HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Seeking my mother's dressing for Thanksgiving

So, Mom died in 1986 after a sudden brief illness. Dad remarried a year later (almost exactly) to a woman who proceeded to erase from their house every bit of evidence that Mom ever existed. Including throwing away her recipe box, filled with a lifetime of index cards from her own hand and from friends and relatives, as well as recipes clipped from magazines and newspapers.

One of the lost recipes was for her dressing to be served with the turkey. (Being Southern, she didn't stuff the bird; the stuffing was served alongside and called dressing.) I'd like to find it. So far, looking through her old Betty Crocker and the clippings stuffed therein (I was able to rescue that before Dad's wife got rid of it), I've had no luck. I've not found it on the internet anywhere so far either.

Here's what it is: A basic bread stuffing -- I think she even used the Pepperidge Farm or whomever's stuffing mix in a bag -- with celery, onion, sage, etc. And she formed it into PATTIES before she baked it, rather than baking it in a casserole. I asked once, and her reason was she liked to eat the leftover patties cold out of the refrigerator for a snack -- or even for breakfast -- and that was tidier than dipping into a casserole dish.

Any thoughts? This is not a "gourmet" stuffing of rustic bread and fresh herbs and such; it's a homey, '60s suburban mom kind of recipe.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I wish I could help you but know that I can't but still had to reply. How absolutely horrible for you and I am so very sorry.

    1 Reply
    1. re: foodieX2

      Thanks. Phyllis (Dad's wife) also threw away a wooden chest made by my great-grandfather and containing years of family letters, including my uncle's WWII letters about how hard he was fighting in this awful war (Big lie -- He spent most of the war in the brig on drunk and disorderly charges), as well as tons of family photos.

      I got my revenge; she had ordered all mention of my mom stricken from the "official" obituary to run in the newspaper. But I planned the funeral service and wrote the eulogy for the preacher and put mom back in.

    2. The old Better Homes & Gardens cookbook had a fairly simple bread stuffing in it that was quite good. Bread cubes, onions and celery sauteed off in a bunch of butter, salt, pepper, some poultry seasoning. I can't remember off the top of my head if it had fresh herbs in it, but those are easy enough to add. Being an older cookbook, this stuffing was stuffed into the bird for cooking. If this recipe sounds even remotely related to what your mother made, let me know and I can look up the recipe for you tonight after I get home from work. It might not be your mother's recipe, but it might be close enough that you could figure out the rest of it.

      1. Probably was Pepperidge Farm. I still buy it- can't buck tradition in this house! My mom added a pound of sausage meat- lightly browned but leave some of the fat and use less butter in the stuffing. We also add some lightly sauteed chopped celery and onion. Growing up in the sixties we only had it in patties as a leftover but they were good- fried in butter with leftover gravy.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Berheenia

          This is very similar to a recipe that my Mom used and was given to her by my grandmother. I am so sorry that your Mom's recipe box was discarded. My Mom had a tin recipe box which I treasure. I did find many of the recipes in the tin box in a Cookbook called the Laura Secord Canadian Cookbbok. You can find tin recipe boxes at tag sales and perhaps you can put a box together sourcing old cookbooks or asking your Mom's friends for any recipes they may have. If you are looking for vintage recipes am sure Chowhounders will help you to create a nice collection. So sorry again.

        2. Is it possible the patties were just your mom's invention since she liked to eat the dressing as leftovers? My mother made a similar dressing with the 60s/70s style of Pepperidge Farm bread crumbs type of onion-sage-celery mix, and she added a diced Granny Smith apple and the chopped, cooked turkey giblets (although she baked it all in a casserole, no patties). I think originally her recipe called for sultanas/golden raisins in the dressing, but since I am anti-raisin, she replaced that ingredient with the apple. Just thought I'd throw that out here since it was the same era and it's possible they used similar ingredients or recipes.

          Also, I'm sorry for your loss and the step-mother's over-the-top reaction.

          1. that must have been such a painful experience for you - i'm so sorry.

            does this sound like it might be close?


            1. Here's one that uses a mixture of cornbread and biscuits. I'm sure you could sub any sort of bread.

              Love the comment "I don't eat meat, so didn't use poultry seasoning" :-)

              1 Reply
              1. re: onrushpam

                I'm bummed for the OP and wish I had suggestions. Honestly, your taste-memory may be your best guide.

                But can't help but snigger at the commenter at onrushpam's link. Lol, seriously, too funny.

