Twice a year, my family makes extensive shopping lists and to-do lists. Not just for Christmas but for Thanksgiving. We buy the turkey and the ham and all the the fixin’s in November, but we start the quest as early as September for the ground pork that is a staple of our family’s stuffing. You can’t have a bird without good stuffing. And ground pork can run up to $6/pound.
Now you might ask, “Why ground pork?” It doesn’t seem like it would fit Turkey Day.
Our family has a 100+ year old recipe for French meat stuffing, passed down from my grandmother’s family in Canada from the late 1800s. Yes, it’s an old recipe. I taught it to my daughter, and we taught it to her kids, and we will teach it to our grandkids.
So we begin the quest for ground pork in September. I have one market locally that will sell it for $1.50 a pound and that’s when we grab as much as we can get. One day in September, I took the last six packages and froze the meat.
This weekend my grandson, Bobby, (in the above photo) will join me in the kitchen as we mix up at least eight pounds of ground beef with the pork, and a ton of other spices. And mashed potatoes. And burnt toast.
Therein lies the secret of the flavor, and the key to getting the next generation to put in the effort to learn the making of our stuffing.
We run an extension cord outside and attach the toaster. (If you do this indoors the smoke alarm goes ballistic). The kids get to burn the toast, that is, run it 2-3 times through the toaster until it is charred. They have to carry it inside in a towel (because it’s darned hot) and let it cool on the kitchen table. In each generation, that has been the cherished job, in part because the neighbors can’t quite figure out what we are doing. Inside, the pot of mashed potatoes is being mixed into the meat and my grandson is taste-testing all the spices. He can tell in a single taste exactly what the balance is or isn’t and adjust it accordingly.
Then we crumble the toast.Shredding it with our fingers and mixing it in. We use about six bread slices, but then, we make A LOT of stuffing. Two soup pots worth, because everyone takes some home. And then there are the meat pies.
Yes, meat pies. Everybody wants one. The first pot of stuffing will make 4-5 meat pies, depending on now high we stuff them. And we stuff them. Two pies at a time in the oven.
Yes, it’s a lot of work. And yes, it takes most of the day. And so far the entire family agrees that it is not Thanksgiving with out time time-honored stuffing mix. Around 7 a.m. on November 23 it goes into our 25 pound bird.
When everyone pours into my little apartment on Turkey Day, we will dig in — as always — to that straight-from-Canada recipe.
— Christine Anne Piesyk