Preparing your first kosher Thanksgiving is far from impossible, but it does take some strategizing in terms of both shopping and cooking. Along with some easily avoided problems associated with preparing a kosher turkey, you’ll need to scrutinize your recipes in order to eliminate prohibited foods, such as dairy and shellfish.
There are three main differences between kosher and non-kosher turkeys you’ll need to keep in mind in terms of preparation.
- Extra feathers. Jewish law forbids scalding for feather removal during processing, which means you might need to do a little extra plucking of the larger ones before roasting your bird. Smaller feathers tend to disintegrate in the oven anyway.
- No giblet bag. Because organ meats are handled differently under kosher law, most kosher turkeys don’t include the traditional giblet bag. But that doesn’t mean your gravy needs to be bland! You can either use the included neck for flavoring or buy separately-processed kosher giblets.
- Excess saltiness. Kosher birds are packed in salt during processing in order to remove the blood. Although they are then rinsed with water, some turkeys still end up being saltier than non-kosher versions. If you normally brine or heavily season the bird prior to cooking, it’s best to fry a small portion and taste it first. It may already be salty — and moist — enough to forgo any brining or extra salt. Consider using Israeli spices instead, such as a za’atar blend, which you can find in Middle Eastern Markets.
Because kosher laws prohibit having dairy with a meal containing meat, seeking out pareve (neutral) dishes. One obvious solution for foods like mashed potatoes and yam casserole is to use ingredients such as almond milk or vegetable spread. In addition, you can baste the turkey with chicken fat instead of butter.
Pareve desserts can be a bit challenging because baking is a more precise science. For a pareve pumpkin pie, the trick to replacing evaporated milk for thickness is to use soy milk and either additional soy milk powder or another vegan thickener, such as agar flakes. Similarly, if you use a non-butter pecan pie recipe, take the time to cook the filling a bit longer than you would with the butter version to deepen the flavor and boost thickness.
Of course, kugels are always a great way to provide sweets for a kosher Thanksgiving! Make a noodle-apple-cranberry version in honor of the fall harvest, making sure to use margarine instead of butter, and don’t skimp on the cinnamon and sugar!
Here are a couple of great recipes to get you started on your kosher Thanksgiving spread.
Challah Chestnut Stuffing
recipe by Tori Avey
- 1 cup pre-shelled roasted chestnuts or ¾ lb. chestnuts in shell
- ¼ cup schmaltz or margarine
- 8 oz. sliced white mushrooms
- 1 onion, minced
- 2 cups celery diced
- 1 cup carrots diced
- ½ curly leaf parsley, minced
- 2 tbs. fresh sage minced
- 1 tbs. fresh thyme leaves, minced
- 1 tsp. fresh marjoram, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 medium loaf dairy-free challah, cubed
- 4 eggs, beaten
Get started by chopping the chestnuts into bits and place them in a bowl, then preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a skillet, melt 2 tbs. schmaltz or margarine over medium heat. Spread the mushrooms in the pan, sprinkle them with salt and pepper and turn up the heat. Let the mushrooms sear without stirring. After about two minutes, stir the mushrooms for two to three minutes or until they are golden brown. Set them aside in a bowl.
Return the skillet to the stove and melt 2 tbs. schmaltz or margarine. Sauté the onion until it softens, then add the celery, carrots, garlic and chopped chestnuts. Sauté for another five minutes until the veggies start to brown. Stir in the mushrooms, parsley, and herbs.
Pour in 3 cups of chicken or veggie broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then remove the broth from the stove and let it cool for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, spread the challah cubes in a shallow pan and place it in the pre-heated oven. Toast for four to five minutes. Now transfer the toasted challah to a large bowl. Beat the eggs in a small bowl and then pour over the challah, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the broth mixture and mix thoroughly.
Use the stuffing to stuff a 10-16 lb. bird or bake separately in a 9x13 baking dish at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
No-Bake Pumpkin Pie
recipe by Eden Foods
- 2 cups unsweetened pumpkin puree
- 1 ¼ cups vanilla soy milk
- ¼ cup boiling water
- 3 tbs. agar flakes
- 2/3 cups organic maple syrup
- ¼ tsp. sea salt
- ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. ground cloves
- ½ tsp. ground ginger
- 1 pre-baked pie crust
Soak the agar flakes in 1/4 cup boiling water for 20 minutes. Now, combine soy milk, maple syrup and dissolved agar in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer until the agar has completely melted, about three to four minutes. Then add the pumpkin, salt and spices.
Blend well in a food processor before pouring the mixture into your pie crust, and allow to set at room temperature until firm, about 2 hours. Alternatively, you can refrigerate the pie for an hour.