Here in the Land of Enchantment, nothing says "family gathering" like whacking a papier-mâché animal until it bleeds candy. First you'll need to buy or make a piñata. The fabulous bird you're looking at now was hand-crafted by our friends Jada and Crash (call 401-8794 to order). There are instructions on how to make a simple balloon-based turkey piñata at www.familyfun.com.
Once you've got your paper bird, the rules of the game shouldn't have to change, except for a few minor details. Guests can relive the excitement of the first Thanksgiving by wearing authentic pre-Colonial "uniforms." If no costumes are available, provide sets of pilgrim and Indian blindfolds, each adorned with feathers or an ornamental square buckle. And instead of hitting your piñata with the same old stick, why not stab it with a turkey baster?
Now here's the best part: We took all of your favorite Thanksgiving side dishes and converted them into bite-sized candy recipes! Just stuff your turkey with a batch of individually-wrapped treats, some store-bought caramels and a handful of Wild Turkey mini-bottles, and you're set for the best Thanksgiving ever.
Sweet Potato Candy
A more literal interpretation of candied sweet potatoes. Twist them up in assorted colors of wax paper for some extra piñata flair.
2 pounds sweet potatoes
4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon flavoring of choice—orange, pineapple or apple juice, vanilla extract or cinnamon are all good matches
Confectioner's sugar for dusting
1) Peel, boil and mash the sweet potatoes.
2) Place mashed potatoes in a pan with the sugar and lemon juice. Stir constantly over low heat until the mixture easily separates from the side of the pan. Set aside to cool completely, then add the flavoring.
3) Take small portions of the mixture, dust in the confectioner's sugar, and roll out into long sticks. Slice into 1-inch pieces and set aside to dry.
This can be a tricky one, but well worth your patience. Pumpkin is sensitive to variables like the temperature and humidity of your kitchen. Instead of relying heavily on your candy thermometer, you may just want to stick to the soft-ball test. Drizzle a small amount of the boiling fudge into iced water. If the mixture dissipates, your fudge isn't ready. But if after two seconds you're able to form it into a soft ball that holds its shape out of water, you're golden. When in doubt, just remember: Overcooked fudge is way better than undercooked semi-goo.
Makes 64 small fudges
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup pumpkin purée
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1) Combine the sugar, milk, corn syrup, pumpkin and salt in a 3-quart saucepan, mixing thoroughly. Bring to a boil on high heat and stir constantly.
2) Reduce heat to medium and continue to boil mixture without stirring until it reaches 232°, or to soft ball stage.
3) Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. Let cool to about 110°. Using an electric mixer, beat until it thickens up considerably and loses some of its gloss. Quickly pour into a buttered 8-inch square pan. Cool and cut into 1-inch squares.
This is what onlookers ate at the First Thanksgiving Get-To-Know-You Stickball Championship of 1621. Who needs Cracker Jack when you've got some of the best ingredients to come out of North America all smushed together into one delicious mouthful?
Makes about 10 cups
1 1/2 cups pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans (3 1/2 ounces), toasted and coarsely chopped
About 8 cups plain popped popcorn
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1) Line a large shallow baking pan with foil. Lightly oil a wooden spoon, a large bowl and the foiled pan.
2) Melt butter in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat, then add syrup and salt. Bring to a boil without stirring, and cook until the mixture registers 300° on a candy thermometer, about 15 to 20 minutes.
3) Toss pecans and popcorn together in the oiled bowl. Pour syrup over the pecans and popcorn, then stir with the oiled spoon to coat. Immediately spread popcorn on the lined baking pan. Let cool completely and break into clusters.
There are no actual spuds used to make this candy, save for inspiration. The final product is supposed to resemble a tiny potato. Coat with cinnamon and cocoa shortly before you plan to use them, or the color may darken somewhat.
3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoon cocoa
1) Combine the first 6 ingredients and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring constantly. Boil until it reaches 234º on a candy thermometer, or to soft ball stage. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
2) Add the vanilla and salt. Beat until stiff but creamy, kneading thoroughly to remove any lumps. Mold into small potato shapes—imperfections are a plus. Combine the cinnamon and cocoa and roll each candy in this mixture.
These babies can be made up to three days in advance when stored in the fridge.
Makes about 1/2 cup
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1) Wash cranberries and pat dry with a towel.
2) Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a small, heavy saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
3) Transfer the sugar water to the top of a double boiler. Add cranberries, cover with a lid and place over simmering water. Cook 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4) Remove the double boiler from the hot water. Let the cranberry mixture sit at room temperature overnight.
5) If needed, drain the cranberries of excess moisture. Allow to air-dry for at least 30 minutes before serving, or bake them at a low temperature for several minutes. Cool completely.