              2. My condolences as well. Recipes are so important to me, so I am sorry to hear you have to re-create from memory.

                Yes, the Pepperidge Farm Herb-Seasoned Stuffing in the blue bag is all we have ever used in my family. I know some people like their cornbread, but it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without the herb-seasoned for me.

                My grandmother and I would always finely chop celery and onion and saute it in butter. Then we would add that to the stuffing along with extra herbs and of course salt and pepper. The whole thing was moistened with more butter and chicken stock, then baked. what you could do is add two eggs for every two cups of stuffing, with a little flour (a New York Times tip). The egg will help to bind it. You can bake or fry them at that point.

                2 Replies
                1. re: AnnieWilliams

                  Yes, same stuffing served by my mom for years throughout the 60s and 70s. She did add the egg even though the stuffing was baked, 80% of the time, in a separate dish.

                  1. re: tcamp

                    And I forgot to mention, it is my favorite Thanksgiving dish. Even better if it's baked inside the bird. :)

                2. I found the sage stuffing recipe by accident in my Better Homes cookbook on the page with the pork shoulder about 5 years ago.It is not listed in the index of my version. It is the recipe my Mom uses, and it sounds similar, except for the patty formation.

                  4 c dry bread crumby(i use cubes)
                  1 c chopped celery
                  1/2 c chopped onion (grating it is good)
                  1 1/2 t dry sage
                  1 1/2 t salt
                  1/4 t pepper
                  1/3 c melted butter

                  just enough hot water to moisten

                  Mix, and either use to stuff or bake at 325 for 1 hour.


                  1. Its a shame that you lost your mom's recipes! How thoughtless of your father's new wife.

                    I have just a thought about your mom's dressing. I have encountered people who put eggs in the dressing. I don't and my mother didn't either, but I have eaten dressing with eggs as ingredient. Since your mom formed the dressing into patties, I wonder if she used eggs to bind them.

                    Good luck on your search.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: sueatmo

                      That's what I was thinking, too - an egg would bind it. I always stir a beaten egg or two into my stuffing. My mother always did, so I do, too. Never thought about why.

                      1. re: jmcarthur8

                        because it tastes better, I think the egg makes a 'richer' stuffing/dressing. we also add milk or cream to the dressing.

                        Here's how we did it in Ohio in the 60's:
                        Cube the sliced bread of two large sandwich loaves, that's one pound each. Cubes should be fairly small like 1/2-inch diced. Do this several days ahead so it will dry on baking sheet or dry in 200°F oven. Remove neck, gizzard and heart from turkey and cook with water to cover in a saucepan. Simmer until tender. Cut up meat in very small pieces and save the broth. Melt two sticks of butter in a large pan - that's 1/2 lb., add four cups of chopped onions and four cups of chopped celery and salt to taste. Saute until celery and onion are tender. Cool the celery, onions, meat, broth and then add six whole eggs, beaten. Mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper if needed. Heat two cups of milk and pour over the stuffing mixture. Let it sit until milk is absorbed. I also add ground sage. Place in a buttered casserole dish and bake in 350°F oven for 30-40 minutes, until top is browned. This makes a lot, so unless you have 12+ people to eat it, I would cut it in half. But, this year we had six to serve and I made half the recipe... and the day after Thanksgiving I made more dressing. Half the recipe isn't enough for us. The second day, I added sauteed mushrooms to the dressing before baking.

                        Growing up in Columbus, Ohio - this was my favorite dish at the Lazarus Department Store's restaurant:
                        Lazarus Dressing
3/4 cup butter

                        1 1/2 cups finely cut celery

                        1/2 cups finely cut onions

                        1/2 box Bread crumbs {can use 3 cups bread crumbs made in blender instead of boxed}

                        1 egg

                        1 large tablespoon diced green pepper

                        Salt and pepper to taste

                        2 tablespoons hot cream
 Melt butter in skillet over low heat. Add celery, onions and sauté about 20 minutes. Add bread crumbs, green pepper, salt and pepper. Lift with fork to fluff and mix lightly. Add cream and lift to mix. Place mixture in top of double boiler that has been greased. Cover and steam for 45 minutes. Lift with fork several times while steaming. Serve with Chicken gravy. Keeps very well.
                        * From Columbus Dispatch - Cooks Corner September 24,1949

                        1. re: Cynsa

                          Cynsa, I grew up in Columbus, too. I worked at Lazarus in '74, after I graduated from Walnut Ridge. The employee cafeteria was awesome ..same food as the restaurants in the store, but cheap!

