memere’s pork stuffing

This pork stuffing is probably not one you’ve seen before. It’s traditionally a “Canadian” thing and considering my dad’s side of the family comes from Canada, it’s not really that much of a surprise. My Memere (or grandmother) was a wonderful cook – she saved and wrote down a lot of her recipes and she even journaled just about every day of her life. My dad says that this is great Memere’s recipe – so it’s an old one!

My great Memere immigrated here from Canada and moved into a French Canadian neighborhood in Massachusetts – so she never learned how to speak English. My grandparents both spoke French and my dad knows enough to get by – but me? I took a semester of French in college and almost didn’t pass the class because I got the final exam date mixed up – luckily my teacher took pity on me and allowed me to take the test in her office and I managed to pass it – and then promptly forget everything I learned.

Luckily you don’t need to know French to make this recipe! This recipe is sort of similar to cretons, a cooked pork spread, but we add in mashed potatoes to it and then stuff it inside of a turkey.

First, start off by boiling a lot of potatoes. I used almost a whole 5 lb. bag of potatoes. Seriously.

Also: since that’s a lot of potatoes, I didn’t peel them. This elicited a response from my father, “You didn’t peel the potatoes?!” Sorry, no, I did not. I was being lazy.

Luckily my laziness won out because I remembered to use our potato ricer this year, which happily removed most of the peel for me.

Thank you, ricer, for helping me to be lazy.

Take your freshly riced (or mashed) potatoes and make really basic mashed potatoes with just milk. You want a creamy, but still held together, mashed potato. Reserved about 2-3 cups of mashed potatoes and then use the rest to seasoning to your liking. Since we usually only make this for Thanksgiving, we just kill two side dishes with one stone, hence the crazy amount of cooked potatoes.

Proceed by slicing 4 small onions (I like to use the sweet ones) and chop up about a head of garlic.

Mind you, I did use some of the garlic for other dishes… but a little extra garlic never hurt anyone, right? You can cut back on this a little if you’re afraid, but don’t be. It’s just garlic, my darling.

Fill a big old pan with all of your onions and cook those suckers down until they’re good and caramelized.

Like this! You’ll want to add in the garlic in about the last 1-2 minutes of cooking so you don’t burn the garlic over the long cooking time for the onions. Remove this from the pan and reserve.

Add your plain old ground pork (not a sausage variety of any kind – no Italian, hot, or breakfast sausage here – just ground pork!) to the pan and cook down until it renders its fat.

My dad uses a potato masher (ironic that I didn’t use it for potatoes this year? I think so) to get the pork finely cut up.

Then, when you see the fat start rendering… you just cook it some more. Don’t drain the fat! Continue to cook it until the fat is cooked back into the pork. You can remove a little bit of it if you really feel you must… but then you’ll be removing porky flavor! So please try to resist.

Crush up some saltines (or, in our case, Keebler Club crackers since no one remembered to buy saltines…) and then add this to your pork. The saltines will soak up some of that fat and add saltiness and flavor to the dish.

At this point we add the magic secret ingredient – Bell’s Seasoning. Bell’s Seasoning is a poultry seasoning from New England containing rosemary, oregano, sage, ginger, and marjoram. It’s a salt free, all natural blend – and something you can’t get here in Southern California. We usually have our relatives send us a bunch and stick the boxes in the freezer – but you can order it on Amazon, or just use your favorite poultry seasoning.

We use half of a 1 oz. box of Bell’s Seasoning for the stuffing.

After the spices are mixed in, add in the caramelized onion/garlic mixture.

And again… mix well.

Then add in your reserved plain mashed potatoes. I didn’t actually measure this out – but I believe this is about 1 1/2 – 2 cups of mashed potatoes put in. You don’t want to put in too much potato since it’ll take away from the flavor – so it’s always better to just add in a little bit, mix, and see how the proportions look.

Mix, toss, turn and get that potato in there!

And this is about what it looks like mixed in – you can clearly see the pork and the potato combines the pork together nicely. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Use this stuffing in place of a traditional stuffing mix. The pork stuffing adds a wonderful aroma and flavor to your bird.

Add the leftover stuffing to a cast iron pot and bake in the oven for 30 minutes along with any other side dishes. Once it gets crusty and golden, you’re good to go.

This stuffing is truly one of my absolute favorite things to eat and I look forward to it every year. Some years I also make cornbread stuffing on the side, but I can’t live without this dish on the Thanksgiving table.

I’m sorry it’s taken me so many years to finally document my Memere’s pork stuffing and hope that you can try it out this Christmas or just as a new side dish for your dinner table. Get the recipe below!

