This Is How Martha Has Celebrated Thanksgiving Over the Years
It should come as no surprise that Martha's holiday celebrations are a wonder to behold. From intricate place settings to festive décor and, of course, mouthwatering menus, no detail is left untouched. Thanksgiving is no exception. "Thanksgiving is among my favorite occasions, especially when I can spend it with my family and friends. Every year, my holiday begins weeks before with careful preparation," Martha wrote on her blog in 2018.
Whether she's hosting in Bedford, New York, or Skylands, Maine, Martha's Thanksgiving feasts are always an elegant, rustic celebration. Just like most of us, Martha has a few traditions she honors every single year. For example, our founder opts for cooking a heritage turkey, which she purchases from Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York. Guests can also expect the best libations from Martha, too. "I always serve a white burgundy with turkey," she said in this video. And while Martha always offers classic fall pies on her dessert table, one of her favorite desserts to serve on Thanksgiving may come as a surprise: Lemon Meringue Pie.
Naturally, family is always at the center of Martha's Thanksgivings. Getting to spend time with her daughter, Alexis, grandchildren, Jude and Truman, and close friends, including Kevin Sharkey, is what Martha values most about the holiday. The group, which often includes Martha's French Bulldog puppies, Creme Brûlée and Bete Noir, always takes a long walk before or after the feast as a way to enjoy the crisp November air and each other's company.
Even though Martha's mother, Martha Kostyra, passed away in 2007, her legendary recipes still make an appearance. Big Martha's mashed potatoes, made with cream cheese, are a signature dish and never fail to elicit second helpings from everyone.
Here, we've gathered some of Martha's favorite Thanksgiving recipes, inspiring DIY projects, and gorgeous décor over the years. Let her holiday traditions inspire your own.
Not every holiday meal goes according to plan, and that's true even for our founder. Martha first hosted Thanksgiving in 1961, and she gathered her entire family in Guilford, Connecticut, for a country feast. "I baked pies and cooked as many vegetables as I could on Wednesday, made masses of stuffing, and set the alarm for 3:00 a.m. Weary and bleary-eyed, I turned on the oven, stuffed the turkey, and struggled to get the monstrous bird into the electric oven by 3:45 a.m. I went back to sleep only to awake to a house full of black smoke—the turkey was burning!" Martha wrote in her "Remembering" column of the 1994 issue of Martha Stewart Living.
Of Food and Friends
Martha recalled spending a Thanksgiving with an old friend and colleague, Sara Foster. "Visiting with this creative chef and entrepreneur reminded me of our early days working together…we sat on her screened-in porch devouring a most delicious Sara-inspired and Sara-cooked dinner," she wrote in her "Remembering" column in the November 1999 issue of Martha Stewart Living. Our founder reminded us that while a delicious turkey and flavorful pies are important, what really matters is getting to spend Thanksgiving with loved ones.
A Very Southern Thanksgiving
At this barbecue-inspired turkey dinner in 1999, which was featured in the November issue of Martha Stewart Living, Martha served innovative hors d'oeuvres with Southern flavor like shrimp and grit cakes and added bourbon to a classic pecan pie for depth and warmth. The final touch? Marinating the turkey in a combination of barbecue sauce, cider vinegar, and brown sugar, then cooking it on a charcoal grill.
Martha's Lemon Meringue Pie
While Martha's Thanksgiving dinners certainly include classic pies like pumpkin, pecan, and apple, she also serves something unexpected. According to her blog, Martha loves baking lemon meringue pie for Thanksgiving! This version is served with a thick, luscious pile of meringue on top of the creamiest tart lemon filling.
It's no secret that Martha's mother, Martha Kostyra, was a huge influence in our founder's life—both in and out of the kitchen. Every Thanksgiving, Big Martha—as she was affectionately known—would serve a wide array of sides including her famous mashed potatoes. However, Martha has said that there was never an exact formula for creating these luscious spuds. "If she had heavy cream, she added heavy cream. If she had salty butter, she put in salty butter. If she had sweet butter, she put in sweet butter. But it always had cream cheese," she recalled in the November 2008 issue of Martha Stewart Living. The next day, Big Martha would turn the leftover mashed potatoes into thin pancakes, browning them in sizzling butter until crisp.
Big Martha's Mashed Potatoes
If you need a mashed potato recipe for Thanksgiving, try this heavenly version. Cream cheese adds subtle tanginess and extra richness to classic mashed potatoes. This recipe, developed by Martha's mother, has been featured on her blog, in Martha Stewart Living, and was even a part of her Marley Spoon Thanksgiving Box in 2017.
A Classic Holiday Feast
Martha's 2006 Thanksgiving in Bedford included more than 20 guests, who she hosted in her horses' stable. Friends and family sat at a seventeen-and-a half foot long mahogany dining table that Martha discovered at Blue Hill Antiques in Maine—"When I saw it, I thought 'my gosh, this is the perfect table,'" she wrote in the November 2006 issue of Martha Stewart Living. The menu included Turkey-Tail Rolls, mushroom soup, Roast Turkey with Quince Glaze, Cranberry-Dried Fruit Stuffing, Creamed Swiss Chard, and Steamed Persimmon Pudding.
From Martha's Home to Yours
As it turns out, Martha learned how to make the perfect pie crust from her former neighbor, Mr. Maus. "I would strive to roll the dough into elegant rounds with nary a crack or tear, and I was always thrilled to discover any new method to embellish the top crust or finish off an edge," said Martha in the November 2007 issue of Martha Stewart Living.
If you're hosting a large number of guests, creating place cards makes it easy for everyone to find a seat their the table. Martha made her own festive place card holders in the shape of turkeys. "Candle molds yield a collection of perfectly sized place-card holders; I used a miniature serrated hobby saw to make small slits in the turkeys to hold the cards," Martha explained in this post.
Martha set a rustic tablescape for her 2014 Thanksgiving celebration in her Bedford home's Brown Room. She laid a fine antique rag runner down the center, then set out platters and placed Spode turkey plates from a set of early English Staffordshire at each place setting. "The wide-bottomed goblets were originally designed for use on sailing ships—the broad base prevents the glasses from tipping over," Martha said in this post. Given the stunning décor, it's hard to believe this room once served as the tractor garage for the farm.
At her 2014 Thanksgiving dinner, guests helped themselves to a stuffed turkey ("The heritage turkey, a Bourbon Red, was raised in Connecticut and slaughtered by the farmer," Martha wrote in this post), glazed carrots, Cornbread Turkeys, pumpkin stuffed with chestnuts and mushrooms, baby Brussels sprouts, and Cranberry-Pomegranate Gelatin for dessert.