No, don’t eat that: thanksgiving edition

It is (or is close to being) Thanksgiving in America — a holiday non-Americans are aware of through popular culture but our understanding of it is maybe sort of like it’s a way of doing Christmas twice?

This year Americans have a lot to celebrate, much of America is celebrating Joe Biden’s election and the rest have a wacky new conspiracy theory to relish in. To join in, I visited a local sweet shop and bought the most American thing I could fine, which was a tough competition in a building full of refined sugar. Surprisingly there was a clear winner, although this seems more like a parody of what Americans might eat than an actual product.

“Rocky Road S’Mores” is what is advertised along with ‘homemade’ chocolate, marshmallow, graham crackers and (I’m not sure why) cashews.

The chocolate tasted ‘homemade’ in the sticky not-tempered-properly sense. If I took a bit I could see the nominal graham cracker layer (I’m familiar with the name but I don’t actually know what they are) but there was notable change in taste or texture for that layer. If there were cashews involved they had disguised their presence well.

‘New recipe’, I wonder what the old recipe was?

96 thoughts on “No, don’t eat that: thanksgiving edition

  1. I don’t recognize that product but it’s sort of realistic as in something that _might_ happen here.

    A graham cracker is a sweet, crumbly wholemeal biscuit, rectangular and about half as wide as it is long, maybe 1 or 2 millimeters thick? Scored in a cross to be broken into halves or quarters. Formerly usually given to children with milk, in which it dissolves readily, producing a marvelous sort of sludge. Also often reduced to crumbs to make crusts for pie or shortcake.

    Smores (short for “some more”s) used to be exclusively a campfire thing, made by sticking a marshmallow on a stick, melting it over a fire, and immediately smacking it onto a square of chocolate, sandwiching the two between two halves of a graham cracker and then eating them before the marshmallow resolidifies. The chocolate is supposed to melt from contact with the marshmallow, which gets pretty hot. Nowadays smores is just a flavor combination for any kind of composed dessert or sweet snack: chocolate, graham cracker, and marshmallow. Nobody does campfires anymore: the land is too combustible. People do make smores in the microwave.

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    1. Lucy, may I offer an under-heralded invention my sister Martha came up with back in the 1960s?
      You can toast a marshmallow over a stover burner on a fork. NOW YOU KNOW.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. No, we did it all the time over our electric stove.

        The first toaster we had was a thing like a four-sided grater that rested upon a burner, and you leaned the slices up against it. It was the first time I had toast that hadn’t been calcified in the oven.

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  2. You guys don’t have graham crackers? Wow. They are actually okay, a bit whole grain but not unpleasant. They were invented circa 1880 by a midwestern temperance vegetarian nutcase who was going to improve America’s morals and health through diet. A veggie diet and graham crackers would prevent both disease AND masturbation. Welp, maybe that didn’t really work, but we’ve still got the crackers.
    … what do you make cheesecake crusts out of? Or key lime pie?
    If you lack graham crackers, dare I ask if you make s’mores?
    I mean, how could you?
    Properly done s’mores are half a graham cracker topped with a square of Hershey’s chocolate on which you smash a hot toasted marshmallow and cover with the other half of the cracker.The hot marshmallow melting the chocolate is vita to the whole experience.It’s very sweet, and impossible to eat without getting sticky and/or chocolate-covered. It’s what you do with a campfire and a group of kids.So you can sugar them up AND make them both sticky and – probably – sooty last thing at night.
    Making it into a candy bar seems to miss the point. Nothing warm and melty, and also disappointingly tidy. Also, nuts are just… no. Maybe that’s the Rocky Road element.

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      1. Digestives just doesn’t sound appealing. Like some chalky stuff you’d be forced to choke down as a kid to settle your stomach.

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      2. I was speculating the other day that the phrase “clotted cream” might have been part of the inspiration for “crottled greeps”. It isn’t part of the standard explanation.

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      1. Looks like the Leibniz Kekse may fill roughly the same ecological niche — but graham crackers don’t have butter. The “Leibniz Vollkorn (wholemeal)” ones might come close, though.

