Prepare a Natural and Organic Thanksgiving Dinner

turkey on thanksgiving dinner

( Thanksgiving is coming up so fast this year! It’s just around the corner, so we thought we’d look at ways for Vancouverites to make it a fun, family experience. There are three key components to any Thanksgiving meal: turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Here, we look at the best local sources for the key ingredients, and how to make your own rather than buy packaged. You’ll have a delicious home-cooked meal with a low carbon footprint and less garbage to take out the next day!

Organic/Natural Turkey

You may have seen turkeys labelled “organic” and “natural” and wondered what the difference is. Here’s what those labels really mean.

  • Organic: This is the only claim that’s strictly regulated. If you see a bird marked “organic,” you can be sure that it was raised in a free range environment, it has not been given antibiotics, and it had been fed a vegetarian diet that does not include pesticides.

    Lower Mainland sources: Ladybug Manor (available at Jackson’s Meats), Rossdown Farms (available at Granville Island Public Market ), Sleeping Mountain Organic Farms (available at The Honest Butcher).

  • Natural: “Natural” can mean a range of things. All turkeys sold in Canada are hormone-free and free run (not kept in cages, but confined to barns), whether marked natural or not. But natural may mean the turkey is also antibiotic-free, free range (allowed access to the outdoors), fed a vegetarian diet, or some combination of these. Some natural turkeys are essentially organic, but from suppliers that do not have organic certification. You should read the label, ask the butcher, or contact the company to find out exactly what their definition of natural means.

    Lower Mainland sources: Two Rivers Specialty Meats (available at Greens and through SPUD), JD farms (check their website for the many retail options).

Other Vancouver stores that carry organic and natural turkeys include Choices, Drive Organics, the East End Food Co-op, IGA, Stong’s, West Valley Market, and Whole Foods. Some of these require you to order your turkey in advance, so you might not be able to get one for Thanksgiving, but keep them in mind for Christmas!

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce that comes in a tin is just not the same as the real thing made from scratch, and it’s surprisingly easy to make. Plus, Richmond is a major hub of cranberry production, so you can have local cranberries for your table without all the processing - and no cans to throw away. Talk about eating clean!

It’s really very simple to make cranberry sauce. All you need is four cups of cranberries, 1 cup of orange juice or water, and 1 cup of sugar. Bring the liquid and sugar to a boil to melt the sugar, then add the cranberries. Bring back up to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the cranberries start to pop, or until it reaches the thickness you like.

Want something a little more original? Check out this recipe for Persimmon Cranberry Compote.

If you really want to celebrate local cranberries, you can check out the 16th Annual Fort Langley Cranberry Festival on Saturday, October 8.

Pumpkin Pie

Sure, you could head over to the grocery store and pick up a pre-made pumpkin pie or a can of pumpkin puree. But where’s the fun in that? Especially when the Lower Mainland has a ton of u-pick pumpkin patches that provide not just the pumpkin, but an afternoon of fun for the whole family!

PumpkinPatchesAndMore.Org has a full listing of pumpkin patches in BC. Most farms have pumpkin patches you can explore in addition to just picking your pumpkin. Some also offer corn mazes, hay rides, and petting zoos.

Once you’ve got your pumpkin, how do you turn it into a pie? It’s actually almost as easy as making the pie from canned puree. You can make your pumpkin into pumpkin puree by baking or boiling. No matter which you choose, start by cutting the pumpkin in half and removing the stringy insides and seeds. Don’t forget to save the pumpkin seeds for roasting!

  • To bake, place the halves face down in a shallow baking dish and cover with foil, then bake at 375 for about 1.5 hours. Let cool, then peel off the rind and mash.
  • To boil, peel the pumpkin, then cut into 1-inch square cubes and boil for about 15 minutes or until tender. Let cool and mash.

Once you’ve made your pumpkin puree, you can use your favourite pumpkin pie recipe, replacing the canned puree with your delicious fresh pumpkin! You can make your puree up to three days ahead and keep it in the fridge.

There you have it! A local, natural Thanksgiving dinner that’s fun for the whole family.

Tell us: What special Thanksgiving traditions do you celebrate in your home?

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HealthCastle, founded in 1997, is the largest online nutrition community run by Registered Dietitians. Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or dietitian. Information and statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.