Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine

A Maine Thanksgiving in North Carolina

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Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope you all have a wonderful holiday full of family, friends, and of course, food.

The idea for this post occurred to me while dogsitting for our neighbors last weekend.  Our neighbors are wonderful people, a good ol’ Southern boy and girl.  I happened to notice her Thanksgiving menu sitting on the counter, and I couldn’t resist snooping.  Imagine my surprise – I saw collard greens, sweet potato souffle, candied yams – and while these dishes certainly aren’t foreign to me, I’ve never eaten them on Thanksgiving (or, in some cases, ever).  I can admit that before that moment, I’d never given much thought to how different Thanksgiving menus might be across the country.  Perhaps not the staples – the turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce – but the sides – and even the process for making the staples – certainly, vary from region to region.

In honor of Thanksgiving (and my own culinary education), the following is a breakdown of popular Thanksgiving dishes from New England and North Carolina / the South (along with a few of my favorite recipes).  My research for this post has taught me things I didn’t expect – for example, though I’d never had collards at Thanksgiving, they were one of the dishes at the First Thanksgiving.  And, collards are still a side dish at some tables in New England, they’re just not as wildly popular as here in the South.

Today, my husband’s parents are here to spend Thanksgiving with us.  Our menu consists of: turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, creamed onions, roasted carrots, sweet potatoes (in honor of my father-in-law, who’s from Tennessee), creamed onions, and apple pie.  Both myself and my mother-in-law are from Maine, which naturally makes the potato dish very important to us (for those of you who don’t know, Maine is the second largest producer of potato crops in the country – Idaho is the first – stay tuned for an upcoming post about the Maine potato).  I like my mashed potatoes jazzed up with sour cream and some other extras – delicious!  Here’s my recipe – taken and modified as needed from a close family friend:

  • 10 medium potatoes
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons onion salt
  • Garlic to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Paprika or grated cheese to sprinkle on top near end of baking time
Peel and cut the potatoes in 1 1/2 inch pieces.  Boil until mashable, then mix in all other ingredients… adding more or less as you like.  This is a great make-ahead dish.  Today, I’ll add a little cream and pop it in the oven until warm, topping with paprika.  Mashed potatoes, it seems, are a big hit everywhere – so let’s revisit collard greens and the sweet potato souffle.
I found this recipe for ‘Gina’s Best Collard Greens’ on  It looked pretty tasty!  Perhaps one of the reasons collards are so popular in the South is because barbecue and smoked meats are popular, too, and the collard green has enough flavor to stand up to these meats – in fact, it pairs very well with them.
  • 5 bundles collard greens
  • 4 cups salted water
  • 3 large smoked ham hocks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Thoroughly wash collard greens. Be sure to pull leaves apart and remove any sand. Chop collard greens.  In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups of salted water to a simmer. Place smoked ham hocks in salted water and cover for about 90 minutes. Cook ham hocks until slightly tender. In the same saucepan, add remaining ingredients and collard greens.  Cover and cook greens for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
To touch quickly on cooking techniques – growing up in New England, we always (and I do mean always) roasted our turkey.  Since moving to SC to attend Clemson University, I’ve become familiar with the fried turkey (at tailgates as well as Thanksgiving) and the smoked turkey.  Both are delicous, but uncommon in New England.

One thing I’ve learned, having spent Thanksgiving in both regions – all cooking methods and sides hit the spot, regardless of locale.  Not to mention, the world is a shrinking place due to the internet, and I believe this exchange of information and traditions holds true for cuisine as well.  Maybe next year I’ll give a smoked turkey and collard greens a whirl!

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