Memere’s Pork Stuffing
(with some twists and additions from Dad)

about 4 lbs of potatoes, sliced (use less if you don’t want to make extra mashed potatoes)
4 small sweet onions, sliced
8-10 cloves of garlic, minced
2 lbs. ground pork
1/2 box of Bell’s Seasoning or .5 oz of your favorite poultry seasoning
1/2 sleeve of crushed saltines
salt & pepper

1) Boil potatoes until fork tender. Rice or mash until smooth – use only milk to make mashed potatoes. Reserve 2-3 cups. Use the rest to make your usual mashed potatoes.

2) Brown onions until caramelized and golden. Add garlic during the last 1-2 minutes of cooking, until fragrant. Remove onions/garlic and reserve.

3) Cook ground pork. Use a potato masher to grind up all of the pork pieces. When fat starts to render, continue cooking until about half of the fat has cooked back into the meat; do not drain.

4) Add about 1/2 – 1 cup of crushed saltines. Add until the fat from the pork is absorbed into the mixture. Add Bell’s Seasonings and stir.

5) Add in caramelized onions and garlic mixture and stir. Add in about 2 cups of mashed potatoes and mix. If needed, add more potatoes until the mixture looked balanced and well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste.

6) Use stuffing inside of a turkey and cook according to package directions. Place leftover stuffing in a cast iron skillet and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, until golden and crusty around the edges.


mary likes baking.

28 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing this family recipe and the secret ingredient, Bell’s (will need to order that). I like that this has caramelized onions AND mashed potatoes in here! Looks fantastic!

    I am a lazy cook as well and wouldn’t have peeled those potatoes either! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • mary says:

      Hi CC – It is one of my favorite side dishes ever! The Bell’s makes a real difference I think. It’s kind of like a powdered herb mixture – so you don’t get chunks of herbs, just all of the flavor. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Darlene says:

    I love pork and while stuffing isn’t really my thing, I think I would love this. Now your grandmother’s recipe is immortalized online!

    • mary says:

      Hi Darlene – This dish doesn’t really taste anything like traditional stuffing – though some of the herb flavors are in there. It just tastes like meaty goodness! The potatoes help to bring it all together so it doesn’t just seem like you’re putting meatloaf into a turkey… ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Valeda Houle Schedin says:

    I am Joyce’s aunt by her marriage to Kevin Houle and my daughter made this stuffing for thanksgiving. However, we cook everything together in a big pot and usually add hamburg to the pork so as to minimize the fat content. Also celery but no garlic. Will have to try yours and you dad’s addition one day. And you are so right about the Bell’s seasoning – makes the diah

    • mary says:

      Hi Valeda – I tried to find other recipes like this one online, but didn’t find too much – mostly just the pork pate-like dish that I mentioned. I don’t think we’re ever had celery in it, but that sounds like a nice addition – almost more “stuffing” like. I wish Bell’s Seasonings was in stores here! At least we can buy it online or get Joyce to send us more! Thanks for your comments!

  4. Minxi says:

    Wow this looks awesome. Stuffing is always my favorite dish at the Thanksgiving table – I’ll have to try this new variation! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Desi says:

    Mary, I opened the “Bellโ€™s Seasoning” link you have in the article and to my suprise you can order 4 boxes for $15.00 with free shipping, I think that’s the way to go and the price is right.
    I did not know they also sell stuffing mix, WOW.

  6. Dennis says:

    Wow looks like two meals in one! I’m craving stuffing again. I actually crave it year round! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Raymond Desjean says:

    I cannot agree more that memere’s stuffing is the best it is better then any stuffing you can buy it’s .really good..I should know for i have been eating it since i was a little kid, every thanksgiving and Christmas for eighty years,you see Mary’s memere’ was. my mother

    • Russell Desjean says:

      And I Helped.

    • Randi Holland says:

      My Memere always made this stuffing, as did my Mother, and now my sister in law, sisters and me. We never carmelzed the onions, and used only ground pork butt. pork butt, not pork shoulder, pork butt. 4-5 pounds!

      We put the ground pork butt into a large pot adding just enough water to cover the meat. While cooking, we add a couple of sliced onions, salt to taste, 1 tsp of ground glove and one tablespoon of cinnamon for every pound of pork you are cooking. We simmer it for a long time, Until all of the water is absorbed and just the liquid fat is on the top. We cool the mixture and later scrape the fat off the top of the mixture. We then add mashed potatoes to the meat mixture. Then we stuff the turkey with it and warm up the rest for dinner, as we never seem to have enough!