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    1. Sounds like the genuine Australian equivalent might be Granita biscuits. Generally, cheesecake crusts are “plain sweet biscuits” (to quote one of my Women’s Weekly cookbooks) which would probably mean something like Scotch Finger biscuits, shortbread, Marie, Milk Coffee, Milk Arrowroot, or the appropriately named NIce.

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      1. I tend to use milk arrowroot biscuits for cheesecake crusts since moving here. In England we used digestives. Those are easier to get here now than they used to be, but these days most of my baking is gluten-free and I haven’t come across gluten-free digestives.

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  3. I’ve never seen graham crackers at my end of Australia, though I can’t say I’ve ever really sought them out either. I’ve always used proper English digestive biscuits for my cheesecake bases. I’m told graham crackers are similar in texture but a bit sweeter.

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    1. And not at all ginger-y.

      American kids like graham crackers because they’re very, very bland. Plus, you can get them with cinnamon sugar on top, if you want to make sure your kid gets properly addicted to sugar.

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  4. My entry for the most American food:

    Corn Flakes. Made from a plant native to the Americas which has been bred to be bigger, fatter, and a major source of sugar (corn syrup!) and ethanol and cattle feed. Created by a health-obsessed wacko (Kellogg) who got into a patent dispute with his brother; inspired one of the other Kellogg’s patients to start his own cereal company (Post).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cereal City! Battle Creek, Michigan is where I from. My dad worked at Post and my mom for Kellogg’s for a bit before I was born. I remember a school field trip to tour the Kellogg’s factory and eating fresh out of the oven corn flakes.

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      1. One side of my family is from Battle Creek! Although they moved out in the sixties and I’m not close with anyone who’s still there.

        My nym here is in fact the unpronounceable original Irish version of the family name. (No one can pronounce the family name, either, but that’s another story.)

        Liked by 2 people

      1. My Grandmother was shocked to learn that cornflakes are American. She thought they were quintessentially British. (For clarification, she was English, not American)

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      2. The only place I ever found Stouffer’s chicken and dumplings frozen entrees was the snack car on British Rail. They really hit the spot–we’d updated to first-class seating for a short trip, and they brought menus to us, but nothing looked good, so I took a walk and found the snack car.

        (Though it doesn’t compare to the blessed memory of the vending machine at a bus station in Nebraska at 1 AM that dispensed hot Beanie Weenee. BEST MEAL EVER. I had a can of it for lunch yesterday, and honored the miracle of the bus station nectar as I did.)

        Liked by 1 person

  5. How can you not know graham crackers? You a furriner, buddy??

    I’ve always been a fan of graham crackers, with or without extra flavoring (for example, cinnamon graham crackers are common). Had some last night, in fact, in the underpinnings of a slice of key lime pie. 🙂

    As for most American food, maybe frosted flakes as opposed to plain corn flakes? Taking a supposedly healthy food (corn flakes) and removing all nutritional value from it seems like a quintessentially American thing to do.

    Either that or French fries. Irony is not totally dead yet.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Frosted cornflakes have been available in western Europe at least since the 1970s, though. My Dad used to eat Kellogg’s Frosties every weekday morning, until he developed mild type 2 diabetes and I persuaded him to switch to Crunchy Nuts, which have slightly less sugar and also taste better.

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  6. Cashews are a nod to Rocky Road.

    I grew up thinking everybody put the marshmallow and chocolate into the crackers and then wrapped it in foil and put it in the embers of the campfire, just as my mom taught all her Girl Scouts and Brownies to do. Who knew Mom was a heretic? Well, I suspected.

    If the implication above is that ginger snaps and graham crackers have anything in common besides their color, some sugar, and approximate thickness, then I reject it.

