Susan Campbell’s favorite Thanksgiving memory sounds like something out of a great family comedy. The Alpharetta, Ga., Shipt shopper was celebrating with her family in a brand new house. So new, that parts of it were unfinished.
Not to be deterred, they used the nice, new kitchen and decorated the tables with fruit and greenery and applied a nice carpet. Susan popped the turkey in the brand new oven and didn’t think about it until three hours later, when she was ready to take it out to serve.
The turkey wasn’t cooked. She had turned on the self-cleaning mode by accident which prevents the oven from heating up.
Now that the family would be staying a bit later than normal to enjoy Thanksgiving turkey, everyone decided to spend the night. They found areas to get comfy and stayed over.
“Everybody crashed and had a sleepover that night and it was actually really fun, even though it started with a mistake,” Susan said.
But Susan is a pro, and has been hosting Thanksgiving for about 20 people for the past 25 years. There could be a bit of excitement, though – as one of her children is expecting a baby any day now. If that ends up happening, Thanksgiving will be moved to their place.
There’s always football on the TV and plenty of activity in the kitchen and outside. Her husband smokes the turkey, if the weather cooperates, to leave more space in the kitchen for the other goodies created.
Susan said they have a traditional Southern Thanksgiving of cornbread dressing made with walnuts, pecans or cranberries, different vegetable sides like yellow squash and her great-grandmother’s green bean casserole and homemade bread or dough for rolls.
One of her children brings some fruit salad, and this year she may add a kale salad for something fresh. However, her husband doesn’t eat many vegetables, so so an onion au gratin is made just for him. She supports a friend’s baking business by ordering homemade baked goods from her.
But her absolute favorite thing to make is cranberry sauce. She eats them all year long, but loves creating the sauce, because it’s simple and homemade. She’s hated the canned stuff since she was in high school, and that’s when the homemade sauce was born.
“Bleh, I started early on rejecting the canned and making my own. Ew. Why would you serve that? It’s so easy to make the good stuff. It’s super easy,” Susan said. “They are these beautiful, little cranberry-colored jewels when it’s done.”
Susan Campbell’s Homemade Cranberry Sauce
1 12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
I cup liquid (all water, or half orange juice/half water)
1/2 tsp. almond extract
zest of one orange
a few drops of orange oil if you didn’t use orange juice (optional but worth it)
Rinse and sort the cranberries and remove any stems or mushy cranberries. Place all ingredients in a heavy sauce pan and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to simmer the sauce for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Sauce will thicken as it cools. Refrigerate.
Hints: Cranberries start popping when heated in the pan, so be careful and wear an apron to prevent staining.
The sauce can be made and refrigerated days before Thanksgiving. Susan’s never needed more than one bag of cranberries, but she has a spare bag to use throughout the year.
She suggests using the Microplane citrus zester, because it gets just the very edge of the orange and not any of the white flesh. You can use the squeezed juice as part of the liquid mixture.