Over the weekend, I did some Cooking With Ida, this time exploring stuffing recipes from a hundred years ago. Mrs. Allen’s book Cooking Menus Service (1924) was my source. The heading of the Meats and Meat Dishes section restates Ida’s primary focuses in her cookbooks–economy through self-reliance (cooking with what you can produce and preserve yourself) and zero-waste. This section includes several inventive/frugal stuffing recipe options. Each recipe includes bread, however, bread is not the main ingredient.
Sage and Onion Stuffing
The first recipe, Sage-and-Onion Stuffing, begins with familiar ingredients–bread, sage, poultry seasoning, and onions–six large onions! The onions are to be boiled in water until tender then finely chopped. Two cups of bread that has been soaked in cold water for one hour then squeezed dry is combined with the onions and seasonings and is then stuffed in the bird.
Giblet Stuffing, a common stuffing even today, is to be prepared by simmering “one set” of giblets until tender and chopping them. Two cupsful of bread are prepared (similar to the recipe above) by soaking the bread in water and squeezing it until “quite dry”. The moist bread is then tossed with two minced apples, two minced onions, prepared giblets, poultry seasoning, and salt and pepper.
Corn Stuffing, not to be confused with cornbread stuffing, is another option. One cupful of canned corn or dried and stewed corn (evidently including the liquid) and poultry seasoning is heated with two tablespoons of butter or butter substitute (think salt pork or bacon fat). Two cups of crumbled stale bread, minced parsley, and “scraped” onion is stirred into the warm corn mixture. It is then ready for stuffing the bird or to be baked as a side dish.
The recipe that I chose to prepare was Ida’s Potato Stuffing. The reason for my choice was twofold. First, the recipe was made up of three cups of mashed potatoes and one cup of stale breadcrumbs with minced onion and seasonings. I love mashed potatoes, and so does my husband, so I knew he would be on board as a taste-tester. We also raised our family on meat and potatoes, so leftover mashed potatoes were always in the fridge. Following Ida’s zero-waste philosophy, mashed potatoes as stuffing would have been a natural fit for my family.
The recipe calls for three cupsful of hot mashed potatoes, and since mine were leftovers, I reheated them in the microwave. My leftovers had been seasoned with salt, pepper, melted butter, and sour cream. However, that is not what the original recipe was calling for, but it definitely elevated the final dish! For the breadcrumbs, I used one cup of panko because that is what I had in the pantry. I sauteed the minced onion in a half cup of butter instead of salt pork or bacon fat. I also sauteed a heaping cup of chopped celery for texture, even though the recipe didn’t call for it. An egg tossed in at the end to bind the ingredients together might have been a luxury a hundred years ago as hens lay fewer and fewer eggs as fall progresses. I baked the stuffing at 325 degrees for about 35 minutes in an uncovered casserole dish just until the edges started to crisp up. My kitchen smelled like Thanksgiving!
The results of our taste test revealed that it was delicious, however, we really missed the texture of bread stuffing. The chopped celery that I added helped texturally, but I should have chopped it more coarsly. In a tight economical situation, I can see using this recipe as a substitute for bread stuffing, and being proud to serve it.
Good luck in your Thanksgiving preparations and/or travels. Check back on Wednesday for a heartwarming story of a Community Friendsgiving from 1922.