    Oh, also, Mom’s version of cheesecake was based upon cottage cheese and gelatine, with a little bit of lemon zest grated on the top, and of course a graham-cracker crust below. No other cheesecake is palatable to me, as it turns out, so I’ve had to obtain my needless body fat in other ways.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with ya on the ginger snaps. Just no. I mean, one of the main points of graham crackers was to be bland, and that’s kinda the opposite of what ginger snaps are.

      I’d like to try digestive biscuits. They do sound similar. I did some Googling, and it looks like the main differences are that graham flour is more coarsely ground than the whole wheat flour in digestives, and that the digestives have malt while the graham crackers typically have honey.

      I’ve always liked dunking graham crackers, though (in milk), and I see dunking is typical for digestives as well (in tea — yech!). So they sound like close cousins.

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    2. Your mom was taking the easy way out. You gotta have a mass of small kids crowding around the fire with marshmallows on sticks, and thus the attendant concern they will pitch one another into the coals or start messing about with sticks behind your back, as well as the certainty that a number of marshmallows will end up in the fire or on the ground. At the end of a long day, with kids all pumped up with sugar, so that emotional meltdowns are guaranteed.
      Your mom had good cause, but it’s still wrong.
      … Girl Scouts are obsessed with cooking in aluminum foil for practical reasons like portion control and no clean-up.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I won’t say Mom was orthodox, but the s’mores were delish. I haven’t enjoyed the conventional ones as much because the chocolate is obdurate and unyielding, and you get exactly what you always get when one ingredient in a thing is way different, mouth-feel-wise, than everything else: the mess.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah I recognize Scotland is also a leader (or maybe THE leader) in this area. But taking what is putatively a Mexican food item (taco shell) and repurposing it as well as deep frying a burrito. Well. That’s pretty damned American. Also creating frosting from a Big Red soda (from Texas) to serve on a fried chicken wing in the middle of a doughnut…
        I suppose part of my argument which I did not state is that Texas is the most American of states. Wants the ability to secede at will but desperately wants someone to stop them,

        Liked by 2 people

      2. But how can Texas be the most American when going there is suppose to be “Like A Whole Other Country” as the tourist brochures say? 😉

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Secession was baked into Texas entry into the USA.
        “Dividing Texas into many little Texases was seriously considered at the time Texas became a state and for decades afterward. The idea survives today as a quirk in American law, a remnant of Texas’ brief history as an independent nation. It’s also a peculiar part of Texas’ identity as a state so big, it could split itself up—even though it loves its own bigness too much to do it.”

        https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/more-150-years-texas-has-had-power-secede-itself-180962354/

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Never heard of it being done – sounds like a challenge! Sodastream syrup might be the way forward on that one.

        It’d probably go well with our deep-fried pizzas.

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      2. I’ve never tried deep-fried butter, but I’ve had Irn Bru ice cream. It was very nice. Might not be quite as good these days, of course.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I haven’t tried deep-fried butter, but I’ve had Irn Bru ice cream and it was very nice. It wouldn’t necessarily be quite as good now, though, given the change.

        Stewart Lee once claimed to have believed he was Scottish because of his unexplained cravings for shortbread, offal, and heroin. Deep-fried heroin if he could get it.

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    1. Then there are things like the Jones Soda holiday packs, which often include things like ‘mashed potato’ or ‘turkey and gravy’ flavoured sodas.

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  7. Lauowolf is correct about the proper s’mores. When I was a Girl Scout, everything was cooked in foil *except* the s’mores, because we weren’t evil Commies like Kip’s mom.

    I have yet to meet a Brit who, when introduced to proper s’mores, didn’t say “brilliant!” I once watched a Welshman apologize to his American boyfriend for ever doubting him. The stores have endcap sale displays of the 3 ingredients every 4th of July, and don’t even bother to say what it’s for.

    Digestive biscuits are nowhere near as good as even plain graham crackers. Graham crackers don’t get all pasty and gummy like digestives. And the chocolate-covered ones are divine. Cinnamon ones are great too.

    That candy bar is trying too hard. I see it’s denominated in US measurements and languages, but it is SO not American. I’ve never seen anything like it.

