Regional Traditions and a Giveaway

By Jane/Susannah/Sadie, who’s still not sick of turkey on the last day of November…

Thankful for Our Readers Giveaway: I’m giving away a copy of Yarned and Dangerous, book 1 of the Tangled Web Mysteries. Leave a comment below for a chance to win.

Sunset view from my cabin

I spent this past Thanksgiving, as I have most every Thanksgiving for the last twenty years, in Northern New York State , where I have rustic (don’t get jealous–I mean it when I say rustic) but comfortable cabin on a lake. On Thanksgiving day, my husband, son, and I trek out through the woods to, well, Grandmother’s house. Or at least my son’s grandmother, my mom.

Like most families, we have our traditional foods to go with the turkey (not all of which everyone actually enjoys): winter squash (usually Hubbard), sage dressing, green bean casserole, cranberry relish (click here for a recipe), crumb-topped apple pie, and of course pumpkin pie. I will leave it to you to figure out which thing on this list is almost universally disliked in the family, but which we have every year anyway because that’s the way it’s done.

But there are certain regional delicacies we have at every gathering, not just Thanksgiving: cheese curds and Croghan bologna (pronounce that “cro-gun bull-o-nee,” please). I would venture to say that most every family, and certainly any with roots deeper than three generations, in the North Country also has these items as appetizers before the main meal on special days.

So what’s a cheese curd? The North Country has a lot of cows and a lot of dairy farms, which means we make cheese. The curds are a byproduct of cheesemaking, and have a flavor somewhere between mozzarella and a mild cheddar, depending on what cheese they’re a byproduct of. When fresh, which is really the best way to eat them, these little misshapen lumps squeak when you chew them. They are usually eaten cold, but they can also occasionally be breaded and deep fried, or made into the French-Canadian, becoming-sorta-trendy treat poutine–french fries and cheese curds covered in hot gravy. Although most people don’t make poutine at home. It’s easier to order out.

Curds and Croghan on a Grinch-colored plate

Now, for the Croghan bologna. This is a type of ring bologna–more of a sausage, really–which has been manufactured in the tiny town of Croghan, NY at the Croghan Meat Market (click here for more information and for photos) for more than a hundred years. The recipe, which came with the market’s founder, Fred Hunziker, from Switzerland, is a closely guarded secret. This is always eaten cold, sliced into rounds about a quarter of an inch thick, sometimes on a cracker (it fits perfectly on a Ritz), or sometimes topped with a cheese curd or a bit of mustard. I suppose some people might heat it up for breakfast, or make it into a sandwich, but in general that’s a no-no.

If it’s Grade B, it’s for me!

The breakfast of choice for the day after Thanksgiving, or Christmas or Easter morning, is pancakes with local maple syrup. In the North Country, most of us like the dark syrup rather than the lighter, more-desirable-other-places amber. I don’t know that I have a particularly discriminating palate, but I can tell the difference between North Country syrup and Vermont. Sorry, Vermont, but I likes what I knows, and my syrup of choice will always be from New York.

For a chance to win a copy of YARNED AND DANGEROUS, leave a comment below, telling us about your favorite regional foods. If you don’t have any, tell us what you think that hated food item is that I reference in paragraph 4, above. You don’t have to be right to win, LOL!


72 Thoughts

      1. I will definitely check out the Crogan online! Thank you, Susannah. and yes, ployes are like pancakes, but you eat them rolled up with your fingers, although some do eat them like pancakes with syrup. Regional thing. We have them with Chicken Stew.

  1. I have spent the last three (or is it four?) Thanksgivings in Ireland, not because I hate Thankgiving, but because neither my husband nor I have many relatives, and those we do have live far away, and I’m a firm believer in shared feasts. So we leave the country altogther.

    Turkey here in Ireland is reserved for Christmas, and those that I’ve seen have been far smaller than the 25-pound monsters in American stores.

    But there is one food I do hate. When I was growing up we had a close family friend (a kind of surrogate grandfather) who attended holiday meals with us. He always requested creamed onions. I couldn’t stand the things!

    1. Ireland. Sigh. Someday I WILL get there. And creamed onions…is that made with those little pearl onions? I don’t care for those. They feel a little slimy to me. One great thing about being the boss of your own table means you never have to eat them again!

  2. So, you’re not into cheese curds? Even though I live in Amish country, I have never had cheese curds, and they do have them here!
    Thank you for the book giveaway. I love new series!

    1. I like cheese curds! The North Country also has a significant Amish community. And I hope you get to try the series.

  3. I am quite grateful that my family’s Thanksgiving food traditions do not include sweet potatoes. I’ve never liked them. I’ve spent a good number of Thanksgiving’s living outside the United States and the two big challenges in preparing a proper dinner have been getting fresh cranberries and pumpkin for the pie. Sushi is a perfectly nice starter for Thanksgiving in Japan.

