Traditional Poultry Stuffing

 

Ready for stuffing the bird.

Ready for stuffing the bird.

When I was very small, I remember watching with fascination, as Mom & Dad would put the turkey in the sink, and proceed to stuff it full of the mixture they’d cooked earlier that morning. They’d skewer it closed, stretching the skin to fit. Hefting the bird into a roaster that we never used for anything else, they would then put it in the oven. This would all happen before lunch, as it would take hours for the bird to roast. As soon as it was in the oven, Dad would drive off to go pick up Grandma to spend the holiday with us. The smell of the herb-laden stuffing would fragrantly scent the house all day.

As we grew, we took on a bit more of the holiday cooking each year, learning to simply make dinner, perhaps with a quick glance at the well-thumbed Joy of Cooking, but usually just following what Mom did, which was probably essentially the same as her mom did, and her mom before that.

Although I now buy a bag of coarse breadcrumbs, when growing up we never did. Slightly stale crusts and bits of bread would be kept until there were enough to either break apart to make a coarse crumb, or put folded into a tea towel to be rolled and crushed into fine crumbs. Today our bread trimmings tend to go to the chickens with their morning feed.

As stuffing is a bit of this and a bit of that, I needed to narrow it down to the essentials for the recipe; herbs, vegetables, a bit of fruit, egg, a bit of liquid, and sometimes the treat of oysters, and dry breadcrumb. This is essentially how I make it year after year, occasionally adding something new just to switch it up. Continue reading

Auntie Jane’s Shortbread

IMG_8735My aunt knows how to lay a table. She uses good china, silver, and cloth napkins even for the breakfast table, which is laid the night before. Lunch may be as simple as homemade soup and bread, but somehow it becomes a gracious break in the day, time to sit, and enjoy a small, wonderful meal. A few treats will be arranged on a pretty plate, to be enjoyed with a pot of tea before heading back into the day.

One of my favourite treats she makes is her shortbread. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that hers was a recipe that should definitely be preserved. I have never had a shortbread as good as hers, quite simply it is the best. It is slightly rustic, giving it a timeless quality. Continue reading

Farmhouse Soda Bread

IMG_3354After having amazing Soda Bread on our vacation, thought I’d look into it a bit more. The most essential quality of good Soda Bread is its lightness. All the soda bread I’ve had in the past has been like a huge drop biscuit, and somewhat coarse.

Here’s my thought, just because something is from yesteryear, a farmhouse, or labeled rustic doesn’t automatically mean it should be something you’re not proud of! The soda bread we had was so good, that it was used in the bread pudding as well. I’ve read all my head will hold about alkaline and acids, and am figuring out a recipe that if it works, will be posted here within the next few days. From an early age I remember being told to use a teaspoon or two of lemon juice in a cup of milk to get a better result in cooking than if you were to use store bought buttermilk. I always use this soured milk because I’ll never get through a litre of buttermilk! Apparently buttermilk’s not as acid as sour milk.

Also, thinking about biscuits and that they are never at their best the next day, I looked into storage.  I’m guessing that most folks don’t have an abundance of oiled baking paper on hand (this was what used in the 1800’s), but we do have tin foil.  When the loaves are closely wrapped with an impervious covering, you’ll get an extra couple of days of goodness.

So after some tweaking and thinking and reviewing what I already know about baking soda and powder, here is what I’ve come up with.

Makes 3 – 5 ¾“ x 3” loaves – enough for 12 servings Continue reading

Emily Allen’s Fruitcake

034This is our family’s fruitcake.  My parents had it for their wedding cake; we had it for ours, and many cousins and other relatives have as well.  Pounds of it are made every Christmas, soaked in brandy and left to age.  It makes a great snack for hiking, boating & fishing on the west coast (would probably work on any coast), so extra is made to use during the rest of the year.  Often I still have a piece in the pantry from the year before, found when I’m cooking that year’s batch.

Emily Allen was my mother’s mother’s mother.  She lived in London in a big old house on Palmers Green (still stands today) with her husband and large family.  Pictures we have of the early years of the 20th century show them scrambling over seaside rocks or climbing over hills and dales (literally) with picnic baskets and sports equipment in tow.  Her recipes from that time are barely legible now, faded on well used and splattered pages.  Her recipe showed two forms, a dark fruitcake and a light fruitcake.  There’s only a couple of ingredients that create the difference.  Honey and cider for the light cake and molasses and grape juice for the dark cake. There was a scribbled note about black currant jelly, and she may have used it instead of the molasses. I wonder if it really is her recipe, or was it her cook’s?

We prefer the light cake, so that is the recipe I have written. If you want to try the other form, just replace the two ingredients.  I read a description of perfect fruitcake written by a monk in the 1800’s.  He suggested that there should be barely enough cake to hold the fruit together and when sliced thinly it should resemble a stained glass window.  This recipe meets both of these requirements. It easily cuts to ¼“.040

I don’t know if glacé cherries are the same now as they were a hundred years ago, but today’s version will have to do.  The rest of the ingredients are pretty ageless.  I used to make hundreds of pounds of this cake, selling it to make Christmas money. A 1# wrapped cake would sell for $10 in the 80’s.  I finally stopped when I realized that from late October to the last weekend in November (my latest date of production), that I’d made at least 2 batches if not 3 each day.  I decided I’d rather spend time with my family than make money to spend on them!037

I still like to make some 1# cakes for gifts, and enough 2# cakes to keep our extended family happy.

Note: mixed peel – be sure it is actually citrus peel and not preserved rutabaga.  This is an inexpensive alternative that finds its way into Christmas cake fruit mixes.  Also, when buying cherries, be traditional and stick with red.  Green & yellow aren’t acceptable.

Each batch makes 6# of baked cake. Continue reading