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.

56 thoughts on “memere’s pork stuffing

  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! 🙂

    1. 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. 🙂

    1. 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… 🙂

  2. 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

    1. 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!

  3. Mary, I opened the “Bell’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.

  4. 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

    1. 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?

      1. 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!

        1. 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. 🙂

    1. 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 🙂

  5. 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>)

  6. 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!

    1. 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!

      1. 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. 🙂

          1. 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!

  7. This is interesting. We never put potatoes in the pork stuffing but there is a variation of pork stuffing with potatoes that goes into tortiere. Or families recipe goes back 4 generations and is most similar to Randy Holland’s: everything goes in a pot till the right color is reached: ground pork; water/turkey juice; clove & cinnamon; minced onion; and turkey liver and salt/pepper to taste. And the fat cooks away. Leftovers become a modified creton on toast with mustard. Tres bon!

    1. Hello L! It’s always interesting to me to hear about the different takes on pork stuffing. Every family seems to do it a little bit differently. Thank you for sharing!

    2. Hi! I will not be making dinner for a crowd this year, but I am sure I will bring along the Conton that my Grandmother, Mother, and I made each Thanksgiving and Christmas!

      I don’t put in any breadcrumbs, as I think it would change the texture. I have tried the crock pot, but have to be sure to add the cinnamon and clove right away as well as the onion or it doesn’t have that wonderful aroma when cooking. Also, last year my stuffing came out a little wetter than I like, that’s why I put it back in the oven to “finish up”. It worked well.

      Have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving.


    3. Did you know….

      With Tourtierre….”back in the day”….your filling was very much driven by your socio-economic status? When times were tough…or with poor families, those meat pies where “cut” with mashed potato, crackers, or other fillings. There was just no money for that much meat, even at Christmas, the traditional time for these. The well off families could afford a 100% meat content.

      Now, we just make it the way we learned it from our families, or by trying new ways. But the history is fascinating, too. Like….many people put a design of some sort on the pie….I put a little Christmas tree, for example. I wonder where that tradition came from.

      Best wishes,


  8. Folks,

    What a great conversation this subject always is!

    While I’m the longtime keeper and maker of the family Tourtierre recipe (French Canadian meat pie) and have fond memories of the local corner stores where I grew up in Nashua, NH making fresh batches of “Gorton” (Cretons) pork spread every week in our Crown Hill and French Hill neighborhoods, it’s only now that my Mom is almost 80 that I’m called upon to recreate the “lost” family meat stuffing recipe. Her versions the last couple years, she admits, were not edible.

    So many variations out there….and here, and in cookbooks. I’ve finally come up with what I think will do the trick, a “new” old recipe. We’ll see if it passes the “Mom test” in a couple of days. Talk about pressure at the holiday table!!!

    Interesting that Mom’s feedback, while (as you might guess) lacked much in the way of proportions, measurements, etc, actually gave good info in terms of *technique*. And based on what I know now, I am fairly confident in making this the day before, putting in a casserole, and heating it up in the oven on the big day, with a nice crispy finish. (We have another stuffing for the bird).

    OK, French-Canadian ancestors going back to the 1600’s. I am *so* ready. Bring it!

    Happy Thanksgiving,


        1. Randi,

          Conton sounds a lot like Cretons, which is the common name for the pork spread we only knew as Gorton.

          My guess: it’s just regional slang, family slang, or both.

          In the end, it is whatever you call it, right?

          With best wishes,


        2. I am of Canadian decent and live in Mass. my family did not use potatoes just ground pork and used crushed ritz crackers.

    1. Mark, I grew up in Nashua also! I actually made an error on the pork stuffing recipe I posted, crackers or breadcrumbs help to add a little filler. When we make tortierre we use mashed potatoes also…we just don’t make it so often. I find it interesting that you grew up calling it gorton as I did also and only happened on creton after seeing the Mailhot version in the store. I got the nonagenerian mom & dad stamp over the weekend for an early thanksgiving…and you’re right…no recipe. Bon chance!

