America owes it’s tradition of the Thanksgiving feast to a man named Tisquantum (c. 1585?- 1622), more commonly known as Squanto. He was a member of the Patuxet tribe and is best known for being an early liaison between the native populations in Southern New England and the Mayflower Pilgrims. As a child, Squanto was been kidnapped by an English sea captain named Thomas Hunt and was sold into slavery in the city of Málaga, Spain. Squanto was among a number of captives bought by local monks who focused on their education and evangelization, and as a result, he learned to speak Spanish, French and English.
Málaga in 1572, forty years before Squanto was delivered there in slavery.
Squanto eventually traveled to England and from there returned to North America in 1619, only to find that his village and tribe had been wiped out by an epidemic infection, making Squanto the last of the Patuxet.
When the Mayflower landed in 1620, Squanto was one of the first Native Americans the members of the Plymouth colony encountered. As a diplomat, he worked to broker peaceable relations between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag. He played a key role in the early meetings in March 1621, partly because he spoke English. He then lived with the Pilgrims for two years, acting as a translator, guide, and advisor. During this time, he also saved the colony from starvation by teaching the settlers how to sow, plant and fertilize native crops—including corn and squash, which proved vital since the seeds which the Pilgrims had brought from England largely failed. He also taught the settlers how to fish and how to tap maple trees for their sweet sap.
Because of Squanto’s central role in the survival of the Plymouth colony, a feast was held to commemorate the event. It was referred to at the time as “The Harvest Celebration of 1621” and is considered to be the first Thanksgiving that took place in the colony. From historical journals, the menu at the first Thanksgiving celebration between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag consisted of wild game that included venison, goose, duck, pigeon, and turkey, seafood such as mussels, clams, oysters, lobsters, bass, and eels. A combination of wild and cultivated crops including chestnuts, walnuts, squash, beans, and dishes made from dried corn was also been served.
Serves 10 to 12
For the Brine:
One 12 to 14-pound turkey
2 ½ cups kosher salt, plus more if needed
1 cup white sugar
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, cracked, more as needed
3 sprigs each fresh rosemary, thyme and sage
For the Turkey:
1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
2 ribs of celery, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 stick of unsalted butter, sliced for basting
For the Gravy:
1 cup defatted pan juices from the roasted turkey
1 cup chicken stock
Remove the turkey from the packaging and rinse under cold water.
Place the turkey on a rack in its roasting pan and prepare the brine.
For the brine, combine the salt, sugar, bay leaves, pepper rosemary, thyme, sage marjoram with 2 1/2 gallons water in a large 4 to 6 gallon container or cooler large enough to hold turkey comfortably. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Place the turkey in brining solution and refrigerate or ice overnight.
The following day, prepare to cook the turkey.
Pre heat oven to 425 º F.
Remove the turkey from brining solution; drain well and pat very dry with clean paper towels. Discard brine. Set the turkey, breast side up, on a roasting rack set into a large roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper, then fill the cavity with onion, celery, carrots and lemon. Fold wings under the bird. Truss the turkey up by the legs using kitchen twine. Roast the turkey for 35 minutes, basting with butter every 10 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350 o F and roast approximately 3 hours more, basting bird every 30 minutes with drippings and butter. If the breast of the turkey is browning to quickly , tent the bird with aluminum foil , until and continue to cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh without touching bone registers 165 o F.
Remove the turkey from the oven and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, Pour the pan drippings into a large Pyrex measuring cup and allow to it stand to allow the fat to rise to top.
Meanwhile, make a gravy from the pan drippings.
Discarding any solid vegetables used in roasting the main meat dish, pour the pan juices into a glass measuring cup and let stand for 10 minutes. Skim off any fat that forms on the surface. Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat and pour in the fat/grease free pan juices, then the chicken stock.
Bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth. Pour into a gravy boat.
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