Like many things happening in the year 2020, Thanksgiving will look a little different. We’ve now entered the time of the year when families are determining their plans for Thanksgiving and beyond. With activities outdoors continuing to soar in popularity, the idea of “Campsgiving” is gaining traction among many families looking for a way to celebrate the holiday outside. In the next coming weeks, we will be providing a variety of information on how to plan for and have a happy Thanksgiving right by the campfire.
Cooking a Thanksgiving meal is quite a feat, even in a kitchen with all the bells and whistles, so I understand why the idea of cooking at a campsite is intimidating. While everyone was off running around in their costumes celebrating Halloween at Barefoot RV Resort, Tyler and I spent the day testing, cooking, and throwing our little Thanksgiving celebration. With the help of Cherry Republic, we have a full menu of possibilities for you to cook and enjoy at your family’s Campsgiving.
- Sour Cream and Cheddar Mashed Potatoes with Purple Gravy
- Smokey Roasted Beets on Horseradish Yogurt and Mint
- Dijon & Maple Glazed Carrots
- No-Fuss Campfire Corn
- Apple, Cherry, and Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash
- Classic pumpkin pie
But first, a little bit about our friends Cherry Republic
Cherry Republic is a Northern Michigan company that began with a man named Bob selling Cherry Republic t-shirts with the motto “Life, Liberty, Beaches, and Pie” out of the trunk of his car. From there, he went on to selling a cherry-inspired cookie that was the stepping stone for the business’s now 200+ cherry-based products.
A little over thirty years since its humble beginnings, Cherry Republic has become a fixture to the state of Michigan. Whether they’re visiting while on a long weekend trip to Northern Michigan, picking up a few treats while running errands in downtown Ann Arbor, or picking up a few goodies online, customers can choose from an assortment of products that include chocolate-covered cherries, BBQ sauce, salsas, cherry wine, and more.
With Tyler’s family being from Charlevoix, MI, our love for Northern Michigan runs deep. Coincidentally enough, my family would visit Charlevoix in the summers and my mom would buy a big box of dried cherries from Cherry Republic every year. This is all to say that we’re thrilled to partner with Cherry Republic for Campsgiving. Their packages made us a little less homesick for Michigan.
A Campsgiving Game Plan
Before jumping into the different Campsgiving dishes you can make to celebrate Thanksgiving while camping, I wanted to share some ideas to make the process easier.
1. Plan your meal as if you would for a traditional Thanksgiving meal at home. Determine how many people you have to feed, how many dishes you need, and how many servings you should make. This will help you with grocery shopping, multiplying the recipes, and so forth.
2. Making things ahead of time is going to be your best friend. For this menu, the dishes and parts of dishes you can make ahead of time are:
- Sour cream and cheddar mashed potatoes
- Purple Gravy
- Dijon & maple glaze for the carrots
- Pumpkin pie
3. Divide and conquer. Everyone at the Campspot should be helping out with this meal. Whether it’s maintaining the campfire, stirring, chopping ingredients, or setting the table, there is a way to contribute to this Campsgiving experience.
4. Try to manage your expectations. The meal might not be steaming hot when everything is finished and that’s ok. If something gets burned or goes awry, that’s just showbiz, baby. Working with a campfire can sometimes be unpredictable so have an open mind.
5. Most importantly, enjoy! I am going to sound cliche for a moment but Thanksgiving is about spending time with those you love and this year, the focus is to do that in a safe manner. It’s not about how perfect your decorations or food turn out to be. Be thankful. This year has been a doozy so let’s just sit back around the campfire and enjoy it.
All right, let’s jump in!
Sour Cream and Cheddar Mashed Potatoes with Purple Gravy
Ingredients – serves four
- 6 medium potatoes cut into 2″ pieces
- 1/4 cup of heavy cream
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 cup of shredded white cheddar cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 1/8 teaspoon of onion powder
- salt pepper to taste
You’ll either need a camp stove or make the potatoes on a camper or RV stove for this recipe.
Put potatoes into a big pot of water and fill the pot with water until there are about two inches of water above the potatoes. Bring the water to a boil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to a low-medium and cook until the potatoes are tender. That should take roughly ten to fifteen minutes, and one way to figure out if the potatoes are ready is to poke one with a knife or fork. If it glides smoothly in and out of the potato, it’s ready but if the knife gets stuck, cook longer.
Once cooked, drain the potatoes and put them back into the same pot.
Either with a potato masher or a hand mixer, mash the potatoes to your liking. You should do this immediately as you want the heat to melt the cheese and incorporate it evenly. I used a hand mixer as Tyler likes them smooth. To make mashing the potatoes easier, I add the heavy cream while I am mashing.
Add the sour cream, garlic powder, and onion powder and mix. Once mixed, add the shredded cheese a little bit at a time while continuing to stir. Lastly, sneak a little taste test and add salt and pepper to your liking.
