Mom’s Cornbread Dressing.
“Why is the dressing green?” my husband whispered in my ear. It was his first Thanksgiving dinner at my parent’s house. “Sage, my dear, the spice of the gods.” I whispered back. One or two big aluminum foil pans of the slightly green, spicy dressing, redolent with black pepper, onions, salty bits of giblets and turkey pan drippings scented my mom’s house every Thanksgiving and Christmas. I don’t know where she learned to make her dressing, she did not talk about cooking with her mom, but Lord it was good. There was no written recipe, but I watched her make this so often and tasted it for her so many times that the making of it is imprinted on my DNA. She would tell us kids, “Come taste this for me and see if it has enough sage.” knowing full well it was perfect; she just wanted to see our eyes roll back in our heads like sharks at a feeding frenzy.
Why is it that every daughter tries to recreate the taste of their mother’s cooking? I think it is one of those rites of passage that define us a family. So for this Texas girl, I try each holiday to recreate that taste, with maybe a little less sage in deference to my husband’s palate. His contribution was this knockout smoked turkey breast. But that recipe is for another post. So this year, in my mom’s honor, I pass along the recipe as I remember it; simple in its ingredients, but layered with deep, happy memories of family gatherings. I took pictures and promise I got no kickbacks from the manufacturer’s presented. Substitute as you choose. I try to make the cornbread and the bisquick (mom called this bread pone) the day before the meal. Fresh breads are too moist and will gum up your dressing.
Get a big turkey roaster-size aluminum pan and break up the cornbread and bread pone into crumbs. In a small pan, cook the turkey giblets in enough salted water to cover with a roughly chopped onion, a stalk of chopped celery, a bay leaf and some pepper corns. Peel away any tough parts and chop the turkey giblets. Set aside.
In a small skillet, melt a stick of butter and sauté the chopped onion until tender and translucent. Pour the cooked onion and butter over the bread crumbs. Add the chopped turkey giblets. If you have roast turkey drippings, pour them in too. Add at least one half container of sage and salt and pepper to taste.
Mix enough of the chicken stock to moisten the mixture to the consistency you like. For me it takes one or two cans of chicken stock. When you mix this dressing, you have to use your hands. You cannot feel the consistency of the dressing through a spoon. Don’t be rough, as Emeril Lagasse says “This is a food of love thing.”
Bake in a 350° oven for 30-45 minutes. There should be just a browned lovely crust on the top. I did not take a picture when it came out of the oven (duh). Too busy eating. I’ll update it with one at Christmas.
2 packages of Bisquick
2 packages of yellow cornbread mix (not sweet)
2 cans of chicken stock
1 stick of butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 or 2 bottles of powdered sage
salt and pepper to taste
Turkey giblets cooked and chopped
I’ve been watching the oak trees on my farm drop a prolific crop of acorns this year. So many acorns in fact that I began to wonder if my trees were alright. Sources I’ve read say that despite the old farmer’s warning, a heavy acorn drop does not mean we will have a hard winter, it just means we had the right weather conditions for a heavy flower set on the oak trees this past spring.
So we have a bounty of acorns. My bay quarter horse Jo-Jo loved to eat acorns in the fall, but he could not stop himself from contentedly crunching them until he’d end up getting a colicky belly ache. Not good. Our resident squirrels (we don’t have many squirrels because of our healthy population of hawks and coyotes) stand in bewildered amazement at the abundance of acorns under our red oak in the back. At the rate they are burying them we should have our own red oak forest come spring.
Acorns plunk down into our waterfall pond like heavy raindrops and also into our coffee if we sit out by the waterfall on the weekends. Navigating our patios are rather like walking on a bag of marbles, no matter how many times you sweep the crackling, rolling carpet up.
But in retrospect, the bother balances with the good when I think of how many animals use the acorns as a food source. Between the deer, quail, squirrels, foxes, small little night rodents and the birds, a bumper crop of acorns means food for their winter. So the table is set for you guys at my farm. Bring your friends, we have plenty of acorns to go around.
Image CCO Public Domain Pixaby
Donkeys! (say this like Mike Myers in Shrek please.) Well then, Donkeys. My husband and I own four miniature donkeys, Perdita and Poco (jenny and jack), plus their two offspring Holly and Indy (jenny and jack). A jenny is a female donkey, a jack is a male and who knows where this terminology came from. We acquired the original donkey Poco from our neighbor down the street. Story goes that Poco was a retired actor from “The Promise” a live nativity play in Granbury, Texas. (Poco was forcibly retired because he had the bad manners to keep biting the wise men and anyone else he could reach too. Not good for creating a heavenly atmosphere.) So we fell in love with the little guy when we fed him when the neighbors were away. Bingo, first donkey. For those of you who have never seen a miniature donkey, they are about the size of a Great Dane and are the sweetest animal alive. Gentle, although stubborn, as you may have heard, and will follow you around creating the most horrific volume ever heard in an animal cry, accompanied by loud and melodic farting. Very endearing habit that. You just can’t help but laugh. We had to get a mate for Poco of course and procured Perdita, a truly lovely pinto-colored donkey. Indy and Holly followed. Poco is the traditional gray donkey with the black cross-shaped spine and shoulder stripe that earned them the name “Jerusalem” donkey from the story that they carried Mary into Bethlehem. Poco had the nasty habit of “cribbing”, which is a routine where they go up to the fence, latch onto the wire with their top teeth, open their mouth and inhale air into their tummies with a loud sucking noise. It is evidently a little donkey endorphin buzz to do so. Animals crib just like some folks eat chocolate;they are bored and it makes them feel good. We tried everything to get him to stop. We changed his feed, rubbed the fence wire with hot sauce…..nothing. He was a cribbing addict. This used to drive my husband insane. He was convinced that Poco would break the fence wire, which would have to be replaced. (True) He has mellowed over the years and no longer reacts, but in the early years……. One afternoon I heard our truck coming down the driveway. Stop. The engine roars, wheels squeal and kick up gravel as my husband aims the truck directly at the fence where Poco is merrily sucking the fence (cribbing), making a noise that sounds like someone pulling their Wellingtons out of quicksand. Screech! The truck stops inches from little Poco’s face as my sweet husband leans on the truck horn. No reaction from Poco…absolutely none, nada. I hear more sucking noises. This little vignette was repeated several more times as I watched from the garden room window. Then I slowly backed away and lowered the shade. Some battles just have to be fought alone. “How was your day hon?”, I asked as George entered the house. “Fine.” Poco is still with us, although he now no longer cribs. I think he quit when we quit reacting. Hmmmmm….reminds me of some students I have.