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Friday, November 22, 2013

Sage, and Stuffing and More for This Year's Unique Holiday - Thanksgiving!

Dear Folks,

Sage is the November Herb of the month.  How timely!

There is a bit of interesting history on the use of sage in our beloved Thanksgiving Day stuff or dressing.  By The Way - the difference is, dressing is prepared as a side dish and stuffing is, well, stuffed into something, usually poultry.

Sage is one of the primary components of "Poultry Seasoning" liberally in use around the holidays with turkey and other fowl.

While researching my cookbook some years ago I traced back the use of "sage and onion" to make stuffing in England.  The real origin is not exactly known, but what was discovered was that the cooks found that their Masters and Mistresses digested their fatty meals better when sage was used.  Modern science has shown that as with many herbs which are digestive aids, sage in particularly helps the body digest fatty meats.

From my book "101+ Recipes From The Herb Lady":

Herb Facts:
There are some 900 identified members of the sage (Salvia) family (including the stuffing sage we are all so familiar with) which originated in the Mediterranean and Asia Minor areas of the world, and has been known since the ancient Greek and Roman times. Sage (Salvia officinalis L.) is another member of the immense mint (Lamiaceae) family.
          Sage's antiseptic qualities (Salvia comes from Latin meaning "save") are generally used for mouth and throat ulcers and menopausal sweats (as a tea or gargle). Externally it can be used in an ointment for insect bites.
          The rubbed dried sage you purchase in the spice section is usually a combination of Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis l.) and Greek Sage (Salvia triloba).
          The use of sage in our traditional stuffing mixes most likely came from the “sage and onion” stuffing used beginning in Elizabethan times.  The cooks discovered their master, mistress & guests digested their food better when the stuffing was used. While all strongly aromatic herbs are digestive aids (at least) sage in particular helps digest fatty meats better.
          One old piece of wisdom notes the mastery of the household by the woman, where sage flourishes.
          Several varieties of the garden sage are not only tasty but also stunning landscaping plants: Purple Sage (Salvia officinalis 'Purpurea'); Tricolor Sage (Salvia officinalis 'Tricolor'); Golden Sage (Salvia Officinalis 'Golden'); and a variety, Berggarten Sage (Salvia officinalis 'Berggarten') which puts more energy into its tasty leaves than the flowers. Try a little wisdom in your garden!

Our Family Stuffing has always been very simple:

Poultry Seasoning

The proportions are never exact.  For a typical 14lb turkey, I melt 2 sticks of butter in a large skillet.  Finely chop equal proportions of celery (including leaves) and onion (about 4 cups worth), about a lb loaf of good bread cubed, and liberal seasoning.  Cook the celery and onion down until opaque, sprinkling periodically with the seasoning.

The cubed bread was prepared the night before to dry out.  When the celery and onion are done, scoop into the large bowl containing the bread, pour heated broth, about a cup at a time (first cup into the skillet first to get up all the good stuff), into the bread, folding as I go until I get a product that will stick together without being soupy.  I add more seasoning as I go.

Stuff the turkey.  If I have too much stuffing to fit in the turkey - I do a 'Mae West" bird by loosening the breast skin and gently stuffing under the skin.  This actually does two things.  The stuffing gets the flavor of the turkey and it keeps the meat very, very tender.

This is one of those meals where I liberally use butter, softened or melted over the turkey, rub in more seasoning and pop in the oven.  I baste several times with more broth.

Gravy from the the cooked turkey is easy with all of the flavors from the stuffing, seasoning and basting.

I generally try to offset the butter heavy turkey with various vegetable side dishes along with the usually mashed potatoes.

For those who want a different side dish or want a vegetarian friendly main dish - Stuffed Pumpkin!  This is one of my favorite recipes for any holiday when you have a pumpkin or very large squash, and room in the oven :-)

Catherine's Stuffed Pumpkin

I wish you a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving and to my Jewish friends and family - A Happy Thanksgivukkah.

Buzzfeed created a special page and recipes to have a fun "Thanksgivukkah" - I love the take on American Gothic :-)  Potato Lakes with Cranberry/Applesauce anyone?  Enjoy!


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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