Do you call it Stuffing or Dressing? Is your family from the south? If so, you probably call it dressing, if you’re from the north it’s stuffing in your house. No matter what you call it, we’ve got some great factoids on the dish just so you can finally one up that “know it all Uncle” of yours at the dinner table this year.
Did the Pilgrims have stuffing for their First Thanksgiving?
While they might have cooked something alongside the bird historians think that if anything it would most likely be a wild rice of sorts and not a bread based dished as rice was more readily available, bread was not.
Written recipes date back as far as 1836 although some might argue that stuffed meat dishes had been around since the first century. Google will tell you that the Romans stuffed one of their favorite meat dishes – the Dormouse. Hard no on that one!
So in answer to your Uncle, it depends on what you define as stuffing.
What goes in your Stuffing?
We’re back to the north / south thing. The south is all about the cornbread. While the north is bread based.
Pro Tip: Now that you know the north / south difference, if the dish on the table is cornbread based even though we here in Fresno call it Stuffing, you’ll earn double extra Grandma points if you politely ask Uncle Bob to, “Please pass the Dressing” then give Grandma that knowing wink. 😉
What makes your stuffing special?
After the base ingredient, what you put in your stuffing is somewhat determined by what region you are in or are from. Besides the usual celery and poultry spices here’s the special twist that various areas are most fond of.
Northeast / New England: Oysters and or Mussels.
Georgia: Pecans. In Georgia pecans are harvested from October to November.
North Carolina: Chestnuts. Interestingly, the entire eastern coast was fond of Chestnuts but a fungus wiped out most all of the trees in the early 1900s. Trees in North Carolina were spared.
New York: Cranberries. Did you know Long Island was once home to Cranberry Bogs? So much so that they were the 3rd largest producer in the nation.
New Jersey: Italian Sausage. The difference in Italian sausage and other sausages is the seasoning. You’ll no doubt recognize fennel in a New Jersey style stuffing.
Minnesota: We’re not sure why but maybe it’s just because Wild Rice is abundant in the Great Lakes area, but a Wild Rice stuffing is the signature dish here.
Louisiana: Andouille Sausage and sometimes oysters and shellfish. It’s a Creole thing.
Pennsylvania: Potato. Still with bread but letting the potatoes take the center stage we can look at the Pennsylvania Dutch for their influence in this.
Wisconsin: Sauerkraut and Sourdough. This is likely owing to the Germanic roots of many who live in the region.
Texas: Pecans but can also have hints of Jalapenos. Did you know Texas is the 3rd largest producer of Pecans (after Georgia and New Mexico).
National Stuffing Day?
You know there are people out there that will celebrate anything. Well, for those that want to know, November 21st is National Stuffing Day. Which makes sense for those that prepare traditional styles of Stuffing as it’s a multi day process. With 3 days before T-Day, the 21st is a good day to bake you fresh bread or cornbread. Remember you need nice dry bread to make stuffing on the 24th.
Stove Top, Casserole, or “In The Bird”?
Now that you know it takes at least 3 good days to make a traditional styled stuffing you can see why back in 1972 General Foods was pushing hard on their quick and easy Stove Top Stuffing a thing.
They succeeded and today it’s a viable option for many households. Chances are you’ve had Stove Top before but are heading over to pinterest for a more homemade version this year. The bigger question then is going to be – do you cook it inside the turkey or in a casserole dish in the oven?
“In the bird” is supposed to add flavor and keep your stuffing moist. The general idea is that the dried bread cubes are going to suck up tasty turkey juices and create a flavor profile that can’t be replicated in a casserole dish. The downside is that there’s only so much room inside a turkey and we know how much stuffing the twins will pile on their plates again this year. The casserole dish(s) offers the scalability we need to meet supply and demand.
Critics of “in the bird” point out the potential for food poisoning and that’s a very real threat. One of the contributing factors is thought to be that we cram as much as we can, trying to make the most of the situation (it’s all those twins fault). This doesn’t allow the stuffing to reach a temp of 165 °F, possibly resulting in food borne illness.
For more, the U.S.D.A. has a whole page just on Stuffing https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/poultry/stuffing-and-food-safety