                          1. re: jmcarthur8

                            I graduated from Walnut Ridge H.S. in 1965. My mom and I would have lunch at Lazarus, dressed up and wearing gloves - when I was just a little girl playing big girl. So, the dressing is still on the Lazarus menu? sigh

                          2. re: Cynsa

                            Oh wow Cynsa that brings back memories. I am from Columbus Ohio and my Mom worked at Lazarus downtown for 22 years.

                            My grandmother made a dressing almost just like that. It had everything you mentioned, but she also added celery, polutry seasoning, and would cut up some chicken breast into very small pieces and add some in.

                            My aunt (my mom's sister) worked at Big Bear supermarket for nearly 50+ years from age 16 until she retired from there on Whittier Ave at age 66.

                            She would use the Brownberry bread stuffing onion and sage mix to make it. At that time I think it was in a green color bag. She said they had always used that brand to make the mix.

                            I do have the recipe in one of my grandmothers hand written recipe boxes and notebooks. I will try and search for it and post it as well.

                            Hadn't thought about the patties originally mentioned. I will try that at Christmas.

                      2. I saw a very traditional southern cornbread dressing recipe on TV the other day. The recipe is posted on The Chew website.

                        1. I still make my moms 1960s stuffing recipe. I try to find mrs. Cubbins or pepperidge farm cornbread stuffing, onions and celery,poultry seasoning, butter, and jimmy dean sausage. I think this stuffing style was pretty 60s classic suburban cooking. It reminds me of my mom (now gone) but equally meaningful on this great food day....is that even the foodies rave about it ;) I save the "gourmet" stuffings or panade for another time.

                          I also bet your mom got the idea for patties from a popular woman's magazine back then and adopted the technique.

                          I am also sorry for your recipe box loss. I cherish my moms beat up, brown edged index cards with recipes from leg of lamb to ice box cookies. I bet many chowhounders have similar era recipes that you would recognize.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: sedimental

                            re your last paragraph, I concur. My materal grandmother made a religion out of reluctant cooking. Thus my mother learned to cook in the 60's from my father and from woman's magazines. Stuffing, meatloaf, tamale pie, 101 ways with hotdogs, you name it.

                          2. You probably already tried this, but just in case. Does your mom have a sister or best friend that she shared her love of cooking with? They might be a source for you. I know my mom and aunt share recipes with each other and I do with my BFF.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: rasputina

                              Sadly, no. All those folks are gone now. And nobody was as much of a cook as Mom.

                            2. I feel your pain jmckee. My father also tossed all of my Mom's recipes when he moved in with the "other" woman. When I asked him for them, he said he didn't need them anymore and tossed them. I was heartbroken.

                              As for the dressing/stuffing, I just use cubed stuffing mix (pre-seasoned herbs), then saute diced onion and celery. Add the sauteed veggies to the mix, add a couple of eggs, melted butter and chicken or turkey stock. I also just add salt, pepper and poultry seasoning to taste. The amounts of each depend on how much you are making. Just be sure not to "over" mix so it will stay moist. I also "baste" my dressing with turkey juices and it always stays moist. You could make this into patties or fill individual muffin tins with it before baking.

                              1. My sister-in-laws also made the dressing into patties and baked. They are from Kentucky via Virginia. I never knew anyone else that did this. It was just a regular cornbread/whitebread mixture (seems they used more whitebread than cornbread), onion, sage, celery and they mixed it with broth so that it was somewhat more wet than what I was used to. However, because they baked it in patties the moisture evaporated and the dressing patties were just right after being baked.

                                Don't know if this will help, but hope it does.

                                Your dad's second wife was very cruel not to even ask if anyone wanted the recipes, chest, etc. I am glad you got your revenge.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Wtg2Retire

                                  Kentucky where? We're talking Pulaski County for my Mom's family.

                                  Thank you all so much. I have a TON of info to go on now, and i'm feeling sure we can recreate the dish.

                                2. Why not put out a new thread asking for vintage recipes from the 60's. I will send you one to put in that recipe box. You may get some amazing recipes and it is proactive and may close this issue for you. I'm in if you put out that first thread.

