Thanksgiving in Jozi (wonderful, manageable)

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Our first Thanksgiving in Jozi and our third together, came off without a hitch. This is also my third Thanksgiving not flying home to my family, and this time of year is the worst part about living abroad. I miss my family, especially my sister, and I miss the people that we do Thanksgiving with every year. Of course, this year P and I realized that we are officially our own family which was strange and wonderful, though not really different from years past. The weather was cold and rainy which made me feel like it’s fall and not summer and put me in the holiday mood a bit. We were lucky to have two Thanksgivings this year, one cooked by our friends who are half American/half South African  (how amazing is it to EAT and not cook?? or clean??) and one we put on for another group of our friends. A few of them had never been to an American Thanksgiving so I was happy to feed them their first. The night was lovely, the wine flowed freely (but not too freely because we have to drive in this country!), and we talked about…blogging? (haha poor blog widows as Martina’s Rob calls them).

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

This is my third time cooking Thanksgiving dinner and it went the smoothest it has ever gone, and I’ve found a turkey recipe I’m sticking to forever. I thought I’d show you our menu because maybe you’re looking for a manageable menu too. It did take me 8+ hours but besides that 8 hours is normal for T Day, I was literally cooking by myself as P was at work (haha WHO AM I?). Also, it was a super zen 8 hours in which I cooked everything, elaborately set the table, and got dressed (but didn’t shower, it was me or the house that was getting clean). Anyway, ahem:

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Here I’ll show you which recipes I used and any changes I made, this was for 9 people with plenty of left overs:

Figs, roasted and wrapped in bacon stuffed with goat’s cheese and walnuts


10 figs, halved

5 long strips of bacon, halved

250 grams or about 8oz goat’s cheese

10 walnuts (obviously not in their shells)

Preheat oven to 200 C or 390 F Stuff each fig half with cheese and a walnuts. Wrap with half a strip of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Put stuffed figs in oven for about 30 minutes, until bacon is cooked through. They will be gone in no time.

Gem squash, scored and roasted with brown sugar glaze. 


9 gem squash halves

2 tablespoons brown sugar

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons maple syrup

I used the Foodwishes recipe but instead of acorn, I used gem squash.

Turkey Roasted in a casserole, with butter and white wine glaze and gravy


1 4 kg or 9 pound turkey
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), melted, plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 bottle dry white wine
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry red or white wine for gravy (optional)

Kitchen string
Pastry brush
meat thermometer

I used Martha Stewart’s recipe and I was so happy I’ve definitely found my life long turkey recipe. There was no brining, and the turkey was amazingly juicey. The trick for me was to using a casserole dish and not a roasting pan (it could cook in it’s own juices) and keeping the cheesecloth wet with white wine/butter glaze. I also covered both drumsticks with bacon.



1 loaf of freshly baked whole grain white bread
1 loaf French Bread, Somewhat Crusty
1 stick Butter
1 whole Medium Onion, Diced
2 cups Celery, Chopped
4 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 tablespoon fresh Basil
1 teaspoon chopped Thyme
3 sprigs Fresh Rosemary, Chopped
1/4 cup Fresh Parsley, Chopped
Salt To Taste

I used Pioneer Woman’s stuffing with the following changes: I did not use cornbread, but freshly baked whole grain white bread. Instead of leaving my bread out for 24 hours, I chopped it up and spread on the baking trays and put it in the oven on the lowest setting for an hour to dry them out. I used fresh basil and thyme as reflected above.

Steamed broccoli with garlic and salt (boooring, but necessary!)


3 heads of broccoli

3 cloves of garlic, minced

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon olive oil

Cut up broccoli to the size that you want them. Pour olive oil in to pan, mix up broccoli, garlic and a salt, and steam on low heat with cover on for about 15 minutes.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

5 pounds potatoes, whichever kind you like

Half a cup of heavy cream

1 stick of butter

4 oz of cream cheese

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon of steak rub spices

Salt to taste

Boil the potatoes for 45 minutes to an hour in generously salted water with approximately half the garlic. Once the potatoes are mashable, drain them from the water and mash, on the stove over low heat. Add remaining garlic and butter, stir in mix in. Add heavy cream and mix. Add cream cheese and mix thoroughly. Add your steak rub spice, and salt to taste. Don’t tell anyone how much butter or cheese is in it! You can keep it covered over the lowest heat setting you have until it is time to serve. Mix again and put in separate dish before dinner time.

Cranberry Sauce, the triumph of my Thanksgiving dinner

1 14.5 oz can of whole berry cranberry sauce

1 medium onion, chopped

2 sprigs rosemary, chopped

1 pint chicken broth

3 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, more to taste

Salt to taste

There were no cranberry sauces on the web which were equal parts delicious and last minute and expat friendly so I made one up and it was a delicious compliment to the plate if I do say so myself. Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Add onions, stir until they get translucent. Add chicken broth, canned cranberry sauce, and balsamic vinegar. Stir until sauce breaks up, then bring it to a boil for 10 minutes until it reduces a bit. You can reheat it at dinner time.

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

Luckily I didn’t have to think about dessert, if I did I would have done it the day before, but thankfully (and deliciously) Karen was all over it. And Jenna sweetly offered to bring delicious twice baked mashed potatoes (which, as far as I’m concerned should be our national food) so I had plenty of help. And as of this post, the dishes are already done! Thanksgiving, you are my b*tch.

living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love


Read more about our South African thanksgiving on these blogs:

Story of Bing

Martina in Jozi

A Home Away from Home

19 thoughts on “Thanksgiving in Jozi (wonderful, manageable)

  1. I meant to tell you that was the best Thanksgiving turkey I’ve ever had. Not dry and tasteless at all! I don’t know how you did that. I agree that the cranberry sauce was a triumph and I really loved the stuffing.

    Last year I had fish and chips for Thanksgiving dinner, so this was really very special for me. Thanks again for a great evening.

    Karen’s expression in the photo above is hilarious.

  2. Oh my goodness, my mouth is watering just looking at all of this! It was soo delicious – the perfect African Thanksgiving :) I’m leaving for the States for 2 weeks on the 7th – we must try and do something before then!


  3. Pingback: 2011 in review. « land of nams

  4. Hi,

    I came across your blog while searching for Turkey in Johannesburg. I’m hosting thanksgiving dinner for my South African in-laws in a few weeks and am desperately trying to find a place that sells whole turkeys. The only place I have found so far does not stock them until November for American thanksigiving (Im Canadian, for us the holiday is in early october). Any suggestions?


    PS – Your food looks amazing!

    • hey this one’s easy- i got mine from woolworth’s in the freezer. there were a lot (though I did obviously only look in november) and it seemed like it was a normal thing for them to have in the freezer. i couldn’t find any fresh turkeys though…

  5. Hi, your thanksgiving looks amazing!! Great photos!

    I wondered if I could ask some advice? Friends and I are celebrating thanksgiving in Jozi this weekend and I can’t find cranberry sauce anywhere? Any suggestions on where to find it in Jozi?

    Thanks so much!

  6. Hi all: Turkey available at Woolworth’s, and Pick n’ Pay in Norwood (these are confirmed locations I’ve seen them). Canned cranberry sauce (not the jelly kind but with whole cranberries) is also available at Pick n’ Pay in Norwood.

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