Monday, November 27, 2017

SEASONED SOUTHERN STYLE: Our Traditional Southern Dressing and Giblet Gravy Recipes



In our family, we called it Mom's Dressing Recipe, but it was actually passed down from my Grandmother. . .who got it from her Mom. . .Heaven only knows how far back through the generations it goes. . . The thing is, there was actually no recipe. . .Each daughter was taught how to make it by their Mom's instruction. . . I suppose I was the first in the family to write it down on paper. . .I stood beside Mom as she mixed together the ingredients, trying to estimate the measures. Grandmother and Mom went by the way it looked, the way it tasted. . .and all was based on how much bread they had on hand. . . . Bread was the essential item. . .left-over biscuits and cornbread. . .the ends off loaves. . .scraps and pieces saved and frozen from months before. . .Lots and lots of bread. . .too much to be mixed in a bowl. . .They didn't have a bowl large enough. . .so they made-do, utililizing the bottom of a huge, old roasting pan. . .It was the official Magers family pan for dressing. . .Grandmother passed the pan to Mom. . .and yes. . Mom left it for me. . .


Most Southern states have variations of our traditional dressing recipe. . .It wasn't exclusively my family's. . .It's no huge, closely kept secret. . .Many Southern women made a variation of it, as older recipes can attest to that fact. . .Passing recipes around was a common practice. . . I grew up in a small community where recipes were shared, to the point that the original creator often got lost in the shuffle. . .Which brings me to the dressing served at the church's annual Harvest Dinner. . .It was the same as Grandmother's. . .Whether it came from her recipe box or not, I have no idea. . .but she had been a Charter member of the church and of the Women's Society. . .way back in the early 20th century when those Harvest Dinners began. . .I'll never know for sure, but I like to think she had something to do with it. . .
In this community the dish was referred to as the  'Methodist Dressing'. . .Not as opposed to the 'Baptist Dressing'. . . Most Baptist made this dressing, too. . .It was simply in reference to the Harvest Dinners put on by the Methodist women every year as a money-making project. . . Dell women were known for their delicious food, so their dinners were always sold out. . .In fact, they had to sell tickets for different time slots in order to serve everyone. . .People came from near and far. . .literally. . .From all over Northeast Arkansas and Southeast Missouri. . .from Tennessee. . and Mississippi. . .There was one year that they had two nights of dinners. . .two-three shifts each night.
Mom was president of the WSCS (Women's Society of Christian Service) several times and organized these dinners. . .obviously, a massive effort. . .She began in September,  lining up donations from the grocery stores. . .ordering the turkeys. . .visiting the bakeries for left-over bread. . .obtaining green beans, corn, peas and other vegetables from the Bush Cannery. . .The Franklin Press donated the printing for tickets and posters. . .She began getting commitments from the ladies as to which dishes they were to make and how many. . .organizing kitchen crews, servers, and hostesses. . .appointing those who would decorate and set up the tables. . .No paper plates or plastic allowed. . .The fine 'Methodist' china, crystal and silver came out of the cabinets. . .The tables were spread with their white linen tablecloths. . .The food was buffet style with beautiful silver bowls and platters. . .crystal serving dishes. . .and every  year gorgeous floral centerpieces. . .It was quite a production. . .Festive. . .Ticket holders themselves considered the dinner a special occasion. . .attending in their Sunday best. . .Not only was it a money-making project, it also brought the community together during our Fall harvests of cotton, soybeans, and wheat. . .These ladies were celebrating in the way that Southern women do. . .It was a time of thanks and gathering families in. . .of sharing their LOVE through their food. . .
Those Harvest Dinners were often talked about for months later. . .It also took about that long for the ladies to recuperate. . .


NEEDS NO GRAVY

There is a difference in our Southern dressing compared to the more common cornbread dressing that most people know. . ..It does include cornbread, usually made with white corn meal, but the addition of white bread, eggs and much more stock results in a light, puffy moist perfect side dish for turkey or chicken. . .In fact, it is so moist and flavorful that John maintains. . .'It needs no gravy'. . .Don't think he doesn't use gravy on it, though. . .He's a true Southern boy. . .


One of the things I enjoy about this recipe is that it is so forgiving and versatile. . .Armed with my jotted down notes, I find myself rarely referring to the recipe much at all. . .Just like Mom, I adjust it based on the taste and quantity of bread on hand. . .I can make more or less. . .add extra eggs or not. . .I have the option of making it plain. . .or. . .making it a meal in one by adding left-over turkey or chicken to the mix.

Sadly though, the old roasting pan for mixing hasn't been used in years. . .Our family has scattered. . .and dwindled. . .Over the years, I've been able to cut down the recipe so that my largest mixing bowl is the right size. . .I no longer have big bags of biscuits or left-over breads. . .but I have found that the Italian breads, left out for a day to dry a little, works well. . .

THE RECIPE

GIBLET GRAVY

You thought I said this delicious dressing needed no gravy, didn't you?. . .Well, it doesn't. . .but Giblet Gravy is still a must to add flavor on top of flavor. . .for more richness. . .Serve it on the side, though. . .so each can ladle his own. . .I, myself, cover the slices of turkey, too. . .


So now you're set for a true Southern Turkey and Dressing dinner. . .Whether it is called Mom's Dressing or Methodist Dressing or Southern Dressing. . .it's still the best of any I've ever tasted. . .Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without it. . .Not in this family anyway. . .


To round out the meal, add your own side dishes. . .
or try a few of Mom's favorites. . .
(Some Recipes will be posted later.)

Sweet Potato Casserole with Coconut, Pecans, and Marshmallows
Green Bean Casserole
Collard Greens 
Fresh Creamed Corn with Pimento
Company Peas

and top off the meal with Southern sweetness:

Martha Ruddle's Fruit Cake
Pecan Pies
Grandmother's Buttermilk Pie
Mincemeat Cobbler 

Yum. . .Christmas can't come too soon. . .


 



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