The great thing about a side dish of mash potatoes is that you can make it ahead, refrigerate it, and bring it with you. You can heat it up on a camp stove or RV stove. Just add a liquid- whether it’s water, milk, or cream- while heating up the potatoes and stir.
Pretty Purple Sage Gravy
Ingredients – serves four
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 sage leaves
- 1/2 large red onion, diced
- 1/2 cup of shredded red cabbage
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups of milk
- salt and pepper to taste
You’ll want to either make this ahead or make this on a camp stove or RV stove. I would not recommend trying to make this over the campfire.
Over medium heat, melt the butter and add the sage. Sauté the sage leaves within the butter for a minute or two and remove before the leaves begin to brown.
Lower the heat to a low-medium and add the onions and 1/4 cup of the shredded red cabbage. Sauté for several minutes until the onions become soft and translucent. Sprinkle the flour on top and stir until the onion and cabbage is covered. Allow the flour to cook for about two minutes, stirring so that it doesn’t burn.
With a whisk in hand, add the milk bit by bit while whisking the contents of the pan. I’ve found that a whisk breaks down the flour quickly and allows it to thicken with the milk. This helps avoid lumpy gravy. Continue whisking until you reach the consistency you want. Add more milk if needed.
Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of red cabbage and pulse the mixture with an immersion blender. This raw cabbage is what makes the color of the gravy pop.
Smokey Roasted Beets on Horseradish Yogurt and Mint
Ingredients – serves four
- 3 large beets, scrubbed and cut into 2″ pieces
- olive oil
- salt & pepper
- 1 cup of greek yogurt or sour cream
- 1 heaping tablespoon of Cherry Republic’s horseradish cream
- mint to garnish
- optional: pistachios
- heavy-duty aluminum foil
Roll out two sheets of aluminum foil, roughly 20 inches long. Lay them on top of each other. Place beet pieces onto the aluminum sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Fold the sides inward so that edges meet and fold over to create a seal. If it’s easier to cut another sheet of aluminum foil and lay that on top in order to cover the beets, that works too! With the tip of a fork or knife, poke several holes on top.
At this point, hopefully, your fire has been going long enough that it has a solid ember base that’s producing a lot of heat. Whereas other dishes you’re cooking on the grates, it’s this heat on the bottom that is going to roast your beets. Therefore, position the beet bundle on the edge where your fire’s embers are and, using fire tongs, place several embers on top of the beet bundle. Rotate every ten to fifteen minutes for up to 45 minutes. Remove the bundle from the heat, carefully taking off the embers on top. When cool enough, open the foil and poke with a knife. If the beets are still hard, cover it up again and put it back into the campfire.
Great news! The yogurt base is something you can make ahead of time and bring with you to the campground. Mix together a cup of greek yogurt with a heaping tablespoon of Cherry Republic’s horseradish cream. I LOVE their horseradish cream so I might have done a little more than that. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and mix until well combined.
When your campsgiving meal is ready to be served, spread a 1/4 cup of the horseradish yogurt onto a plate. Spoon a quarter of the beets onto the yogurt and top with chopped mint and a drizzle of honey. If you have some handy, sprinkle some chopped pistachios on top as the dish is enjoyable with a little crunch.
It’s up to you whether you want to serve the beets cooled or hot from the campfire. I personally prefer it cooled but if it’s chilly out, I can see why you might want it warm. If this is the case, when the beets are finished, recover the beets again with the foil and position on the rim of the campfire ring, but not inside the campfire where it was cooking before. The combination of the wrapped foil and heat from the fire should keep the smoked beets toasty.
Dijon & Maple Glazed Carrots
Ingredients – serves four
- 2 lbs of carrots, peeled or scrubbed, with the tops trimmed
- 1/2 tablespoon of Cherry Republic’s dijon mustard
- 1/2 tablespoon of miso
- 1/2 tablespoon of rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon of Cherry Republic’s maple syrup
- 2 tsp of soy sauce
- 1 small garlic clove minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- basil for garnish
In a small dish, combine the Cherry Republic dijon mustard, miso, rice vinegar, Cherry Republic maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic clove, and olive oil and stir to combine. Drizzle 2/3 of the mixture over the carrots and toss.
On a heated skillet or on a campfire grate, position the carrots parallel to one another and grill on each side for about five to seven minutes. When finished, remove from the fire and drizzle the remaining 1/3 of the sauce. Top with sliced basil.
No-Fuss Campfire Corn
- Corn with husks still on
- Big ol’ bucket of water
Place the ears of corn, husks still on, in a bucket of water and soak for at least 30 minutes. Remove the corn from the water and shake off excess water.
Check on your campfire. You don’t want your fire to be too big as the heat would burn and dry the corn out. A nice, mature, medium fire is ideal.
Position the ears atop the grate above the fire and roast about ten minutes on each side. If you’re using the campfire for another dish simultaneously, position the corn along the edges of the grate. Allow for additional time if this is the case. Once done, use metal tongs to remove the corn and cool for several minutes before removing the husk and corn silk.
