CranMa’s Tips For Hosting Your First Thanksgiving

I’m working with Ocean Spray on their Ask CranMa campaign to bring you tips for hosting your first Thanksgiving. While they are sponsoring this, all opinions, text, and photos are mine.



Alright dudes and dudettes, chicos and chicas, ladies and gents I’ve got to tell you about a truly unique experience I had at the beginning of the month. Ocean Spray invited me to attend their Ask CranMa Thanksgiving Boot Camp in Rockefeller Center®.

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That’s right, it was boot camp! That means the CranMas whipped us into fighting shape and made us army crawl through Rockefeller Center®. We’re preparing for Turkey Day war here!

Seriously though, Ocean Spray invited the matriarchs of multigenerational cranberry farming families to come teach us Millennials how to host our first ever Thanksgiving feast. They call these grandmas the CranMas! One tip, for example: avocado toast was not eaten at the first Thanksgiving and should not be found on the Turkey Day dinner table. OK fine, I made that one up.

Meet The CranMas

So, we got to spend time with some of the sweetest old ladies that I ever did meet. Did you know that Ocean Spray is a farmer-owned cooperative of cranberry growers? I didn’t. I kind of assumed they were a soulless corporation and it’s refreshing this day and age to see the little guy (or gal) thriving.  Well, let’s get introduced:

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Sue Gilmore

A fifth generation cranberry farmer who owns and operates the Gilmore Cranberry Company in Southeastern Massachusetts. Sue taught us all about setting the scene on Thanksgiving.

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Mary Ann Lee

A cranberry farmer from Tabernacle, New Jersey. Mary Ann gave us some great Holiday Hacks.

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Diane Moss

Diane is a third-generation cranberry farmer who owns and operates a 150-acre cranberry marsh in Wisconsin Rapids, WI. I was so engrossed by the cocktails she was making that I apparently forgot to take a picture of her. Whoops! But her Cassini Cocktail was fantastic!

Dinner In The Bog

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Then, after boot camp, they served us a Thanksgiving dinner in a legit cranberry bog in New York’s Rockefeller Center®. They even gave us waders to slip on over our clothes.

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We sat at the cool table (literally! that water was cold!) and talked turkey with the CranMas while we ate.

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Here’s the full menu with their recipes. Check it out, yo.

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It was all so very delicious.

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Ettiquette Tip: If your napkin falls off your lap while dining in a cranberry bog, that’s it. It’s dead to you. Just move on.

Tips For First Time Hosts From The CranMas

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CranMa Sue:

  • Set your table a few days ahead of time.
  • If you have smaller guest list serve family style. If you are expecting a lot of people serve buffet style.
  • Take inventory of serving dishes and utensils; label each item with what you want to serve in it. (Yeah Post-Its!)
  • Make a list of what you will need and buy it a week prior
  • Ask your guests to bring appetizers, sides, and/or desserts so you can focus on the main dish.
  • Cook the stuffing separately the day before. I’m going to throw my own two cents in and say that’s not just nice and convenient, but, by doing this, you can also keep the stuffing meat free in case you have any vegetarians or vegans attending.
  • If you’re crafty you can get artistic wire and thread Ocean Spray® Fresh Cranberries on it. Spray paint them with lacquer and you can fashion them into pretty napkin rings or decorations for stemware. (Pictured above)

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CranMa Diane:

  • Set up a separate entertaining area in another room to ease congestion in the kitchen. Provide self-serve appetizers and drinks, including one signature cocktail (like this Cranberry Comfort Cocktail)
  • Use an online planning too to outline what guests can bring. That way everyone can coordinate what to bring easily.
  • Decorate and make most of the items the day before, especially the cranberry dishes and decor.
  • Get the kids and grandkids involved. Have them make name cards, menus, etc. Make sure everyone knows who the artist is!
  • Make candied cranberries! They make a perfect decoration for the table, a beautiful cocktail garnish, and delicious desert topping.(Pictured above)

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CranMa Mary Ann

  • Focus on the fam! That’s what Thanksgiving’s all about right?
  • Go slowly and plan a few weeks ahead.
  • Put a lot of love in it.
  • Remember that you’re guests are grateful to be part of your celebration.
  • Keep in mind that your with family and friends. It doesn’t have to be perfect 🙂

My Own Extra Turkey Tips:

  • When picking your turkey, the general rule of thumb is 1 pound per guest. If there is a large guest list, make 2 smaller birds instead of 1 large one. Turkey is a pain in the ass to cook right and it gets even harder the bigger it gets.
  • Thaw your frozen turkey in the fridge in a large rimmed pan to catch the juices. Do not do it in water. Thawed turkey water is full of salmonella.
  • It takes about 24 hours to thaw for each 4-5 pounds of bird. If you have a 15-pound bird, start thawing 4 days ahead.
  • Spatchcock your turkey. You won’t get that pretty Norman Rockwell moment, but the bird will have an amazingly crispy skin and be more evenly cooked.

There’s No Need To Fear! CranMa Is Here!

Alright First-Time Thanksgiving hosts. You have any questions about perfecting Turkey Day(hint it doesn’t have to be perfect)? You can ask me in the comments or you can ask CranMa. Go to and chat with CranMa anytime. Go to and chat with CranMa anytime on Facebook Messenger.

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One comment

  1. Such an awesome resource to get prepped! Am bookmarking!

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