  4. I live across the river from St. Louis and my favorite regional dish is Toasted Raviolis. Yummy, really good. I have never seen them anywhere else. Thanks for the chance.

  5. I love hearing about regional foods, Jane. Since I grew up in Southern California, my perfect comfort food is a warm tamale. I don’t have a drop of Latina blood in me, but tamales are, I think, my favorite regional food.

      1. Depends on how well the sauerkraut is washed and how much sage is used in the dressing.

  6. Maine has a lot of lobsters which I would rather have instead of turkey. I am not a fan of most of the foods served on Thanksgiving, especially green bean casserole! I also love the darker syrups on pancakes and have had some from Northern New York!

  7. Growing up, I always had gumbo as the first course for Thanksgiving. I don’t do that with my own family because we always seem to get the 25 lb monster turkey, but it’s what I cook on for Christmas. I cook a vat of seafood gumbo and it lasts until New Year’s!

  8. Yum! Thanks for this. I love hearing about people’s Thanksgiving meals. It’s a great way to connect & celebrate our commonalities & differences.

  9. I live in Texas. My favorite regional food is really a category—Tex-Mex. It’s different than authentic Mexican food that you get in Mexico, California, and New Mexico and it’s delish!!

  10. Love this, Jane! Bob and I had poutine for the first time when we were in Toronto for Bouchercon. And we loved it! I’m going with you all hate the green bean casserole. What a funny story and great post!

  11. I love real maple syrup. However, I’m the only one. The rest of my family prefers “syrup” – that maple-flavored sweet sugary sticky fake. I don’t get it.

    Being from Buffalo, I’d have to say my favorite regional food is wings – but that’s not something you’re likely to get at the Thanksgiving table. 🙂

    1. Well, maybe wings SHOULD be on a TG table. Someday I will get to the Anchor bar. It’s on my bucket list.

  12. The only regional food I am aware of is maple syrup. There is even a festival to celebrate the tapping and collecting of the sap. One of the items offered at the festival is a maple stir. A bowl of the processed maple syrup is placed in a bowl and using a spoon you stir it until it starts to form like a maple sugar.

    1. If it’s made from maple syrup, I love it! Have you ever had maple cream on buttered toast? I’m pretty sure that’s what they serve in heaven for breakfast.

  13. I love a good mystery, this sounds especially intriguing as I love yarn as well. And even though Garry and I are Canadians, we love American thanksgiving. Looking forward to reading this one.

    1. Thanks, Beth! I love Canada (my hometown is only about 20 miles from the border, and my cabin is even closer). Hope you have some fun yarn projects planned for the cold weather ahead of us.

  14. My family wasn’t always in favor of squash so I’m betting its that. Sage dressing- yum! Poutine? Wouldn’t have thought of that for Thanksgiving but my French Canadian relatives who are here in the US might. Growing up in Massachusetts, there are a lot of them. My grandmother(Nana) made creamed onions but used boiling onions and lots of cream sauce and bread crumbs on top. I still try to make them today but they don’t always come out as good as hers did.

  15. It is very interesting to read about regional favorites here, especially since I have not ever been to the Northeastern part of our country. We hope to make it there on vacation one of these years and I will definitely look for local maple syrup to bring home. We get real maple syrup at a grocery store here, but I know it is not the same as getting it fresh right there where the sugar maple trees live and thrive. This Thanksgiving we decided to forego the traditional meal and have beef brisket barbecue and all the fixings instead. Everyone enjoyed the meal and the leftovers were divided up evenly for another meal for each family. Your books sound like good cozy mystery reads…they are going in my queue at Amazon. Thanks for the contest!

    1. Your Thanksgiving change-up sounds delicious! Because it’s really about the family and friends of course. On Christmas, we don’t even have a big meal. We just have appetizers and desserts. Good luck!

  16. My favorite regional food is a type of pineapple only grown in Hawaii, does that count? For some reason, the pineapples grown there are sweeter and less tart and just melt in your mouth like nothing you can buy on the mainland. I’ve never been to Hawaii but after hearing this, I ordered two from the Dole plantation in Hawaii and had them shipped 2 day air (expensive but SO worth it!). If that doesn’t count, I also love grits…creamy, cheesey, yummy grits.

    1. Well now I’m intrigued about that pineapple. Mmmm, cheese grits are delicious–especially topped with some spicy shrimp and vegetables.

  17. Some of my favorite regional foods would have to be anything with sweet potato in the name, fried green tomatoes, and grits (yes I love it just about any way you serve it even fried) just to name a few.

