Monday, November 25, 2013

A Thanksgiving Story and Cranberry Tea

Jan here to begin the celebration of Thanksgiving Week with you!

Wynter and Thatcher are waiting for a story, so are you ready for one, too?

Okay, we all know the dogs are waiting for a treat, but you'd like a story anyway, wouldn't you?

This little tale stars the characters from my next book, and they really should stay quiet until I've actually written their story, don't you think? But they've been clambering for the spotlight for weeks, so just this once - since it's almost Thanksgiving - I'll let them have their way.

So grab a cup of coffee or tea, put your feet up, and let your imagination transport you back in time to Deadwood, Dakota Territory, November 1876.....

The Angel of Deadwood

     Bunk Jones paused at the edge of the clearing to get his bearings. Ahead of him, one line of tracks marred the pristine snow of the mountain meadow. His tracks from this morning, when he was fresh with the hope of finding game for the children’s Thanksgiving dinner, were straight and sure. Tonight? He glanced behind him. At least the approaching dusk hid the telltale signs of his exhaustion.
    He shifted the Sharps rifle to his left hand and started across the meadow. They wouldn’t starve. A fifty pound bag of beans ensured that. And if he had to….
     Bunk shifted the Sharps back again.
     If he had to, he could butcher one of the heifers.
     But no man ate his breeding stock unless he had nothing else.
     The deep snow, soft from the winter sun, clung to his snowshoes like spring gumbo. He veered right at the far end of the meadow, avoiding the nightmarish Deadwood Gulch. Even in the best weather, a man could break a leg trying to navigate between the digs along the creek, and with snow covering the scattered mines, you never knew when you might sink in past your hips.
     Trudging along the ridge, Bunk searched through the possibilities of making tomorrow’s dinner special. Something to celebrate their first autumn in the Black Hills. Something to help the children forget the anniversary of the fire that killed their parents.
     Would any of the stores in town have sweets? Not likely. Not with the gold the miners had to spend on anything and everything that caught their fancy.
     Some beef from Slaughterhouse Gulch on the north side of the valley? Too dear. He had spent all his cash on the cattle for his ranch.
     No, they would just have to make do with what they had.
     Rounding Lexington Hill, Bunk stopped, drinking in the sight of the cabin nestled under the shadow of the rimrock. His claim had been scoured by the miners in ’75, and then ignored. But the acres of grass in the high mountain meadows rising up behind the cabin had been exactly what he was looking for. His gold was in the fifty bred heifers he had bought in Montana last summer.  A future for his nieces and nephew.
     His pace quickened at the sight of a sleigh in the yard. The MacFarlands had come. Did they know how important this day was for the children? Sarah might. Olivia would have told her teacher all about the fire.
     The thought of her put new energy in his steps. He tore off the cumbersome snowshoes as soon as he reached the front porch and reached for the doorknob.
     He swung the door open. James and Margaret, Sarah’s aunt and uncle, sat in the two chairs on either side of the fireplace, while Sarah leaned over a pot. Olivia and Charlie stood on either side of her, Olivia stirring something in the kettle that filled the cabin with a fruity, spicy scent.
     “Uncle Bunk!” Five-year-old Lucy slid off of Margaret’s lap and ran to him, grabbing his leg. “Sarah is making tea. Berry tea!”
     “Cranberry tea.” Olivia grinned at Bunk over her shoulder, the image of her mother in a nine-year-old body. She missed Jenny more than anyone, but the sadness haunting her eyes was gone today, her cheeks pink from stirring the tea.
     Charlie, with all the energy an eight-year-old boy could muster, ran to Bunk and started pulling off his coat. “Wait until you smell it! And they brought turkey, too!”
     Bunk glanced at James. The preacher smiled broadly. “Our folks back home remembered us with a missionary barrel. The cranberries are straight from Maine.” He shook his head as if still unable to believe the blessing, his eyes wet. “The Lord takes such good care of us.”
     One arm around Lucy’s shoulders, Bunk caught Sarah’s eye, returning her smile. Cranberry tea and turkey to make this Thanksgiving special? Only one of the miracles that had happened since he first met Sarah MacFarland.

I hope you enjoyed the little glimpse into Bunk and Sarah's lives!
This Cranberry Tea is wonderful for Thanksgiving morning while you're waiting for the turkey to cook, or otherwise trying not to spoil your dinner!

And here's the recipe:

Sarah MacFarland's Cranberry Tea

1 pound fresh cranberries
2-3 sticks cinnamon
1 cup honey
1/2 cup lemon juice

Cook the cranberries in a dutch oven or stock pot in two quarts water until they pop. Literally. When they get hot enough, you'll hear them popping in your pot!