    The ur-American candy bar is Snickers. (Milky Way also acceptable if you’re allergic to peanuts.) Snickers always advertises during the Super Bowl, so you know they’re American as can be.

    If you’re making your cheesecake or Key lime pie with anything other than graham crackers, you’re doing it wrong and should call the resulting dessert by some other name.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. See, any Mars product is too familiar and associated with childhood to think of it as American. So I think of things like Hershey’s chocolate as being distinctively America because I knew about them from US media before seeing them in real life.

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      1. And then you get the fun differences between products between countries. Some friends of mine used to buy Canadian versions of chocolate bars and go down to U.S. conventions with them.

        Quite aside from the fact that the Canadian versions of the same bars usually used cane sugar rather than corn syrup, there were other specific differences. For example, the American standard ‘Mars Bar’ had almonds on it, while the Canadian one didn’t.

        (According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_(chocolate_bar) the old American almond version of the Mars Bar is now called the ‘Snickers Almond’ and the Mars bar is now the same as the Mars bar elsewhere. And apparently the Mars bar was originally English and only got changed after it was produced in the U.S. later.)

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      2. I liked the 70s US Mars Almond Bars. I first thought they’d brought them back when I saw the name.

        Incidentally, I find dollar store candy to be effective portion control–usually six (sometimes five) “fun-size” bars for a dollar. I like to get Almond Snickers and put them in the freezer. (Later, I eat them.)

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      3. I don’t understand this Milky Way vs Mars thing. We have both brands here in the US as well. Did I miss something somewhere?

        Ahhh, I just read that Mars Bars have not-too-long-ago been rebranded here as Snickers Almond. Is that all that’s going on?

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      4. Soooo confusing. We have Milky Way, Three Musketeers, AND Mars (now Snickers Almond).

        Whatever. My bars of choice if I’m standing in the checkout line are usually Mounds or Almond Joy, depending on whether I feel like a nut. 🙃 If I’m planning ahead, I usually stock up on several varieties of the Chocolove brand when they’re on sale, which IMHO are an excellent intersection of high quality and reasonable cost. 😋

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      5. Yes. Here is the opening paragraph on the Milky Way wikipedia page:

        “ Milky Way is a brand of chocolate-covered confectionery bar manufactured and marketed by the Mars confectionery company. There are two variants: the global Milky Way bar, which is sold as 3 Musketeers in the US and Canada; and the US Milky Way bar, which is sold as the Mars bar worldwide (including Canada). Neither is sold as the Milky Way bar in Canada.”

        Clear as mud? 😆

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  8. @camestros:
    Looks that way. The Mars Company is American. But the original Mars Bar got created after the son of the company founder opened the European branch office in Slough, England back in 1932, and started producing new things there.

    I didn’t know this either. But it makes more sense as to why the American and Canadian versions were different while I was growing up; we got the original English version in Canada. If the original version had actually been the American version we probably would have had that instead because it would have been right there.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I would maintain that the quintessential American food item is barbecue sauce. Americans seem devoted to the stuff, and the sauces aisle at an American food market has, in general, a proliferation of sauces that would impress a Frenchman and would not be seen in, e.g., the UK or my ancestral Scandinavia.

    Although I concur with Camestros’s implication that most Americans have a horrid sweet-tooth — e.g., I’ve given up on most baked desserts, here, and just make my own — speaking as a lad who grew up in British Hong Kong in the ’60s and lived in London in the ’80s, I’d say the Brit sweet-tooth is even worse. Or was last I checked, anyway.

    (Chez Moen’s kitchen plunders the pockets of many lands for recipes, and is currently leaning towards pub foods and Scandinavian classics: Currently looking at Pulla/Kardemummabröd recipes. Hey, if I can pull off a good challah, I can also get away with swiping a similar offering from the Finns and the Swedes.)

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  10. Sylvester Graham was a 19th century temperance preacher. He believed you should turn your life into a joyless slog, minimizing pleasure and stimulation of all kinds, and toward that end he promoted a vegetarian diet anchored on coarsely ground wheat flour made at home. His followers were called Grahamites and from Graham flour they made Graham crackers and Graham bread. Became very popular during the 1829-51 cholera epidemic.

