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An epic Thanksgiving feast at the farm

October 15, 2013

Every fall something magical happens at a Central Vancouver Island farm, and I was once again lucky enough to be invited this year to be part of a unforgettable Thanksgiving feast.

Nestled in the forested foothills of Mount Arrowsmith, our foodie friend Jesse's Outrageous Edibles & Bedibles plant nursery is the first home to many of the best heirloom tomatoes, vegetable starters, herbs and bedding plants that are purchased and grown in home gardens all over Vancouver Island (including all of the plants that I grow in my backyard Kitchen Garden). Every fall Jesse and Colanne open up one of their nursery greenhouses one last time, and welcome a wide assortment of local friends to a pot-luck Thanksgiving Feast to celebrate another year on beautiful Vancouver Island together.

My contribution was providing bread to go along with feast, as I did last year. The challenge of making bread for an estimated 150 people this year was fun to figure out, and I decided to go with Épis de Blé baguettes again. I love both their wheat sheaf design and the fact that they pull apart into perfect little buns for each guest (which also helps to estimate how many baguettes to make).

The picture above is basically what my entire Friday looked like, bins of dough and rising bread as far as the eye could see. I turned up the oven, cranked up the tunes and spent a happy afternoon and evening covered in flour as I made 25 baguettes, 9 decorative bread loaves and a bread turkey for the kid's table.

It's a bit tricky to bake bread the evening before an event, as baguettes are a 'same-day' kind of loaf. To try to keep the bread as fresh and crisp on Saturday, I par-baked everything on Friday, then finished it all in the oven on Saturday afternoon. I also used a slow rising, wetter sourdough recipe which bakes into a chewy, crusty baguette. As an extra little surprise, I also made Herb Butter with fresh Outrageous Edibles sage, three different kinds of thyme and rosemary that have been thriving in my kitchen garden all summer. I'm sure it was a nice treat for the herbs to come back to their first home, now enrobed in rich, creamery butter.

I arrived in the late afternoon with my carbo-load of bread and was happy to be whisked away by Jesse to try his craft beers created especially for the feast. I actually got watch Jesse make the IPA, so that one has a special place in my heart (mmm, hoppy). The hand-carved pumpkin keg taps Jesse makes each year are awesome, I want a set on my deck at home.

 

My buddy Guy, the Island Grillbilly, was up in the wee hours of the morning prepping another addition to the Thankgiving feast, an entire pig slow roasted over a bed of coals throughout the day. This Thanksgiving pig was given cherry tomato 'eyes', grown from plants in the greenhouse right behind Guy in this picture. To learn more about the art of whole beast roasting, read my post about my first pig roast experience here.

 

Next to the charcoal pit was another over-the-top cooking station, deep-frying four Cajun spiced turkeys. The aroma coming out of these bubbling pots of oil was absolutely mouth-watering, and along with wisps of juicy roast pork smoke wafting in the air, Jesse's entire farm was Thanksgiving-scented by the time guest began arriving with their own contributions to the feast.

Guy had asked if I would help carve the pig, as the pig roast I assisted with with this summer helped me learn my way around carving and serving of all those different beautiful cuts of meat that come from one pig.

While the gentlemen carved the four deep-fried cajun-spiced turkeys and cut the roasted pig down into sections, I sliced up beautiful pork loins, tender haunches, juicy ribs, and even thick, delicious sides of bacon. My friend Jake stopped by as I was carving the bacon to confirm exactly where on the serving platter it was going to end up so he could get some. I love my foodie friends.

Then it was time to feast with almost 150 awesome friends and locals. And feast we most certainly did!

The tables were literally groaning with local food, made with love and care to be enjoyed with friends. Aside from being delicious, it was also very soul satisfying to really share a meal with so many people.

A Thanksgiving party for this many people even comes with entertainment, and we were treated to live music from two great bands throughout the evening. The special beers Jesse crafted for the evening were enjoyed by all, and a bonfire was lit outside the greenhouse (lit with deep-fried turkey oil, I might add!).

If Thanksgiving is supposed to be all about being grateful for the harvest, our friends and family, and wherever we call home, I can't think of a better way to bring it all together than that greenhouse filled with great local food, laughing friends both new and old, and a west coast spirit that has me completely under its spell.

Thank you for sharing another amazing holiday with us this year, Jesse and Colanne, as well as everyone who attended and brought such great food with you. I love having friends who insist that Thanksgiving feasting and celebration occur on an epic scale. You're my kind of people.

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I was SO glad to have been a part of it all this year - your blog truly captures it well!!!!

Just for clarity, You probably don't know that the four cajan turkeys were injected with my spicy recipe, for two days, before the event - by myself and Jesse. I was taught this style of turkeyism from a friend from Texas, in Alaska, 20 years ago....funny to see deep frying getting retro. My son Michael came up from Victoria and we cooked them. Thanks to Guy for carving them up, you are awesome. P.S. Amazing bread. P.P.S. I wish the lights would have been on so we could see a picture of My Band: CUSTOM TRIP

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