Cornbread Stuffing with Salt Pork from the Ridge
My thoughts of luxuriant wallowing were interrupted by the emergence from the woods of Ian and Myers, the latter with a brace of squirrels hung from his belt. Ian proudly presented me with an enormous black object, which on closer inspection proved to be a turkey, fat from gorging on the autumn grains.
“Boy’s got a nice eye, Mrs. Claire,” said Myers, nodding approvingly. “Those be wily birds, turkeys. Even the Indians don’t take ’em easy.”
It was early for Thanksgiving, but I was delighted with the bird, which would be the first substantial item in our larder. So was Jamie, though his pleasure lay more in the thing’s tail feathers, which would provide him with a good supply of quills.
Drums of Autumn, chapter 12, "Hearth Blessing"
Ok, so there's no actual stuffing in that excerpt. You probably noticed that.
There is, however, mention of a turkey and Thanksgiving...and since that bird is eventually going to get roasted over the hearth, I thought we should get some stuffing -- or dressing, if you prefer -- ready to go alongside.
It was also the number one answer when I asked fans on the Outlander Kitchen Facebook page what you recipe you wanted to see in time for US Thanksgiving on November 26.
Everything in this recipe, aside from the olive oil, which would have been replaced with more butter or lard - COULD have been found on Fraser's Ridge, eventually; Claire most likely grew all of these veggies and herbs in her garden; there were certainly pigs around, and due to a lack of refrigeration, the majority of all meat was preserved with salt; and if they couldn't trade with the Native Americans for the cranberries, there were any other number of varieties of fruit around to use instead.
It's also a great way to use up day old cornbread. It's not gluten free, but it's easily adaptable, either by using your own GF recipe for cornbread or by substituting your favourite GF flour mix for the all-purpose listed in the recipe.
The traditional recipe for cornbread comes to you straight from a North Carolina, and belongs to one of my cookbook recipe testers, Anna. It was passed down to her from her mother, a first generation Italian American who most likely learned it from her mother-in-law, who was from an Irish immigrant family and born in Tennessee.
Did you follow that?
It sounds to me like the start of one of Jamie's involved dissertations on the origins of his family. Or like one of my maternal grandmother's, a first generation Danish Canadian, who as the strongest of eight sisters, was chosen to accompany her father to set up a new life in Canada for the rest of their family in 1920.
Most of us in North America, including myself and my fellow Canadians who celebrated Thanksgiving in October, are from somewhere else originally. I wish everyone south of the 49th parallel a holiday full of food, love and family -- whether you have been here for 300 years or 3 weeks.
Cornbread Stuffing with Salt Pork
A delicious mix of golden cornbread, crisp bits of pork and savoury vegetables straight from the Ridge that will have everyone around your Thanksgiving table asking for seconds.
The ingredient list looks daunting, but it includes a recipe for cornbread that uses the fat rendered from the salt pork. Substitute a 1½ to 2 pound loaf of store-bought cornbread if that makes life easier during what is already a crazy holiday weekend.
Serves 8 to 10
- 1 pound salt pork, in ½-inch cubes
- ¼ cup butter
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 large onion, julienned
- ¾ pound mushrooms, sliced
- 2 medium carrots or parsnips, grated (I used 1 of each)
- 3 medium stalks celery, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons minced sage
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1½ cups chicken stock
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar (optional - I did not use it)
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk clabbered with 1 tablespoon vinegar)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- ¼ cup bacon fat
Place the cubed salt pork in a cold 8-inch cast iron skillet set over medium heat. Cover with a lid and cook until the fat is rendered, stirring very occasionally, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the lid and cook until the pork is crisp. Scoop the pork onto a plate with a slotted spoon, and set aside ¼ cup of fat for the cornbread, saving the rest for another purpose. Clean the pan.
Move the rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425?.
Make the cornbread: in a large heatproof bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Heat the salt pork fat in the cleaned 8-inch skillet until the fat and the skillet are hot. Add the milk and beaten egg to the dry ingredients mix until just combined, and pour in the fat. Stir quickly again and pour into the hot skillet. Bake until a toothpick comes clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes before removing to a metal rack to cool completely.
In a large heavy frying pan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium until bubbling. Add the onions, mushrooms, carrots/parsnips, garlic, thyme, rosemary, remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, and the pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.
Move the rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350?. Butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
Cut the cornbread into bite-sized cubes, and combine it in a large bowl with the salt pork, vegetables, sage, parsley and dried cranberries. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if required.
Whisk together the beaten eggs and chicken stock. Pour over the cornbread mixture in the bowl and stir to combine. Pour everything into the prepared baking dish and bake, covered with aluminum foil for 30 minutes. Uncover and cook until golden and crisp on top, about 30 more minutes.
Serve hot. Happy Thanksgiving!
- If the core of the parsnip is particularly large and/or woody, remove it with a knife and discard before grating.
- No fresh herbs? Use about half the amount of dried.
- Prepare this to where you have mixed the cubed cornbread with the veggies, herbs and cranberries in a bowl up store in the fridge for up to two days before your dinner. Finish as directed when its time to eat.
- This cornbread recipe is delicious on its own. Serve it warm from the pan with lots of butter.