    They’re kind of bland and useless, just like Graham.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It was his last name, and might be your first?

        Anyway, even when unsweetened, graham crackers aren’t that bad. Nobody liked Sylvester G, so the capitalization was lost but we kept the crackers to put in our milk and our pie crust. They are also kept in ERs and surgical recovery rooms next to the saltines.

        I agree with Rick that the British sweet tooth is even worse than the American — I once got some raised eyebrows in the cafe at the British Museum when I ranted about my fizzy drink having sugar and TWO different artificial sweeteners. “This is ridiculous! Either make it all sugar or one of the sweeteners! It’s got calories AND fake stuff, the worst of both worlds! Pick a lane!”

        And indeed barbecue sauces are a very American product. I have never seen a store shelf that had less than 2-3 kinds, and gourmet stores contain multitudes. You got your Kansas City, your Memphis, your Texas, and East vs. West vs. South Carolina. Which doesn’t even take into account the differing techniques and cuts of meat in other places, like California and St. Louis.

        My local Q joint (how I miss them… takeout from there just isn’t the same) has 4 different house sauces that cover the major styles, and cuts of meat from many different areas, because all Q is good.

        Not being able to gather for the multi-family Thanksgiving meant I didn’t get the turkey smoked on the grill this year, alas. (No BBQ sauce on that — that’s what the gravy is for)

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      2. @Lurkertype:
        As you say, barbecue sauces aren’t just an American thing, they are an extremely local and often divisive American thing, with different states and regions having far different ideas of what should be in barbecue sauce.

        As a Canadian down in Texas on business once, I got asked by a local (working for a company that made barbecue sauce) what type of barbecue I liked. My response was ‘In Canada it is considered impolite to get into a religious argument.’ Which, thankfully, got exactly the laugh I was trying for.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. You can finally get decent US barbecue sauce in Germany now, but that only arrived in the past five years or so. Before that, it was ketchup, mustard and curry ketchup and maybe [ethnic slur for Romani people] sauce.

        Which reminds me that I need to order a supply of my favourite barbecue sauce, because the only grocery store that carries it is one I don’t want to visit, because it’s right next to a truck stop and therefore frequented by truckers from all over Europe, which doesn’t make it a place you want to visit during a pandemic.

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  11. This is as good a place as any to relate what my three-person household did about The Thanksgiving Problem. My mother-in-law Cheryl triggered the crisis a fortnight before, by talking incessantly about cooking or buying a turkey. In vain, I mentioned that her daughter (my wife Deirdre) didn’t much like poultry, and that producing enough roast bird to feed a regiment is problematic. She kept suggesting it.

    Finally, to save what was left of my sanity, I made a counterproposal: Have been exploring pub-food recipes, and how about shepherd’s pie? (Ended up using beef, so technically the result was cottage pie.) https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/16156/ground-beef-shepherds-pie/

    That’s a plain-jane recipe, but I played with it, adding manzano pepper from the garden, fresh basil ditto, peas, corn (maize), chopped carrots. Also, one clove of garlic? Fat chance, Chuckles. No, we’ll do eight or ten.

    Alongside that was this never-fail recipe, whose only drawback is requiring beaucoup chopping. Rosemary from the garden: https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/sauteed-parsnips-and-carrots-with-honey-and-rosemary-240416

    And this turned out to be a superb cranberry recipe, provided you ignore the directive to add itty-bitty amounts of lemon zest and just zest an entire lemon: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/perfect-cranberry-sauce-recipe-2104277

    Dessert was a fresh-berry pie with a gluten-free crust, since Deirdre is coeliac. Always look to King Arthur Baking for recipes in that area:
    https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/gluten-free-pie-crust-recipe

    Coming soon to Rick’s Kitchen: Kardemummabröd aka Pulla. Because if I can’t go to Stockholm or Helsinki, they can come to me. https://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Braided-Cardamom-Bread-Pulla/

    Also: more pub food!
    https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/161679/irish-boxty/
    https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/22851/beef-pot-pie-iii/
    https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/12343/meat-pie-tourtiere/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That sounds yummy!

