Thanksgiving

What to Do to Start Prepping for Thanksgiving Now—a Few Weeks Ahead

Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away. We repeat: Thanksgiving is a few weeks away! To help out with the most labor intensive, holiest of cooking holidays, we're giving you a Thanksgiving prep list, starting today. We'll let you know what you can make (and freeze!) 3 weeks, 2 weeks, and 1 week ahead.

And while, yes, a lot of Thanksgiving dishes will last in the freezer for several months, we're not going to include them all in one post. Instead, we're breaking them up into groups, divided by similar ingredient or technique. This week: cranberry sauce (just because), stock, gravy, and soup.

The key to a stress-less Thanksgiving? Divide and conquer.


cranberry sauce

This is easy: Let the cranberry sauce cool completely, then place into freezer bags, the size of which will depend on the amount of sauce you have. Cranberry sauce will keep up to 2 months, which makes 4 weeks practically seem like a blink of an eye.


stock

You know what's annoying? Realizing a recipe that calls for a cup of vegetable, chicken, or turkey stock and then remembering how easy it would have been to make and freeze any of these ahead of time.

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We have recipes (or rather, Not Recipes) on the site for making vegetable and chicken stocks, but making turkey stock isn't all that much different: Do as you would for chicken stock, except instead of browning chicken in oil, you're going to want to roast about 3 1/2 pounds of turkey wings at 450° F until golden brown, about 40 to 50 minutes. Discard any fat on the baking sheet and transfer the wings to a stockpot, add your aromatics, water, and any other seasonings (a splash of wine, perhaps!) and simmer for about 4 hours. Strain and let cool.

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Top Comment:
“proof-read your first sentence - "Thanksgiving is just 4 weeks again." ... I feel like there should be an "away" somewhere? :)”
— paczryk
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For any kind of stock, you'll want to store it in heavy freezer bags or plastic containers in 1/2-, 1-, and 2-cup portions. That way, you can take exactly how much you need when you need it. To store liquids, it's often easier to place the full bags on a sheet tray, let freeze, and then reorganize in once fully frozen.


gravy

The good news: You can take that turkey stock you made, turn it into gravy, and check two things off your list. While flour- or roux-based gravies (like this) will freeze for up to 4 months, cream- or milk-based gravies (like this) will separate when thawed. Since this changes the gravy's texture, we don't recommend freezing those in advance.

To freeze a flour- or roux-based gravy, let the gravy cool, then store in freezer bags. Thaw in the refrigerator. If, when reheating, the gravy is too thin, whisk in a teaspoon of cornstarch or rice flour while stirring.


soup

There are soups that freeze well and soups that don't. The latter include those with lots of dairy (the dairy might separate) and seafood (the flavor can turn a bit ick). It also goes without saying that you should freeze soups without their toppings: Save the swirl of pesto and the crumbled bacon (and even the cooked pasta) for later.

But the list of soups that do freeze well includes (thankfully!) some ideal Thanksgiving options, like broth-based soups and puréed soups that are light on the dairy. And if a puréed soup does separate, the good news is you can put it back together again by just placing it into a blender.

To freeze, let soup cool completely before placing it into heavy freezer bags, only filling about 3/4 of the way. It will keep for 2 to 3 months.

What do you make a few weeks ahead for Thanksgiving? Let us know in the comments below!

9 Comments

Kathleen M. October 27, 2016
Now's the time to dry-roast an "extra pantry supply" of all those whole raw nuts -- almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts [filberts], pecans, pistachios [careful! they burn quickly], as well as seeds like sesame and pepita. If, like me, you travel for the feast -- these pack well and transform "your turn" in the kitchen into Wow Time. [Log on to chocolate and zucchini for a star-turn recipe for Egyptian Dukkah.]
 
Sharon B. October 27, 2016
Since it takes 3 weeks for my Cranberry Liqueur to mature, this is the ideal time to make it.
 
Brenda S. October 28, 2016
Oooh, yummy! I have a big bottle of cranberry vodka steeping (and just started stocking up on [hoarding] cranberries). I would love the recipe for this - would you share?
 
Sharon B. October 28, 2016
I don't think I can share the recipe here. It came from a magazine; Cooking Light, I think. In many ways it is like a cranberry infused vodka.
 
Brenda S. October 28, 2016
found it, thanks! can't wait.
 
AntoniaJames October 27, 2016
It would be so nice to see a round-up of good fall dinners that can be doubled and frozen for meals in the busy weeks ahead (not just on Thanksgiving Day). In the spirit of respect and helpfulness, I have just added a "recipe" for peace of mind, expanding on an idea I shared here 3 years ago in an article on advance prep for Thanksgiving. Here is the recipe https://food52.com/recipes/64818-recipe-for-peace-of-mind-thanksgiving-week , which I hope will provide a catalyst for a feature here on recipes to double and freeze. I respectfully suggest that such an aggregation piece would be quite helpful to community members who would like to free up their evenings during the week leading up to Thanksgiving by having dinners for those nights already prepared (within the next week or two). Thank you. ;o)
 
Sal L. October 25, 2016
Consider making the stuffing ahead of time and freezing it. I pack it into 1 gallon freezer bags, and press it down so that it is about 1 - 1 1/2 inches thick. The day before Thanksgiving I place the frozen stuffing in the refrigerator and it easily defrosts by the morning of Thanksgiving, ready to be baked.
 
paczryk October 25, 2016
proof-read your first sentence - "Thanksgiving is just 4 weeks again." ... I feel like there should be an "away" somewhere? :)
 
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Riddley G. October 25, 2016
Ah, yes! Thank you so much for being vigilant. Even with many eyes looking at a story, some things slip by. Thank you again!