                                  1. Unfortunate family dynamics aside, stuffing recipes don't vary all that much once you get past the general categories of basic, cornbread, chestnut, and oyster. I am in my 60's and my mother was a German immigrant who did not grow up with Thanksgiving. Whatever recipe she learned to roast a turkey by would have been pretty basic, during the 1930's or 40's. She cubed Arnold or Pepperidge Farm white bread, and mixed it with sauteed onions, celery, the chopped turkey liver, poultry seasoning or salt, pepper, and sage, and egg. She sometimes added chopped apple, and always filled both the cavity and neck. No broth because it cooked inside the bird.
                                    I use different bread, plus golden raisins and apple cider, but I do include the liver and to me, stuffing isn't right without it though I know it can be controversial. I don't think there's enough liver to jump out and identify itself. It's more a case of adding richness and umami.

                                    1. I have a recipe for stuffing balls if you would like it. Simple and delicious using basic ingredients including Pepperidge Farm stuffing cubes.

                                      1. Thanks again to all for your advice. I did a combination of things and baked the dressing in my big oval gratin dish over the weekend to augment the leftovers. It was very, very good, and it was agreed by the whole family that (a) we do this next year and more importantly (b) we have it now and again as a poultry side over the winter, when I can experiment with making it into patties. In other words: "Stuffing instead of potatoes? Honey, I love you."

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: jmckee

                                          If you widen your parameters, there are lots of possibilities for "stuffing patties". Jacques Pepin tops a salad with sauteed patties made with little more than cubed bread, egg, dairy, and allium.
                                          Add some creamed corn and bacon to that, for example. Thicken up a recipe for any kind of fritter - clam, corn, apple, whatever - with bread and instead of frying in a lot of oil, sautee in butter as patties.

                                          1. re: jmckee

                                            Nice to hear that you had a good result with your dressing. I make mine with eggs following the tradition of my mother in law, who also died way before her time and was replaced by a wicked step-mother, but we did get the recipes. I never would have thought about making patties, but now I will in memory of your mom. Dressing patties, what an innovation!

                                            1. re: Antilope

                                              This recipe looks good but I think it needs a beaten egg or two to hold it together.

                                            2. Turkey Dressing Patties

                                              1 cup yellow corn meal
                                              1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
                                              2 Tablespoons shortening
                                              2 eggs, well beaten
                                              1/2 cup milk
                                              1/2 teaspoon salt

                                              Combine corn meal, salt, baking powder in bowl.
                                              Melt shortening, add to eggs mixed with milk.
                                              Add to corn meal mixture, mix until bannter is smooth.
                                              Pour into greased 8-inch cake tin.
                                              Bake at 400-F 15 to 20 minutes.
                                              Remove from pan and cool.
                                              Crumble this corn bread into a large bowl.

                                              Then add to it:

                                              1/2 cup turkey stock
                                              1 slice dry toast, crumbled
                                              1 cup pecan halves
                                              1 cup chopped celery
                                              3/4 cup chopped onions
                                              1 Tablespoon powdered sage
                                              6 eggs, well beaten
                                              1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
                                              1 teaspoon salt

                                              Mix all ingredients thoroughly.
                                              Then drop by teaspoonfuls on greased baking sheet.
                                              Bake at 400-F 10 to 15 minutes or until brown.
                                              Makes 4 dozen patties.

                                              Source: Life Magazine, May 24, 1954

                                              1. My Mother, also deceased, always make her dressing with milk.
                                                onion & celery sauted in lots of butter. pull apart or cut bread into small
                                                pieces, including crusts. …mix with more butter.
                                                combine the onion & celery and mix in MILK, until moist.
                                                Her saying was, if you throw it up again the wall…it would stick there.
                                                being from Ireland, she certainly had an odd and humorous way of putting
                                                My sister and I have always carried on the tradition.

                                                1. Get four packets of cornbread mix and bake in a 9 by 13 pan crumble in a bowl add i onion diced small and 1 half cup celery diced small add three boiled eggs diced small stir together add 1 half a bottle of ground sage salt and black pepper to taste. Add broth of turkey until Slightly more moist than mashed potatoes bake until brown about 30 or 40 min at 350 temp hope it is like your mothers laney

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Laneybrown

                                                    I grew up in the south and although we often had cornbread, my mother used the pepperidge farm stuffing "croutons" or stuffing mix for the dressing. The rest of the recipe sounds like what my mother made, but she would not have added sage....too exotic, too green, and too obvious to her mostly picky eaters. I think there was a little sage on the stuffing mix. And yes, dice the onion small so those picky eaters won't see it! This dressing really depends on the quality of the turkey stock/broth and it was delicious! one year we had a separate pan of it with oysters included. Now I have personally serve oysters every Thanksgiving.

                                                    so sorry for the loss of your mom and her recipes. Love her idea of cooking as patties....as I love toasted dressing.