      You didn’t ask, but my favorite “recipe” for cranberry relish has always been my grandma’s — and it’s incredibly easy. Chop a bunch of fresh cranberries in a food processor, cut up one sweet orange and chop into the cranberries, add sugar to taste. Add walnuts or pecans if you feel like it. Et voila — wonderful stuff!

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      1. If I’m just eating nuts out of hand, then I definitely prefer pecans. But there are some recipes that are better with walnuts.

        And then there’s hickory nuts, which aren’t nearly as well known. I’m surrounded by hickory trees, but I hardly ever get to taste any because all the squirrels and other critters get to them first. But hickory nut pie is fab!

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      2. Don’t worry, most Americans haven’t either!

        I don’t think they’re available commercially. Although hickory wood is well-enough known, the nuts are smaller, harder to get into, and less bountiful than either pecans or walnuts — so it would be hard to make a profit off them!

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      3. Rick, your Thanksgiving dinner sounds as though it was fabulous, I wish I could have been there to share it with you and that red-headed actress! 😀

        This is my mom’s recipe for cranberry “sauce”, which I love:

        1 pkg/ 2 cups fresh cranberries, ground up in food processor or food grinder
        1 orange including peel (remove stem and seeds), ground up in food processor or food grinder
        3 chopped-up apples (don’t peel)
        walnuts or pecans, chopped
        1 cup diced celery
        1 bunch green grapes, halved
        1 small can crushed pineapple w/juice
        1 pkg red Jell-O (cherry, strawberry, raspberry, or cranberry)
        1 pkg lemon Jell-O
        2 cups sugar (can reduce this if desired)
        1-1/2 cup hot water
        3-4 cups ice cubes

        dissolve gelatin in hot water, stir until completely dissolved
        gradually stir in ice cubes to cool mixture (keep stirring)
        stir in all ingredients and let set in fridge *overnight* until firm/solid

        For those who don’t care for celery (I actually like the savory/bitter flavor it adds), nuts, or one of the other ingredients, it can be omitted. Obviously it’s not vegetarian/vegan with the gelatine, so a fruit juice with a different thickener is needed for those diets.

        I’m a big fan of tart fruits, and I can eat a whole batch of this myself. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. (Note that the stem and core should be removed from the apple before chopping.)

        (I recommend starting with little to no added sugar, and adding gradually until you’re happy with the taste.)

        (If you use fruit juice with a vegetarian/vegan thickener, then replace the lemon Jell-O with a ground up lemon including skin but stem and seeds removed.)

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      5. Pecans are actually a kind of hickory.

        But hickory nuts are just impossible to find commercially. Too bad there isn’t some way to keep the critters away from the trees. We have the same problem with our peaches.

        On our other topic, hickory wood is great for BBQ.

        People of a certain age will remember this hickory nut reference:

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Yup — same genus, different species.

        I looked around yesterday, and I actually found a few people selling hickory nuts on the web. Interestingly, they seemed to be mostly (though not exclusively) from Tennessee and North Carolina.

        And it’s great to see Euell again! The original nutty nuggets! 😄

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    2. Rad Sonja and I cooked a 12-14 lbs. turkey. We had Thanksgiving and leftovers the next day when made a gumbo with some of the turkey. The day after that, Rad Sonja made turkey enchiladas. We still have turkey meat left in the freezer, but not that much so it was worthwhile to cook and keep.
      I made a balsamic cranberry sauce based on this receipe (http://brokeassgourmet.com/articles/balsamic-cranberry-sauce).
      I substitute half a cup of blueberries and half a cup of maple syrup for the sugar. I also zest a whole orange and add that. Tart with a hint of vinegar but with the maple syrup also there.
      It also makes a good topping on vanilla ice cream.

      Liked by 1 person

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