Unexpected Additions to Punch Up Your Thanksgiving Meal

Eight food and drink items that can accompany or take the place of all that's traditional

Of course there is great joy, nostalgia and ease to the fact that Thanksgiving dinner stays the same year after year for many people. We aren’t suggesting anyone ditch the bird or the mashed potatoes but the following eight items can either be incorporated into what you know and love, used as a replacement ingredient or act as a seasoning. We even went so far as to offer up suggestions for usage, as well. There are some savory options, plenty of sweetness and a dash of spice. Really, creativity is key here. And, in the age of dietary restrictions, these could be a jumping-off point for anyone looking to switch it all up drastically. Thanksgiving was meant to be about unity, so we’ve incorporated some global items here, as well. Altogether, it’s family and friends first on the holiday and we hope you all enjoy.

Tonewood’s Maple Sugar Cube

Maple syrup enthusiasts are all too aware of how messy and sticky the sweet condiment can be. But most will be thrilled to find out about Tonewood’s solid brick of maple syrup ($26). With no pouring required, this block of deliciousness can be grated onto your meal, into your drinks or however you like to enjoy it. For Thanksgiving, it definitely makes sense with yams or sweet potatoes—but maybe grate some into a glaze and take it from there.

Skillet Street Food Bacon Jam

There’s a surprising amount that can be done with Bacon Jam ($16), especially Skillet Street’s iteration which incorporates balsamic and brown sugar. Serve it with crudités or on a cracker, apply to it other meats or put it on just about anything. The ingredients in this particular iteration are as transparent as can be (note that it includes soy) and the salty/sweet flavor doesn’t shy away. The word jam throws people, of course, but thinking of it as more of a pâté can help those with trepidation.

Pear Honey Ginger Shrub

With pears sourced from “orphaned” orchards and low-spray family farms in the Hudson Valley, The Hudson Standard’sPear Honey Ginger Shrub ($20) combines sweetness of fruit; heat and spice from ginger; and that saccharine, syrupy joy of honey. The result is a delightful mixer to blend with gin or rum—or is perhaps best matched for the season with bourbon or brandy. Because shrub is related to a drinking vinegar, it could also be used in vinaigrette rather than an apertif or cocktail.

Casa Mariol Vermut

Not only is the Casa Mariol Vermut ($22) bottle design gorgeous, the vermouth inside is delicious. If you’re only drinking vermouth in cocktails, this is the best way to venture further: try it on ice; with a little soda; or (as it’s traditionally consumed in Spain) with sparkling water, a slice of citrus fruit and a green olive. It makes for a perfect light cocktail—somewhat akin to an Aperol spritz. That said, if you’re looking to cook with it, vermouth can take the place of wine in recipes calling for such. Be warned that it’s higher in alcohol content and carries plenty of natural botanicals.

Organic Dried Jujube Red Dates

A potential substitute for traditional dates or even apples,

organic dried jujube ($18) carries a plethora of vitamins and fiber. The small fruit also has associated energy and health benefits, with origins in Chinese medicine. That said, it’s easy enough to serve them in a bowl, toss them in a fruit salad, alongside tea after dinner or even in a cognac cocktail.

Addicted Sauce Co’s Ghost Pepper Bhut Jolokia Hot Sauce

We all know at least one person will ask for hot sauce. It only seems right to serve one that’s entirely unexpected—and challenging. With Addicted Sauce Co’s all-natural Ghost Pepper Bhut Jolokia Hot Sauce ($6), one will find a spicy blend of Thai Chili, Japanese Pepper, Ghost Pepper, Chipotle, Anaheim, Cayenne, Habanero, and Jalapeño. There’s certainly fire inside, but this is a full-flavor offering—no taste is lost to the heat.

La Boîte Green Cardamom

From one of our favorite spice-makers La Boîte (in partnership with celebrated chef Eric Ripert of Manhattan’s Le Bernardin), Green Cardamom ($16) has long been a valuable alternative to traditional spices in American dishes. It’s actually one of the most common spices in Scandinavia and a quick glance at any cookbook from the region reveals its myriad uses. Green cardamom carries more floral notes than the black iteration, but both make wonderful peppery companions (or replacements) for cinnamon.

Organic Marshmallow Root

Let’s begin with the obvious: yes, it’s possible to make homemade marshmallows from Organic Marshmallow Root ($19). Beyond that, however, the surprisingly healthy herb makes for a great tea or as a seasoning to anything looking for dulcet additions. As expected, there’s a light sweetness to the root, but more akin to parsnip than an actual marshmallow. On top of that all, it helps with digestion.

Lead image by David Graver, all other images courtesy of respective brands