doughnuts on hand. I’m talking about hard cider, fermented apple juice like the Pilgrims imbibed and that behaves more like wine, or even champagne. After all, cider has all the building blocks of wine and it goes well with just about everything.
So give cider a chance to rule at your house on Thanksgiving.
Cider Cream Tart
Not sure you want to drink cider throughout your Thanksgiving meal? Then salute the Pilgrims by putting it into something, like this dessert adapted from Food & Wine.
1 package (16.5 ounce) oatmeal raisin cookie dough
2 cups apple cider
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup sour cream
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
Press cookie dough into lightly greased 9-inch fluted tart pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes or until set. Remove from oven and using a spoon press down dough where it has puffed up while baking. Cool completely. Boil cider until reduced to ½ cup and let cool. Whisk in ¾ cup sugar, sour cream, and salt. Whisk in eggs. Pour into tart shell and bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, until filling is set around the edges but center jiggles slightly. Cool completely. Whip cream with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until firm and spread on top of tart.