    When we travel, we love to try regional foods. We have also learned never to assume you know what a dish is by it’s name. It’s always best to ask questions just to be sure.

    Thanks for the chance to win a copy of YARNED AND DANGEROUS!
    Kay – proud to be from ARKANSAS
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Isn’t that funny? I just heard from a friend in Arkansas today! All those Southern foods you mention sound yummy!

    1. Well, in its defense, Croghan bologna isn’t like bologna you get at the deli or in an Oscar Meyer package. It’s more like a Hickory Farms summer sausage, so if you like that, you might like the Croghan. But you have my permission to stick with pancakes and syrup!

    1. Oh, waffles! So delicious, especially when they’re crispy and loaded with butter and syrup 🙂 I would love to see Norway someday.

  18. I’m guessing the unpopular item is winter squash. In our family we use any excuse to make Watergate salad and have pecan pie. The only regional thing in Nebraska is probably prime rib, this being a beef state.

    1. Watergate salad! I haven’t had that in years. I think I have my mother-in-laws mold around here somewhere though…

    1. I love avocado in anything. I’ve recently discovered eating it with eggs–super delicious.

  19. My 2 favorite regional foods are the deep fried pork tenderloin sandwiches of the Midwest & Philly Cheese Steaks from Philadelphia.

    1. I will be in the Midwest next summer for a conference. I’m going to do my best to get one of those tenderloin sandwiches I’ve heard about. And a couple of years ago, we took spent a few days in Philly. We actually got cheese steaks from both Pat’s AND Geno’s, and did a taste test. Results were inconclusive!

  20. My favorite regional food is probably fried green tomatoes (at least, it’s the only one that comes to mind at the moment). And as for your family’s hated food, I’m guessing winter squash, just because I don’t care for it much myself!

    1. I have never had fried green tomatoes, but I’d love to try them someday. And there seem to be a lot of people voting for the squash…

  21. Hands down, my favorite regional food her in south Louisiana is chicken and smoke sausage gumbo with potato salad.

  22. I’m going to guess that the green bean casserole is the universally hated item. I loved reading about your regional favorites. Thanks for sharing!

  23. I love a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Since my husband is from England, I usually add roasted Brussel sprouts. Coming from an Italian family, when I go home for Thanksgiving, there is always lasagna as a side dish. That makes for one heavy Thanksgiving meal.

  24. I’m going to guess green bean casserole is the hated dish, but maybe that’s my own bias. I can’t stand it.

  25. Hi Jane/Sadie/Sarah – I’m voting squash!
    Since I grew up with an Italian aunt who made wonderful lasagna, we often dispensed with turkey altogether and just had lasagna for Thanksgiving.

  26. Well, my thought for the disliked dish was the Cranberry relish. Love greenbean casserole and winter squash. (And sauerkraut but that is my PA dutch coming out)

  27. I am going to guess the squash as the not enjoyed food only because you actually have a recipe for the cranberries. My family insists on the canned jellied cranberry sauce and I am not a fan. My mother is originally from Germany, but when she came here with my dad (TN by the way is here) she learned how to make cornbread dressing. We all love it. Thanks for the chance to win a copy of your book!!

  28. I love the title of your new book! Married to a Wisconsinite as well as living in Wisconsin for 20 years means that we are well aware of and enjoy all sorts of cheese curds. Heck, we are the Cheeseheads out here! (even if I am a Mainer-in-Exile)

  29. I visit Holland, Michigan quite a bit and I like and of the Dutch food like almond banket and sugar bread, pigs in a blanket and hashbrown omlet.

  30. I’m glad I just ate. All this food talk is making me hungry. Yes, on cheese curds, creamed onions and grits (which I like best with lots of butter and sugar for breakfast). I would add candied yams for the Thanksgiving dinner. Cranberries can fall off the face of the Earth as far as I’m concerned. I don’t care how they are fixed. My favorite regional foods are scrapple and shoo-fly pie. Our only contribution to tradition is pumpkin pancakes on Christmas morning.

    Our book group read Yarned and Dangerous a couple of months ago. We all loved it!

  31. I live in NC and my favorite regional foods are: fried chicken, fried pickles, fried green tomatoes (are you seeing a trend here?), and sweet tea. They fry everything in the south. And while I don’t eat these foods regularly, I sure wish I could. ( :
    Thanks for a chance to win your book. I love when it’s a first in a series.

  32. I grew up in the Boston area so you must know what the Saturday night tradition is. You guessed it. Boston Baked Beans with hotdogs and brown bread. My mom was from WV so she liked her fried chicked and hush puppies. Yum.

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