One of our friends, K, who lives about 45 minutes south of Umeå, and so nearly 4 hours south of us, had decided she wanted to host a sit down dinner for New Year's Eve. She first considered a potluck, so that no one person would be overburdened with cooking. However, reading my friends' reports on their Thanksgiving dinners had me wanting to cook a traditional Turkey dinner just like I grew up with. When I suggested this she was enthusiastic, since she has seen them on TV, but never had a chance to try it. I couldn't do exactly what my family always did, since we normally roasted a twenty pound bird (one at Thanksgiving, and one at Christmas), and the largest I could find in the grocery store here was 5 kg. Therefore I bought two of them.
Since I would be cooking in someone else's kitchen a long way from home I did as much pre-cooking in advance as I could manage. I baked bread for the stuffing on the 27th so that it would have a bit of time to dry out before putting it in the birds, which I moved to the fridge to start thawing that afternoon. On the 29th I started the piecrust dough. This turned out to be the best crust I have made. My grandmother used to make hers with lard and (at least when doing a large batch, like for pasties) she would beat an egg with a spoon full of vinegar and enough water to make one cup of liquid for the dough. However, whilst that results in a good texture, I really don't like the flavour, since I don't like the taste of any pork products and I truly hate the smell and taste of vinegar. Therefor I used butter, as I always do (1 cup butter to 3 cups flour), but this time I used egg, lemon juice and water for the liquid, and it came out perfectly. I also started the refrigerator roll dough, browned up a mixture of ground moose meat, oats, egg and spices to be used for the stuffing, and mixed the spices with sugar for apple pie that day.
The next morning we packed up everything, and got on the road in the early afternoon, arriving at our destination at a good time to start baking the pies. We had brought with us our cool tool for peeling, coring, and slicing apples with an easy crank of a handle, and K. had gotten one for Christmas, so it took pretty much no time at all to get the apple pie ready, with two people slicing, me rolling out the dough, and a fourth nicely arranging the sliced fruit into the shell. I always do my apple pie the way my Aunt taught me—with the sliced apples piled up a good 4 inches higher than the top of the pie plate. This results in a nice domed crust, and the fruit cooks down to level with the rim during baking.
The pumpkin pie filling had been pre-cooked back in October, when the local store actually carried pumpkins (something that doesn’t usually happen in Sweden)—I had cut it up and roasted it then, and mashed the result and froze it. So on the day I needed only combine it with milk, cream, eggs, and spices. I had considered baking the rolls that evening, too. However, when I had consulted Google about turkey roasting times it was convinced that two small birds take way less time than one large one of the same mass. Therefore I decided to do the roll baking in the morning, before putting the turkey in the oven. (Can I just mention here how much I miss living in a house with two full sized ovens, so that one can bake rolls to be done at a similar time to the turkey, instead of hours in advance?)
Since I believed the estimates of timing I had read on line, I opted to sleep in on the 31st—instead of getting up to start the turkey around 06:00, I didn't even finish my morning sit ups till nearly 08:00, which meant I had the rolls out of the oven and the birds in by 09:30. This turned out to be too late for our originally planned eating time of 14:00. However, this also turned out to be a good thing, since the weather had turned crappy—with lots of rain and melting and very icy roads, so some of the guests were later to arrive than they had planned, and our actual meal start time of 15:15 turned out to be perfect for them. Even so, if I ever do two birds at one time again I will do the 06:00 start, as it will be easier to relax during the process.
While the birds baked we did the mashed potatoes and fruit salad (read: a large variety of fruit + whipped cream). I skipped the almonds in the fruit salad this year due to a nut allergic person. However, that person was also a vegetarian, so I left the nuts in the stuffing, which consisted of the above mentioned home baked bread, cooked moose meat etc., some quinoa, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts, and more herbs and more spices. We cooked most of the stuffing inside of the birds, and the overflow got put into the oven with milk poured over it when the turkey came out. This worked out well, since some of the vegetarians present will eat wild game, but not store bought meat, so they could try that version of the stuffing.
In addition to what I cooked a few of the other guests (there were 26 of us for that meal) brought vegetable side dishes. All of my life when guests asked my mother "what can I bring" for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, she would give them the list of what we are making and suggest that they bring a vegetable side dish. I do not remember one time when the vegetable side dish turned out to be something I was interested in eating. This time was no exception, since it had mushrooms in it. Sigh. There are ever so many vegetables I like, yet people seem to think that holidays are a time to combine the few I don't care for in new and interesting ways. It is not easy being fussy.
The nicest thing about doing the turkey dinner was that it meant that we ate early enough that I actually got to eat, too! I get so tired of attending SCA events where the feast isn't served until my weird appetite has turned itself off for the evening and I am just not interested in food at all. It was nice to be able to eat with everyone else for a change. I even tried a small bit of the turkey, even if is store bought meat, and, of course, I ate the gravy. I love making gravy, and think I make a very tasty one.
