As the holiday season approaches with fragments of fond memories from the past, it suddenly seems there won’t be enough hours in every day to achieve the same traditions that Mother so smoothly established while I was growing up.

If problems were encountered along the way, she must have kept it a secret because I don’t remember her complaining at any time. And, despite having a kitchen much smaller than I have today, she made everything work without a grumble because she never wanted more than what we already had. Wearing an apron every day while preparing what would become a Thanksgiving feast, she had a special way of making everything click with perfection. The table in the large adjacent dining room was set a day in advance with our finest dishes, autumn colored floral accents, ivory lace linens, and plenty of elbow room for everyone who would arrive to celebrate Thanksgiving on Talmadge Street.

If you are planning to prepare and serve turkey with all the trimmings and warm memories from the past on Nov. 23, give some thought to establishing a new food tradition. Here are a few recipes shared by longtime readers who responded to my request for favorite Thanksgiving recipes.

Dorothy Kruse, who has been a faithful reader since 1993, and has written her own cookbook with family favorites, is delighted to share a cranberry salad recipe she insists has nothing to do with a traditional Thanksgiving day menu, but she would hear complaints if it wasn’t included when her family gathers to celebrate the day. It originates from Thanksgiving dinners served many years ago at her mother-in-law’s home.

Cranberry salad

½ pound cranberries

1 cup sugar

Wash, pick over and drain cranberries, eliminating the soft ones. Drain well, grind in a food grinder to the consistency of pickle relish, add sugar, stir, and let stand overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day, prepare the following:

1 cup red grapes, seeded and halved

¼ pound miniature marshmallows

¼ cup chopped walnuts

½ pint whipping cream, whipped until stiff

Fold cranberries, grapes, marshmallows and nuts into the whipped cream then refrigerate.

Note: Because Kruse also likes to make cranberry bread, she saves enough cranberries for this salad which eliminates the need to buy a whole bag of cranberries just for the salad. She grinds them, adds sugar, then places them in the freezer until she makes the salad.

Thanksgiving gravy

Kruse also offered a tip an elderly lady shared with her many years ago about how to make Thanksgiving gravy. Instead of making a flour and water thickener, you just open one or two cans (depending on how many people will be served and how much broth there is) of Campbell’s cream of chicken soup and stir it into your turkey drippings to add flavor to your gravy.

Otto Anderson, another longtime reader, has another salad recipe made with cranberries that he serves with every Thanksgiving feast at his home.

Cranberry salad

3 cups fresh cranberries

2/3 cup sugar

20-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained

1 medium apple, peeled and cubed

2 cups mini-marshmallows

8-ounce carton of heavy whipping cream, whipped

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup chopped walnuts, optional

Put cranberries in a pot, cover with water, and cook until they pop open a little. Drain off water. Stir in 2/3 cups sugar. Add pineapple, cubed apples, and marshmallows. Refrigerate overnight. Whip heavy cream and stir in ¼ cup of sugar. If desired, also stir in the walnuts.

And for dessert, Anderson shares his favorite pumpkin pie recipe made every year for Thanksgiving.

Honey pumpkin pie

Pastry for 9-inch pie crust

16-ounce can solid pumpkin

1 cup evaporated low fat milk

¾ cup honey

3 eggs, slightly beaten

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ginger

½ teaspoon rum extract

Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Beat until well-blended. Pour into 9-inch pastry-lined glass pie plate (Do not use metal). Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

If you don’t have a Thanksgiving menu in mind at the moment, you might be interested in a recipe my friend Mike Repas received from his brother, Richard, who makes this often and describes it as being “awesome.” The recipe belongs to the mother of famed restaurateur David Chang. Repas recommends using boneless short ribs. The recipe will serve 4 to 6, and that it’s known as “galbijjim” which is a better way of saying “way better than turkey for Thanksgiving.”

David Chang’s mom’s braised short ribs

1 ½ cups pear or apple juice

1 cup sake

1 cup mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)

½ cup sugar

1 cup soy sauce

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

10 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil

4 to 5 pounds short ribs (See: Note)


2 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

8 to 12 small potatoes, preferably fingerlings, trimmed

½ cup chopped scallions

4 cups cooked white rice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the braising liquid, in a saucepan, combine the juice, sake, mirin, sugar, soy sauce, about 20 grinds of pepper, both forms of garlic, sesame oil, and 1 ½ cups of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer.

Put grapeseed oil in a large ovenproof braising pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Season the ribs liberally with salt and pepper and add to the pan.

Brown well on one side before moving them around to promote even browning. Turn, add the onions, and brown the other side, stirring occasionally.

Arrange ribs in the pan, bone side up. Carefully pour the braising liquid on top; the ribs should be submerged in the liquid (add water or juice if necessary). Place the pan in the oven and bake uncovered for two hours. Add the carrots and potatoes to the pan. Cook two more hours, or until the meat falls from bones.

Cool ribs in the braising liquid for one hour, then remove. Strain the liquid from the meat and vegetables. At this point, the ribs and liquid can be covered and refrigerated overnight.

Remove bones from the ribs. In a pot, combine the meat and vegetables with the braising liquid. Heat to a boil, then simmer, reducing the liquid until syrupy. If it seems too thick, thin with a bit of water. About a half hour before you are ready to serve, taste the mixture and, if necessary, adjust seasoning. Garnish with scallions and serve on rice.

Note: Repas suggests using boneless short ribs.

Recent request: Squash biscuits that appear somewhat orange in color

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at