      This year was my best “batch” I think it was because I put the extra stuffing (contuon) in the oven warming for about an hour. We never used the bells stuffing mix in this recipe, although I have used bells in the past for bread stuffing. I love the traditions we continue for Thanksgiving and Christmas!
      Did your memere make a great Christmas pudding with sponge cake, strawberries, tangerenes, walnuts, bananas and whipped cream?

      • mary says:

        My dad tried adding water to it this year and it gave the pork a bit of a smoother consistency. Thanks for sharing how you make your recipe, Randi! I’ve never had the Christmas pudding that you mentioned, I’ll have to ask my dad if he ever had that growing up. I’m hoping my dad makes poutine rapees for Christmas this year!

        • Julie Landry says:

          We don’t use water for the stuffing, but we do use it when making gorton (cretons). I didn’t actually realize until now that it must be the water that makes the consistency so smooth. The water also seems to help the fat rise to the top so that you can decide whether or not you want to keep it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Ohh MY GAWD!! I almost fell over reading about this. Pork stuffing with potatoes? Where have you been all my life. YUMMMMMMMM.

    • mary says:

      Hi Jenny! This has been our regular Thanksgiving stuffing for years and years – I kind of thought everyone had pork and potatoes in their stuffing ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Gabrielle Fiorte says:

    YOU’RE right Mary, Canadian pork stuffing does not have celery in it. Your recipe is very much the traditional one. Thanks for sharing. Your memere was my aunt.(dad’s sister>)

  10. Julie Landry says:

    Hi! I’m so glad I found this. We’re not related, but we’ve been making pretty much the same thing in our family (Lecuyer/Berard) for generations as well. (No celery!) I am the Self-Designated Pork Dressing Maker. It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it.

    The proportions are a little different – we use two big potatoes and one big onion per pound of pork. We use the extra potato instead of crumbs to absorb the liquid. We mash the taters directly into the cooked pork, no milk.

    We also cook the onions at the same time as the pork… IF we do the pork in a pan… last year, I did the pork in a crock pot with the already-browned onions. The results were excellent, and it was a huge time-saver (no babysitting a pan). Cleanup was simpler, too.

    I’ve never tried cracker crumbs, nor finishing in the oven. I think I’d like what crumbs would do for the texture, but they might cut in on the porky flavor whereas potatoes do not. But the oven finish is a no-brainer – I don’t know why I never thought of that before. (Oh yeah – lazy!)

    Hmm. Maybe I’ll do a trial run tomorrow!

    • mary says:

      Hi Julie! We have tried it with more potato but then we feel like the pork flavor gets a little lost. We prefer the crackers for the saltines as well instead of adding extra salt. Haven’t tried it with direct potatoes with no milk though! The crock pot sounds like a good time saver. Thanks for sharing your variations and tips!

      • Julie Landry says:

        Two things I forgot to mention:

        1. Last year I realized that Bell’s Seasoning probably came into the recipe as a convenient substitute for herbes de Provence. I floated this idea to the family (to use herbes de Provence next time) and it was rejected… but that’s probably what the original seasoning was.

        2. Doing it in the crockpot results in a wet product. So at the end, I take the lid off and let it go on HI for about an hour so some of it can evaporate off. Even then, it can be a little wetter than we really like it, even though the flavor is still just right. That’s why I’m excited about finishing it in the oven, which should hopefully remove more of the excess liquid. (We don’t stuff it into the turkey, alas, but serve it on the side.)

        3. (I know I said it was just two things, but I can’t count): The crock pot takes a lot longer, obviously, but I’m doing this while working from home. Tending to the onions while they caramelize is distracting enough, but it smells heavenly. I really like not having to tend to the pork as well. Just a periodic stir is all it needs.

        The onions are just about ready to add to the pot. I’ll add them to the pork, which is already well on its way, and stick the potatoes in the oven to bake. (Baking instead of boiling also results in less cleanup, plus they won’t be so wet when I mash ’em.) Then… I’ll do some of my actual job for a while until it’s time to put this dish together. ๐Ÿ™‚

        • mary says:

          Thanks for the extra cockpot method tips! We always make ours on Turkey day morning – I’m so looking forward to eating it tomorrow!

          • Julie Landry says:

            Thanks, Mary. Funny thing – it’s not nearly as wet this time as it was last year. Not sure what’s different this time, but I’m happy with it.

            At some (near) future date I’m going to make my own batch that I won’t have to share with anyone – and I’ll do it with the cracker crumbs, herbes de provence, and all the other variations that my family doesn’t want to try!

          • mary says:

            The herbes de provence might be something I’ll have to try, too!

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