Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thanksgiving revisited

This is what I work from when I'm making Nan's bread stuffing. I've got notes written all over it, grease spots, spilled substances - really, it's a mess.  But it's one of my most treasured recipes EVER.

One of my aunts made stuffing with Nan quite a few years ago and attempted to craft a recipe by writing down Nan's actions. She never measured anything. It was all done by sight and taste and just knowing when enough was enough.

But my aunt made Nan slow down and measure the ingredients so we could get a recipe written down. I'll post the recipe after the steps.
The first thing I do is peel and dice one small onion. Set it aside for a little later.
Start toasting the bread. Three and a half loaves of bread. A few days ago I posted that I thought it took me about 45 minutes to toast three and a half loaves of bread.

It doesn't.

It took me about 90 minutes to toast all this bread. Geesh, I've got a slow toaster. 

Very important note : the darker you toast the bread, the darker the stuffing. Repeat that, the darker I toast the bread, the darker the stuffing.

Remember that. Because towards the end of the first loaf you might get tired of toasting bread and be tempted to pull the toast out early. And then your toast will be white-ish or, at the very least, a light beige color. Not the best color for stuffing. So be patient and let the toast get nice and dark.
The secret ingredient. The ingredient no one wants to admit to using.

Salt pork.

Really. You've got to have it. The stuffing doesn't taste the same without it. You can console yourself with the fact that you only make this once, maybe twice a year, so really...how bad can it be?

I use one package, about eight ounces, and chop it into small nuggets with a VERY. SHARP. KNIFE. This stuff is hard to cut. Seriously hard to cut. I now use the Man's professional grade butcher knife to cut this stuff. 
Throw the salt pork into a frying pan and start frying the juice/grease out of it. When it's all cooked out, and you'll know this because the nuggets get darker and much harder, remove the nuggets with a slotted spoon and toss the chopped onions into the salt pork juice/grease. 
Saute the onions until they brown. The first time I made this, I found that my aunt had forgotten to write this step down. So when I got to the step in the recipe that calls for adding the onions, I threw in chopped raw onions.

Blech. Everyone took a bite of stuffing, made a face, and a couple guests spit their onions out. Not a pretty sight.

Keep toasting the bread. When the bread is all toasted, start boiling water in a tea kettle. I use about two pots full of water. 
This is about a third of what you'll use. And that's my super large Tupperware bowl. You will end up having enough stuffing for a 30 pound turkey. It's not enough.

Trust me. It's never enough.
When you've got half the bread toasted, start pouring water in a few cups at a time. I do this by sight. The recipe calls for 14 cups of water but after you do it once or twice, you'll do it by feel.
Mix the water and the bread.

Add one egg, a stick of butter/margarine and 6 chicken bouillon cubes. Sprinkle cracked pepper over the whole top.

Add more water and mix some more. Keep mixing until the bouillon cubes disappear.
Add the onions and salt pork juice/grease and mix well. Keep adding bread and water and mixing until you've used up all the bread.

Now you get to add the second secret ingredient. Bell's Seasoning. I find it near the stuffing mixes in the grocery store.

3 tablespoons of it. Sounds like a lot but it's okay. Trust me. It will taste delicious when it's all mixed in. This is the step I love. Because you have to taste test it to get it right. But for you, as a beginning made-from-scratch-bread-stuffing-maker, use 3 tablespoons. 
Watch out for jumpers. These are rebellious pieces of stuffing that attempt to jump out of the bowl. You have to eat them. You can't put them back in because you don't want them to encourage other jumpers.

Then again, maybe you do...

Cover and refrigerate until you're ready to stuff the bird. That's how Nan makes it.

Nan's Bread Stuffing (for 30 lb. turkey)

Approx.

14 cups water
3.5 loaves of bread
1/2 lb salt pork (juice only)
1 small onion
3 Tbs. Bell's Seasoning
6 chicken bouillon cubes
1 egg
1 stick butter/margarine

1. Peel and chop small onion. Start toasting bread.
2. Chop and saute salt pork. Remove hard nuggets when cooked and add chopped onion. Saute onions until brown, remove from heat and set aside, onions and salt pork juice.
3. While onions are cooking, keep toasting bread, cubing it and placing in large bowl.
4. When you've got half the bread toasted and cubed, start adding water and mixing.
5. Add butter, egg, bouillon cubes and mix together with bread and water. Cover top with cracked pepper and mix together well.
6. Add onions and salt pork juice, mix well.
7. Add the second half of the toasted bread and more water, mixing to a consistency that's rather pasty. 
8. Add Bell's Seasoning mix and mix well. Taste as needed.
Homemade cranberry-orange relish with walnuts. Mmmm.
Playing Bananagrams after dinner. If you've never played, go buy this game. Super fun. Fast. Terrific.

One of our desserts. Quick and Easy Apple Tart.

Easiest thing I have ever made.

Slice two apples. Mix with cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, and salt.

Slice a thawed puff pastry sheet in half.

Lay the slices on the sheet.

Bake.
Incredible.
Found a heart when I cut open the butternut squash.

I love you, too, Mr. Butternut Squash.
My favorite Thanksgiving vegetable. Turnip.

I love this picture. Reminds me of the Sword in the Stone. Except, I can't ask the Man to remove it.

He won't touch turnip. He won't even come in the house when I'm cooking it. I have to cook it the day before, while he's at work, so the house doesn't smell like turnip on Thanksgiving. Pooh, I love that smell on Thanksgiving morning. Reminds me of Nan's house.

So that was Thanksgiving. Good food, good memories, and good fun. 

Back to Christmas tomorrow.


2 comments:

  1. Too funny about the guests spitting out your raw onions :)

    Love the picture of the pumpkin and the letters, that should be a thanksgiving card or something!!

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  2. Yes, I see at least a blog header next year with that bananagram picture!
    Thanks for the stuffing recipe..yum. AND the apple tart..how easy is that! Looks delish.

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