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Thanksgiving, German Style

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  While they are all feasting and enjoying time with friends and family in the US, I thought I’d take a moment to share a bit from my German  Thanksgiving celebration — especially since in true international style, we feasted last weekend instead.

If you know me in real life, you’re aware that I’m not much of a cook (although I do like to experiment for the purposes of this blog).  For some reason, however, as an American abroad on Thanksgiving, I feel the need to represent.  Because of this, over the last several years abroad I’ve become something of a rockstar at baking pumpkin pies from scratch (you can read about my first attempt here).  But the time had come for me to discover new Turkey-day horizons.

The turkey

So when the planning of our Thanksgiving potluck feast got underway, I (hesitantly) signed myself up for the turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and gravy.  The rest of the dishes were split up among the other guests.  (Before I go too much further, I have to give mad props to my German friends and colleagues who over the last three years have become total pros at making pies, casseroles, cornbread, mashed sweet potatoes, and all sorts of other Thanksgiving goodies they’d never heard of before.)  For my own adventures in holiday cooking, I turned to Martha Stewart for the simplest, most basic recipes that I could find.*

Roast Spatchcocked Turkey (Photo: MarthaStewart.com)

Like I mentioned before, I was a total turkey newbie and more than a little nervous.  Thanks to a tip from Cliff in the comments’ section of that post, I discovered the wonders of spatchcocking, which dramatically decreases the roasting time.  It involves cutting out the turkey’s backbone and then flipping the bird over and laying it out relatively flat to roast.  The aesthetic is totally different than your traditional roasting method, but I was game for anything that would shorten the whole process.

Thank goodness that Martha not only offers recipe directions, but also has a video demonstrating how one cuts a backbone out of a turkey in the first place.  That process is not for the faint of heart, so of course I asked mein Schatz to do the honors.  He was beyond thrilled, as I’m sure you can imagine, but did an awesome job anyhow.  Once we had the turkey laying flat, it only took about 80 minutes or so until it was finished roasting and then we had a delicious turkey on our hands!

The sides

Simple Stuffing (Photo: MarthaStewart.com)

Next up was Martha’s Simple Stuffing, which really lived up to its name.  Because I wanted the vegetarians among us to also enjoying the stuffing, I went for something that I could bake easily outside the turkey.  I thought it tasted like the stuffing I grew up with, so I would definitely recommend this particular recipe.

Orange-Scented Cranberry Sauce (Photo: MarthaStewart.com)

Martha’s Orange-Scented Cranberry Sauce was also super simple to make and tasted so much better than cranberry sauce from a jar!  Surprisingly, I was able to find fresh cranberries straight from the USA in every supermarket I went to, so maybe they’re catching on here in Germany.  In any case, this sauce was a big hit and I’ll definitely be making it again in the future.

Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy (Photo: MarthaStewart.com)

I also tried my hand at gravy using this recipe for Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy, but I didn’t have quite as much success with it as with the other dishes.  For one, it calls for portobello, crimini, and shiitake mushrooms, but I couldn’t find any portobellos or shiitakes in the supermarkets, so I had to make do with a lot of crimini mushrooms instead.  I must have also done something wrong in the cooking process, because it turned out to be less of a gravy and more of a mushroom side dish.  No harm done, but it wasn’t exactly something you could pour over your turkey or mashed potatoes.

All in all

Besides a sense of relief that our Thanksgiving feast was a big success, I’m also happy I was able to (yet again) celebrate one my favorite American holidays in a way that makes me feel right at home.  What a contrast to my first Thanksgiving in Germany, eating pizza and assembling Ikea furniture!

If you’re an American abroad, do you still celebrate Thanksgiving?  Or for the non-Americans abroad, are there certain holidays that really make you miss home?  Or do you have any other top secret tips for a successful Thanksgiving meal?

Looking for more posts about celebrating Thanksgiving in Germany? Check this out:

* No, Martha’s not paying me to write this post; she just happened to have everything I was looking for!


  1. Wow, that is quite an interesting method of making turkey! I’m guessing my 7.8-kilo turkey wouldn’t fit if I laid it all out flat. But wow! That’s pretty cool!

    Sounds like you had a successful Thanksgiving! I am excited about mine. Lots to do though – and we’re hosting it at our place, so we have to clean up, too! This will be my first Thanksgiving with a Christmas tree already up and decorated, though. Kinda strange perhaps but oh well! I’m excited to have them both!

    I was going to try to make my own cranberry jelly this year and almost used a Martha recipe. But then I got a package this week from my mom and she included two cans of Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce. It’s dorky but I’m totally excited to have the “traditional” can-shaped cranberry jelly. Not as gourmet as Martha’s, but it makes me feel at home!

  2. Vanessa says:

    Maybe I’m being cynical, but after six Thanksgivings in Germany, I’ve taken on the outlook that if you can’t do it right, then don’t do it all. Nothing I ever do here will ever be as good as those Thanksgivings I remember from the U.S. I’ve kind of had enough of trying to replicate the experience here and just being disappointed with it. I try and keep it simple. This year I’ll enjoy a homemade pumpkin cheesecake with my boyfriend after going to a friend’s house warming party, where we’ll eat pizza instead of turkey.

    • Hey Vanessa, I can understand where you’re coming from. It kind of relieves the pressure so you can “celebrate” however you want. Pumpkin cheesecake sounds absolutely delish. :) Hope you have a wonderful evening!

  3. Emily says:

    Hey, I’m an American expat (coincidentally also an academic into distance running) about to celebrate my first Thanksgiving in Bremen. I had no troubles finding places to order a turkey from in other German cities, but I haven’t yet had any luck in Bremen. One place that was recommended is no longer open. Where do you get your turkeys?

    • Hi Emily, what a coincidence! The two years that I’ve been in charge of the turkey in Bremen I have been able to find frozen turkeys at either Combi Markt or Rewe in the Neustadt. I haven’t started looking yet this year, but that’s where I will start. I will also check with some friends here and see where they’ve bought theirs in the past — I’ll let you know if they have other ideas!

      • Emily says:

        Are all of these for frozen turkeys, or can you order a fresh one? Both in Bonn and Berlin, I ordered a fresh turkey and now can’t imagine using a frozen one again. The fresh ones yield an almost fool-proof juicy bird.

  4. Emily says:

    (Side comment: If you make a trip out to Ikea, stop by the Berliner stand in the parking lot in front of the Marktkauf. They bake theirs fresh through the day. Every bakery I know of in Berlin got theirs delivered, even if they baked all of the other items in the store. Meaning that this place has better Berliner than any I had in Berlin!)

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