Pickled Peppered Golden Raisins | for the love of the south

*This post was originally published on Coca-Cola Journey 

One of the most endearing aspects of Thanksgiving is the tradition behind the holiday that each person holds close to their heart. My Thanksgiving may look different from your Thanksgiving, but there is a common bond of tradition, which ties us together this season. Some customs change and adapt as our families forever grow, bend and ebb, but then there are those sacred sacraments we wouldn’t dare change.

One of those rituals I hold near and dear to my heart cannot be savored in the way you would customarily think of during Thanksgiving time. It takes place right before the feast. My entire family grabs the hand of the person next to them and forms a massive, irregular circle around the kitchen island, where all the fixins’ are sitting; piping hot, ready to be devoured. Spicy dirty rice, perfectly smoked turkey, sweet potatoes crowned with glorious toasted marshmallows, steaming buttery yeast rolls, and buckets of sweet tea line the buffet.

My grandfather gazes lovingly at the circle and whispers, “Thank you, Jesus!” My grandmother sweetly squeezes his hand and quickly concurs with, “Praise the Lord!” This is such a special moment. It is their personal way of giving thanks before the official prayer. They recognize this oddly formed circle, which is weaving dangerously close to the laundry room, is a direct extension of themselves and the gathering of everyone for Thanksgiving means more to them than anything being served that day. I peak around at the crowd as my grandfather continues to pray, take in this moment in time and give thanks for being part of each other’s lives. As we end in prayer, we gather around the kitchen island and pile on as much fodder as our Chinet plates can hold. I sit around the table and eat and eat and eat for what seems like days, but the prayer always seems to be over far too soon.

No matter what these holidays bring, let the old traditions shine and adopt new ones every year, as we watch our families grow and meld together as a community of people. I pray your Thanksgiving is filled with love, family and fullness in your tummy and in your heart!

Recipe: Pickled Peppered Golden Raisins

Serves 8 as a Condiment

Note: Normally, I make a cranberry sauce to go with the bird and all the fixins’, but this year I wanted to bring a new tradition to the table of spicy pickled golden raisins to take the place of the cranberries. The raisins plump as they are reconstituted and absorb all of the wonderful spices. They compliment the flavor of chicken, turkey or duck.

½ cup of champagne vinegar

¼ cup of local honey

2 teaspoons of mustard seeds

½ teaspoon of whole peppercorns

1 ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes

3 sprigs of thyme

1 teaspoon of salt

½ pound of golden raisins

Bring vinegar, honey, mustard seeds, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, thyme sprigs, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 cup of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat to simmer and stir for 3 minutes. Add raisins, remove from heat and let cool for at least 1 hour.

Make Ahead: Raisins can be pickled 1 week head. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.