  9. We never used saltines in ours as the potatoes were enough to bind it. Thanks for sharing, it’s so much better than bread stuffing or any of those nasty box stuffings.

    1. Hi Dottie – I think we like the extra bit of seasoning that the saltines bring to the stuffing. It is definitely much better than anything out of a box! Happy Thanksgiving!

  10. Hello Mary, my great-great grandparents were from Quebec they settled in Worcester, Massachusetts ca 1880’s. I grew up with a potatoe stuffing but do not have the recipe. I remember onions and celery with spices cooking than mashed potatoes were added happy thanksgiving , Gail

    1. Yes Gail…same with my family…. 5lb potato boiled and lightly mashed…must keep a little chunky. Same 4 diced celery stalks, 2 diced onion, add 1lb pork and 1 lb hamburger cook till done, drain some of fat if a lot. Add 1/4box Belles seasoning and mix into meat mixture then add into potatoes. Add 1cup bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and about another 1/4 box Belles Seasoning…adjust to taste but don’t over do it…… sooo good

      1. Ok hoping 3rd times a charm…. keeps posting in wrong spot. My recipe to Gail should say ” saute 4 diced celery stalks…”

  11. I’ll add only a few comments. Always use pork butt for the flavor of the extra fat. Never add cinnamon, clove, or allspice. That makes it Gorton and not traditional dressing. Use Bell’s only. And why bother cooking and mashing the potatoes. Just add the potatoes to the pork mixture and continue cooking. I have also found that it gets better and spicier every time you re-heat it.

  12. We also make this stuffing but make it different than you. My mom & dad put the ground pork and chopped onion in a pan and covered it with water and cooked it till the pork is no longer pink and onion is tender and most of the water is absorbed. We cooked potatoes and mashed them but didn’t add milk. We add mashed potatoes to the cooked pork and crushed saltine crackers to desired consistency then add Bell Seasoning, salt and pepper and mix well.
    We also use this mixture to make pork pies.

  13. My family has a different variation that we have loved and continue: 5lbs potato, boiled and mashed but keep a little chunky. Saute 4 diced celery stalks and 2 diced onions, add in 1 lb pork and 1 lb hamburger and saute . Drain off some of the fat. Mix in approx 1/4 box Belle’s seasoning to the meat mixture. Then add all this to the potatos. Add 1 cup bread crumbs, salt n pepper, and about another 1/4 box Belle,s seasoning…mix well and adjust spice and salt/pepper to your taste. Soooo yummy. I would prefer this to the turkey if I had to choose. Making double batch this year for large crowd and plan freezing some small portions for myself to enjoy at another time….

  14. I was born in Berlin, NH, in 1942. My grandparents (mother’s side) were from Quebec (came to US in 1902). I remember corton and tortiere, as well as the pork stuffing. I now make a version of the stuffing (no written recipe ever, so I don’t know how close I come to the original). I use ground pork (not too lean) with finely chopped onion, salt, mashed potatoes (no milk) and the only seasoning is Summer Savory (now known as just savory). I do use cloves and cinnamon in my tortiere and creton. I don’t remember the name of the stuffing; it sounded like fower, but haven’t been able to find anything closer than farce.

  15. Thanks so much Mary for posting this recipe. My grandmother was french canadian & she too made this dressing. It’s been my favorite forever. My gram gave the recipe to my mother, but her handwriting was not good when she wrote it & I couldn’t make it out. So happy I found yours. My gram just wrote to use poultry seasoning, so that’s what I’ll use this year, but I’ll be ordering the Bell’s for next year.
    Merry Christmas to you & yours, God bless.

    1. Hi Linda – Thanks so much for commenting. It’s great having those original recipes from grandmothers. Hope the seasoning worked out for you – definitely try the Bell’s next year! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  16. Bonjours Mary, I was perusing sites for turkey dressings and came upon yours. I’m delighted as a Quebecer to see your recipes and comments from other. Merci.Happy Thanksgiving in French is Joyeux Action de Graces. In Canada, we celebrate Thansgiving in October.
    Joyeux Noel!

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