Let them cook for a few minutes, and then strain out the cranberries - either with a strainer, or pour the tea through a colander, reserving the juice. and then put the juice back into the pot.

Save the cranberries, though! You'll want to use them for cranberry relish on Thursday!

Put the cinnamon sticks in the juice, and let simmer for about ten minutes. 

Add the honey, lemon juice, and an additional two quarts water. Heat to boiling, then reduce to a simmer.

You can remove the cinnamon sticks at any time, but Sarah likes to leave them in to get all the good flavor out!

Serve the tea hot, or refrigerate the leftovers and drink it cold. This is a great drink when you have a cold or the flu!


  1. Great story! And I'd never heard of Cranberry Tea! We're fans of all kinds of tea here so I should try this tomorrow...

    1. What I love about this tea is that it's made from the leftovers of cooking the cranberries (if you make your own cranberry sauce or relish!).

      You can add orange juice, too, instead of or in addition to the lemon juice. Good stuff!

  2. First things first -- stunning picture of your furr kids! And of course I know they wanted BOTH a story and a treat. I'm sure you obliged.

    Love this glimpse into Bunk and Sarah's story. I take it this is not an Amish tale? :-) You managed to convey such sharp images in my mind with your descriptive words. I hope the release date is sooner than later 'cause I'm hooked now.

    And the tea sounds yummy. Definitely a good addition to my Christmas Eve brunch!

    1. I'm glad you liked the story! And this is an extra - I don't know if it will appear in the final book or not, but it was fun writing it and seeing what the characters would do. :)

    2. Oh, and no, not an Amish story. I've been living in these Hills for 2 1/2 years now, and itching to write a cowboy story. Or two. Or six.

      The Amish stories are still coming, though.

  3. I was just thinking it would be great for my cold today!

    1. This is PERFECT for a cold - or to keep one away! Be sure to let Man O have some!

  4. Zeke's not getting a story? I want Zeke's story and I'm gonna sulk... ended up LOVING the other one and am totally surprised I was hooked from the beginning! yes I can admit it..not a fan of historical and my idea of a HEA in an amish story is for the heroine to get the heck outta dodge so to speak...but this one I was rooting for them to stay though still don't think I could handle that much passiveness myself esp in this day and age..

    gonna have to try this tea- not too sure about the straining part but will probably give it a try!


    1. I'm so glad you liked The Prodigal Son Returns! Not everyone likes every type of story :)

      And I hope you mean you want a story about Levi Zook, because his story is already written and scheduled for August 2014 from Love Inspired. (I'll give you a hint - he meets a Ruthy!)

      And you won't find people leaving the Amish faith in my books. There are Amish who leave the church and find their home in other denominations, and there are Amish who leave the church and never turn back to God. But there are many, many more Amish who grow up in the church and never want to leave.

      One of my goals in writing Amish stories is to show the Amish that I know - both in my family background and the people I met in the grocery stores and doctor's offices when we lived in Indiana. Real people, I hope!

    2. oops can't believe I got his name wrong! I guess I like the name Zeke LOL! Zook Zeek kinda close! I've honestly never read Amish- or at least not an entire book or enough to really form an honest opinion..just always seemed so restrictive though the older I'm getting the more I'mt hinking that's not so bad :-) I did enjoy the story a lot and it's changed my opnion - I guess Beverly lewis is the author I had read about because someone was criticizing how they were tired of her portrayal of the amish...guess I just had it in my head that total freedom is/was best you know? don't necessarily feel that way now. I liked the simple life they had but honestly I'm too lazy to water plants in the heat and not have air conditioning...but the characters and their lives seemed to be something worth having. :-) and glad Levi has his story already done..not wild about waiting til August though...not happy at all about waiting! is that number of kids common for amish? I know my grandmother had 6 but lost a couple others..I'm assuming they dont' use birth control and all that..just seems like they'd run out of land or something for them all to settle! I did find a library ebook by that author someone mentioned so will see how that goes. one of Beverly Lewis's I've wanted to read is that preacher's daughter trilogy - in that I think she leaves the amish but becomes Mennonite? think she does art and doesn't fit in or something but can't give it up.
      it's good he meets a Ruthy! He seemed like a nice dude in the prodigal book and I wanted him to find someone.

  5. Wow, what a great day in the Cafe this is. A story and a recipe. Thanks, Jan!!

  6. Oh, wow! I've never heard of cranberry tea! Very cool.

    And an excerpt!! Thanks for sharing, Jan!