"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china." Charles Dickens

November 16, 2011

Farmhouse Thanksgiving Stuffing

One of my favorite Thanksgiving decorations, from our son Henry, made many years ago.

Our first Thanksgiving in our Kentucky doublewide in 2008!
I've had a few requests this year for my stuffing and thought I'd blog about it as I do believe in sharing, even the most sacred of family recipes! When home from college one Thanksgiving break, way back in the early 80s [and no, I was not a Madonna fan: definitely a Cure, Morrissey, Kate Bush, U2, English Beat, and general British New Wave kind of gal], I came up with this recipe. It has been minimally tweaked over the years. I first assembled it with various ingredients we had on hand and additions I wanted to try. Whenever I make it, the stuffing reminds me of long-ago Thanksgivings altogether on our New Hampshire farm, many years ago, and how my visiting father especially loved it on the few times he joined us from Ohio.

Thanksgiving for 13: the table set at our old house in Hancock in 2007 (our last in New Hampshire).

Temple and our friend, Peter Sawyer,
at our second Thanksgiving in 2007.
This will easily stuff an 18-25# bird quite nicely, with plenty of leftovers. I usually make this much because then I freeze a bunch for roast chicken throughout the winter and my kids always beg for this stuffing throughout the year. [I've taken out the water chestnuts since I've been married, even though Temple didn't really know what they were until I mentioned them! But they give it a nice crunch. I've tried other nuts, including chestnuts, but the water chestnuts hold up the best.]

The added fruity sweetness pairs well with the savory additions and the crunch of the water chestnuts. And don't forget the gravy!

Catherine's Farmhouse Thanksgiving Stuffing (c. 1985)
  • 2 bags of favorite stuffing mix (I like to include one that is corn meal-based)
  • 1-2 loaves shredded up stale bread (or you can do this a few days before and leave it in a bowl on top of the fridge to dry)
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 1 very large sweet onion (or 2 large), chopped
  • 2 Tbsps minced garlic (fresh or jarred)
  • 5 scallions, chopped fine
  • 1 large bunch of celery, chopped (inc. leafy bits)
  • 1-1.5 pounds of sweet Italian sausage (links or ground)
  • 1-1.5 pounds of hot Italian sausage (" ")
  • 2 cans of sliced water chestnuts (packed in water)
  • 4 Granny Smith apples (or other crisp/tart apples that won't mush upon cooking, like Winesaps)
  • 1 bag of fresh cranberries
  • 1 can of whole cranberry sauce
  • 1 large bunch parsley, chopped fine
  • 1 small bunch fresh sage, chopped fine
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 quarts liquid (I combine chicken stock with apple cider, sometimes a bit of wine)

You will need one very large bowl to make this and a big skillet.

Two days before: cube up fresh or stale bread or shred and place in large bowl, uncovered.

Evening before you roast the bird (or very early in morning) esp. if you have a very cold place where you can keep stuffing mix covered up:

1. Add two bags of stuffing mix to prepared bread in bowl.

2. In large skillet, in the two sticks of melted butter, sauté the onion, garlic, scallions and celery together until translucent and nicely brown (but not overly so). Set aside.

3. Chop water chestnuts and Granny Smith apples (those should be small but not diced). Add to large skillet with vegetable mixture and lightly sauté. Add bag of cranberries and cook, on low, until they pop.

4. In another skillet, crumble and brown both kinds of Italian sausage. Drain and set aside.

5. Chop parsley and sage until fine. Add part to each of the above skillet mixtures and toss. Sprinkle, also, with kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste.

6. To large bread bowl, add all of the above skillets full. Toss with hands or large spoons.

7. To the tossed and combined mixture, add 1 can of cranberry sauce (this can be homemade but make sure you use whole berry sauce) and gradually add the 2 quarts liquid, combining as you go. You may not need all two quarts (reserve any unused for your gravy).

8. Make sure you taste and adjust liquids or seasonings! (You will have everyone trying to eat this before you get it in the bird.)

9. Stuff your bird right before roasting and set aside a dish to bake for the table and/or put right into freezer containers! There will be plenty of extra.

You come back when you're ready!



  1. that dressing sounds like a meal in itself.

  2. I was watching "The Chew" one day this week and they were doing dressing/stuffing. Either Mario Batali or Michael Symon said that the dressing should be as hot as possible when you put it in the bird or "little Salmonella bugs will be dancing inside".


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