After that meal we cleaned up a bit and spent an hour or so with people chatting in small groups. Then our hosts passed out pieces of paper to everyone, with a short character description on it, and we had a( surprise mini-LARP )
After the game we did some SCA dancing, and then there was another pot-luck meal (but that one was late enough that I didn't eat anything), followed by going outside to shoot off rockets for midnight. I considered going to bed after that, since I was tired, but then they started singing, so I couldn't resist staying away and enjoying the singing, so I didn't actually get to bed till almost 03:00. However, lord_kjar
and C didn't come in till 05:00—they sat up with a couple of the guests who had arranged a ride home from another friend who was working night shift and could pick them up on the way home from work. Pretty much everyone else stayed the night—the advantage of our hosts having a large house—there is room enough for everyone.
I had started boiling the turkey bones to make a soup the night before, and then turned it off and put it into the cellar to keep cool sometime in the late evening. Then the next morning I warmed it up enough to separate out the bones from the liquid and bagged the stock up to be frozen. Our hosts enjoy cooking, and they said they would happily make use of the stock later, since we wouldn't be heading home for a few more days, and therefore didn't want to bring it with us.
We had planned on heading over to another friend's house to spend the afternoon with him, but we got a late start at leaving K's house, in part because I was still dealing with turkey stuff, but also because lord_kjar
was helping them deal with their heating unit, which was having issues. lord_kjar
grew up with the same sort of pellet-burning heater, so he knew some things one can do with them. Hopefully the repairs they did worked—one does not want the heat in a house to go out in the middle the winter—frozen pipes are a very expensive problem, and best avoided.
We did eventually make it to D's house a bit after 15:00, which didn't leave as much time as I might have liked to hang out with him, but it was long enough for me to try on his re-enactment costume
, for he and lord_kjar
to play violin, and to just hang out and chat for a bit. Then he had to go meet some friends for dinner, so he walked us to a Chinese restaurant (since the Indian one next door, which had been our first choice, was closed), and we three had a lovely dinner and conversation, followed by a nice long walk (the warm weather had, by then, been going on long enough that the ice had completely melted from the sidewalks, so it was, finally, easy walking), and then we went to a grocery store to pick up stuff for breakfast the next morning. This got us to late enough that we could meet our friend LH at the hospital where she works just as she got off of duty, and then we went back to her place, where we cooked some scones and whipped cream to serve with the jam we had bought (I didn't eat any that night, of course, but it made a lovey breakfast the next morning.
We spent both that night and Friday night at her place, just relaxing and hanging out. lord_kjar
had had a slight cough for weeks, but around this time it got much worse and he wound up with a fever, too, so he was really content to just relax and be social. I went out each day for a walk, because she lives in a pretty area in the countryside north of Umeå. He was still feeling under the weather on Saturday, so C and I did most of the driving back to Luleå, letting him drive only for the last 40 kilometres, when he was feeling rested, and we were tired.
She drove as far as Skellefteå, where stopped by lord_kjar
's brother's house exactly on time to be invited to dinner (and early enough that I could eat, too!), and I drove from there north.
We got home before 21:00 on Saturday, with enough energy left to put everything away, do yoga and play dulcimer before going to bed. Sunday we spent a good hour shovelling snow. While it warned up so much in Umeå that most of their snow melted from the rain and huge swaths of grass was showing (looked rather like late March), up here it warmed up only enough to put a bit of a crust onto the snow, and there was new snow, too. This meant we had a bit more than a decimetre of snow on the driveway, which had a thin crunchy crust, and it held together very well. This meant we could slide the shovel under, break it up, pick up chunks of it, and then stack them on top of what was already on the shovel, before pushing it over to an appropriate place to pile it. That hour was long enough for C. and I to clear one entry to the driveway and paths to both cars, but it took another 45 minutes the next day to finish the rest of the driveway and parking area. I love winter—it comes with a built-in work out plan.lord_kjar
had also scheduled Monday to be a vacation day, so he didn't have to go into work, but I hadn't, so I had planned to go in. However, when I started walking in Monday morning I realized that the only reason I was going in was to get some exercise, and that I could just as easily work from home, so instead of walking to work I turned the other direction, to enjoy the pretty moon in the western sky, and did a short loop before heading home and settling into a day with the computer being useful.
Monday evening C started coughing, and I noticed that my lymph nodes were swollen. Not wanting to experience the bad cough that lord_kjar
hadn't yet completely gotten over, I decided that the best defence is a good offense, and we turned on the sauna and cooked ourselves for a while. I did my yoga in the sauna as it heated, then relaxed, and went to bed straight after getting out (they sat in the sauna longer, as they hadn't been in there during yoga (it is a small sauna)), and I was asleep by 21:00. I slept under two thick feather doonas, and between their warmth, having pre-heated my body in the sauna, and my immune system doing battle with little invaders, I sweat fairly heavily all night long, which was probably a good thing, since I woke up at 06:00 feeling a fair bit better (if still a bit tender in the lymph nodes). So I got up, tossed my pillow cases and doona cover into the laundry (leaving the other doonas and bottom sheet on the bed since they were still sleeping, not having gone to bed themselves till midnight) and did a bit of sewing and went for a walk. Then I crawled back in bed and took a bit of a nap before we all got up and had breakfast together.
After breakfast he and I were motivated enough to build a stand for the moraharpa, so now both the cello and the moraharpa can stand up on display, ready to use at a moment's notice. We have also worked on sewing projects, and I managed to get caught up on some computer stuff. Now it is time to do yoga and get to bed—I should actually go into the office tomorrow to see if the department head is back from holiday—I need his signature on the form to get reading glasses, and my appointment for that is Thursday.