My friends have this tradition, that I had no idea was a thing that lots of people do until this year, called Friendsgiving.
It is a pretty simple concept: you gather up your friends, have people to sign up to bring things, eat food, play games and celebrate. You celebrate being thankful with the people who, while they aren’t family, are some of your favorite people on the planet.
There is something about turkey, stuffing, and pie that brings people together. And get together we did. My group of friends sounds like it could be the punch line to a joke: What do you get when you gather a handful of technology consultants, a lawyer, a designer, a medical technician, a lobbyist, a medical researcher, a couple of teachers, a Groupon employee…
You get 23 people. A mix of people from two groups of friends that merged together when a couple of straight guys traded numbers in the bathroom at Wrigley Field. And have been friends ever since. (And next fall the two halves will be united by a marriage. Let’s call it fate).
You get an epic feast.
You get beer pong and dance offs.
You get laughs.
You see how damned lucky you are. Just how much you have to be thankful for.
Because one of them insists that the next time I need to use an epi-pen, it is going to be his job. Because one of them shares your shoe size and love of footwear. Because one of them gets endlessly harassed about that one party 5 years ago… Because one of them loves to bake almost as much as me.
Because who else is going to listen to your stories of gentleman callers? Or tease you about being a robot? Or remind you just how crazy it is to change from a pair of 5″ stilettos to a pair of 3.5″ pumps because your feet hurt and you need sensible shoes?
Just them. My pretty awesome friends.
It was an amazing evening. I had a blast.
But in the preparations, there was just one problem. All these people know I write a food blog. And they are expecting something amazing.
So, I had to open with a bang. Show off during dinner and still have a stand-out dessert.
I made Hot Ginger Apple Rum Punch, Parsnip, Apple & Sage stuffing, Mushroom Stuffing and Cranberry Upside down cake. in 3.5 hours. Because I am a show-off. And I wanted to make sure that there was enough food there that I wasn’t stuck with turkey and plain mashed potatoes.
I will get the rest of those items posted here sometime soon, but the first recipe I want to share with you is the one for the punch (it was the most requested recipe at the party). It was my opening bang, A gallon was gone in half an hour, and it might just be my new signature drink.
- 10 ounces (300 grams) of ginger (a piece about the size of a woman’s palm), washed
- 10 1/2 cups (2L) water
- Juice from 6 large lemons
- 6 1/2 cups (1.5L) Fresh apple cider (cloudy apple juice, NOT spiced cider)
- 2 cups (480 mL) dark rum*
- ~1/4 cup (35 mL) honey,
- Slice the ginger with the skin on and add to a large pot with the water.
- Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
- Strain the water through a sieve and return to the pot. Discard the ginger.
- Add the lemon juice, apple cider and honey. (I dont measure it, just hold it above the pot, squeeze and circle around the pot 4 times).
- Simmer for another 15-20 minutes. You want to get your punch good and hot. Taste it. It should only be slightly sweet. If it is too tart, go ahead and add a smidge more honey.
- Remove from the heat and either add the rum (and apple spirits, if using). Place in a punch bowl (or cool looking jug for transport to a party). Serve as promptly as possible, to keep the alcohol from evaporating and the punch from getting cold.
- You could also divide up the spirits into 12 glasses and top with even amounts of the apple, lemon, ginger mixture if you want to do individual servings.
*You can also replace half of the rum with an apple spirit such as Apple Jack or Calvados – I used Apple Jack when I served this to my friends.