Today we focus on the dressing (or “stuffing”, if you prefer, which I do) of the turkey. Browsing historic recipes gives me the impression that the Big Three turkey dressings are cornbread, oyster, and chestnut. What other alternatives are there?
The Burlington Daily Hawk-Eye (quoting the Detroit Free Press), of November 26 1876 opined that “Roast turkey stuffed with nice rich mashed potatoes is admired by many”, but went on to give some recipes, including this one, for a basic bread dressing.
“Take three pints of bread crumbs for a medium-sized turkey: chop finely, with one-quarter pound of salt pork, a good lump of butter, salt, pepper, sauce and savory, and break in two or three eggs to make it of the right consistency. Fill both the breast and body and sew up.”
From the simple we go to the extravagant with the following idea from The Wellsboro Agitator, of December 24, 1878
“There is one ingredient here I would like to have – but you must leave it out if the object is to be economical. A dozen or so of truffles, finely chopped, half inside the stuffing and half outside in the gravy will add a crowning and superb relish to your roast turkey – but I warn you that the dozen of truffles will cost you an extra five dollars.”
How about one of the “new style stuffings” discussed in an article in the Wisconsin State Journal of January 1938?
8 cups breadcrumbs, 1 egg, beaten, 4 slices bacon, salt and pepper to taste, ½ teaspoon poultry seasoning; milk to moisten, 1 small can mushrooms.
Dice the bacon and pan broil, then brown the mushrooms in the drippings. Mix all together lightly.
As for the Big Three, we have had recipes for all things cornmeal in many previous posts, oysters are now too expensive to stuff inside a roasting bird, but chestnuts still seem like a good idea, if you can get them where you live. Here is a recipe is from the Fort Wayne Daily Gazette of November 24, 1881.
One pint of shelled chestnuts, one quart of stock, one teaspoonful of lemon juice, one tablespoonful of flour, two of butter; add salt and pepper. Boil the chestnuts in water for about three minutes, then plunge them in cold water and rub off the dark skins. Put them on to cook with the stock and boil gently until they will mash readily (it will take about an hour) mash as fine as possible. Put the butter and flour in a saucepan and cook until a dark brown. Stir into the sauce, and cook two minutes. Add the seasoning and rub all through a sieve. Use large chestnuts.
Quotation for the Day.
The funny thing about Thanksgiving, or any huge meal, is that you spend 12 hours shopping for it and then chopping and cooking and braising and blanching. Then it takes 20 minutes to eat it and everybody sort of sits around in a food coma, and then it takes four hours to clean it up.