Lather that baby up with butter and enjoy!
Apple, Cherry, and Sausage-Stuffed Acorn Squash
Ingredients – serves four
- 2 acorn squashes, sliced in half with seeds scooped out
- 2 small apples, we used gala, sliced into small cubes
- 1 10 oz bag of Beyond Meat’s Beyond Beef Crumbles
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 celery stalks, 3 if small, diced
- 1 tablespoon of minced fresh rosemary
- 1 cup of vegetable stock
- juice from 1/2 of a lemon
- olive oil
We’re going to start with baking the squash over the campfire. If your fire’s flames are tall and roaring, place the squash on the outer areas of your campfire grate. What you’re aiming to achieve is a nice calm, consistent heat that will bake your squash through without burning its outsides.
I’ll admit that when making these pictured, I placed them on top of the flame and it totally charred the insides of my acorn squash. I had to set them aside to cool off a bit then took a knife and cut the layer of burn off the top so if this happens to you, no worries, there’s still a way to salvage them!
Rotate the squash consistently and flip over after about ten or fifteen minutes. Cook that side for an additional ten to fifteen minutes. Keep rotating and flipping until the squash is cooked through. A way to check that they are cooked is to poke them with a knife or fork to see if they are tender.
I suggest using a camp stove near your campfire for this next part so you can keep an eye on the fire and squash or whatever else is cooking. Heat a pan over medium-high heat, drizzle two or so tablespoons of olive oil and allow the oil to heat for a moment. Add your diced onion and stir for a minute, allowing the oil to fully coat the onions. Next, you’ll add the celery, continuing to stir until the mixture starts to soften and become a bit translucent.
Because I’m vegetarian, I used Beyond Meat’s Beyond Beef Crumbles, but obviously, you can choose to use whatever sausage you like. I’ve read many online using turkey sausage as a nod to the holiday. Add your sausage and thoroughly mix it into your cooking onion and celery. Allow to cook, stirring every minute or two. Add your apples, Cherry Republic cherries, and rosemary while continuing to cook and stir. Season with salt and pepper. Stir, stir, stir. You’re noticing a pattern, right?
Turn down your heat to a low-medium and add the vegetable stock. Stir and simmer, allowing the liquid to cook down a third. This should take roughly seven to ten minutes. You don’t want the liquid to be fully gone, as want it to soak into your squash.
Once you have a somewhat thick consistency, drizzle with lemon juice and, using a ladle, scoop and serve the sausage mixture into the open roasted acorn squash halves. Serve immediately, if you can!
When preparing this Campsgiving menu, I called my parents to get my late grandmother’s pumpkin pie recipe, wanting to include a bit of a familial touch. My grandmother was an excellent cook and baker, passing down a book full of her recipes to my father. To my surprise, my parents said that she used Libby’s famous pumpkin pie recipe. Of course, there is nothing wrong with her using the recipe, I just wasn’t expecting it from a woman who baked her own sandwich bread.
Ingredients – one pie
- 3/4 cup of granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon of allspice (this is my modification because I like my pie to be SPICY)
- 2 eggs
- 1 15 oz can of 100% pure pumpkin
- 1 12 oz can of evaporated milk
- 1 unbaked pie crust (see recipe below)
Pie Crust – one pie crust
For years I’ve used Martha Stewart’s butter-based pie crust. It’s delicious and very easy to make. I’ve included her instructions below with a few added suggestions from using it over the years.
- 1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces (I put a stick of butter in the freezer for an hour or so before cutting it up into pieces)
- 2-4 tablespoons of ice water
Directions for pie crust
Mix together the flour, salt, and sugar until well-combined. Add the butter and, either in a food processor or using a pastry blender, “cut” the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with just a few pea-size pieces remaining.
Sprinkle in the 2 tablespoons of ice water. I keep a bowl of water with a few ice cubes off to the side and scoop the water I need with a measuring spoon. Pulse or continue cutting with the pastry blender until the dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed with fingers. If you need to add more water, do so.
Turn dough out onto a work surface and form dough into a 3/4-inch-thick disk. Wrap it up in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least one hour.
Before baking, unwrap the dough and place it on a large piece of floured wax paper. Roll dough into a 14-inch round. Using the paper, lift and wrap dough around the rolling pin, removing the paper, and carefully unroll it onto a 9-inch pie plate. Fit it onto the bottom and up the sides of the pie dish. Fold the crust’s overhang under itself and pinch to form an edge around the rim.
Directions for pie filling
Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger, cloves, and allspice in a small bowl. In a different, larger bowl, beat eggs. Then, stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. When thoroughly combined, pour filling into the pie shell.
Bake in a preheated 425-degree oven for fifteen minutes then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 40 to 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. For me, it took a little longer so be patient and keep poking until it comes out nice and clean!
Cool on a wire rack for a couple of hours. The great thing about pumpkin pie is that you can make it ahead of time, refrigerate, and bring it with you to your Campspot!