Newfoundlanders love their savoury. That's summer savoury to the rest of the world but we just call it savoury. We buy tons of the stuff. The flavour of that wonderful herb is hard for me to describe as it is front and centre in my cooking and I really can't compare it to anything similar. It's definitely not like basil or oregano. Some say the taste is similar to thyme or marjoram but I don't use those enough to compare. I wouldn't even try to replace the all-important savoury with any other herb.
|Real Newfoundland Savoury.|
Christmas dinner in Newfoundland would probably fold up and close down if there was a shortage of savoury. No one would know how to make a decent dressing without the beloved herb. It just wouldn't be the same with sage or thyme or whatever.
Savoury is a staple in my cupboard as it is in most Newfoundland kitchens. I buy a lot of it during the year and keep it in a jar for easy use. The picture on the right is a Newfoundland icon. Mt. Sico Farm produces most of the savoury purchased and it is as traditional as it can get.
Mt. Scio Farm started up business in the early 1960s but savoury has been in my blood much longer than that. People grew the herb in their gardens and dried it for the winter. My father's cousin's husband, John Simms, grew savoury every year and sold it for a church fundraiser to neighbours and friends. I have very early memories of John Simms' savoury drying upside-down in brown paper bags hanging from the kitchen clothesline. (Everyone had a kitchen clothesline back in those days.) Bunches of fresh savoury would be tied together and placed leaf side down in large brown paper bags. The bags with the stalks sticking out of the top would be tied shut and hung on the clothesline to dry. There would be at least a dozen or more bags hanging in the kitchen. When dry, the bags would be shaken and the savoury would fall to the bottom of the bag and collected for winter use. It seems as if all my relatives and church members bought savoury from John because their kitchens looked the same as ours during the fall.
Newfoundland Dressing is a simple affair and quite easy to put together. Most people don't measure the ingredients but I have attempted to give some order to the method. You can use more or less of almost any of the ingredients and still have a good dressing. Just make sure it's not dry and sawdusty--nothing worse. My mom and dad always cubed the bread instead of using crumbs. This works quite well also, but you get a more uniform end product using crumbs if you are serving the dressing without stuffing it inside a bird.
Use a good firm homemade-style bread--not that fluff that goes to glue when wet. It should be 2 or 3 days old for maximum absorption of the butter and bouillon. You may use a mixture of white and whole wheat bread crumbs as well. I usually have bread ends in the freezer so I can make bread crumbs whenever I need them. Of course, you can also buy bread crumbs at the bakery section of your grocery store.
In Newfoundland people would refer to this bread, onion and herb side dish as "dressing" but I know in other areas it is referred to as "stuffing". Therefore the rather undecided title of this post.
Newfoundland Dressing or Stuffing
2 cups coarse bread crumbs white or a mixture of white and whole wheat, pressed down lightly
2 tablespoons savoury
1 small to medium onion, chopped
6 tablespoons butter, margarine or oil (butter is best)
¼ cup water or "chicken" bouillon, if dressing seems too dry
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional, but not traditional, add-ins:
¼ cup chopped celery
¼ cup grated carrot
¼ cup raisins or dried cranberries
Combine the bread crumbs and savoury in a medium-sized bowl. Sauté onion (and celery or carrot if using) in butter over medium heat until soft. Mix the sautéed onion and butter in with the crumbs and savoury and mix well. Add in any raisins or cranberries if using. If the dressing seems dry add the water or bouillon in by tablespoons until the dressing is as moist as you want. You want moist not wet. I use bouillon for added flavour. Taste for salt and add if needed to your personal taste. Pepper may also be added.
Place the dressing in a greased casserole dish and bake covered in a 325 degree oven for 20 minutes. Everything is cooked so you will only need to heat it through. If the dressing is not to be served immediately, refrigerate until ready to heat.
(If the dressing is going to be stuffed in a chicken or turkey you will not have to use the bouillon as the juices from the poultry will keep the dressing nice and moist.)
Makes about 4-6 servings or 2½ cups dressing or stuffing. (Probably enough for a chicken.)
Mix the bread crumbs and savoury together. You'll notice the crumbs are not fine but rather coarse. I made the crumbs from white and whole wheat bread that was 2 or 3 days old.
Sauté the onion in the butter until soft and translucent. I like (love) onions so I use at least a medium size onion. If you are going to use celery or carrot cook it with the onions. I usually stick with the traditional onion only unless I'm having a gourmet moment.
Mix the cooked onions and butter together with the savoury and bread crumbs.
As all the ingredients in the dressing are cooked it can be served immediately or stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Heat at 325 degrees for 20 minutes or until hot through. If you eat chicken or turkey it can be stuffed in the bird's cavities before roasting the poultry according to package directions.
A great Newfoundland favourite found in any restaurant worth a 5-greasy-spoon rating is "Fries, Dressing and Gravy". Serve with a side order of ketchup or vinegar.
Dressing is also great on a sandwich. Spread 2 slices of bread with mayonnaise or salad dressing and a little cranberry sauce. Place the meat or filling on the bottom slice and add a layer of dressing. Top with the second slice of bread. I made my sandwich with Mushroom Burgers. (You may, of course, add something green and healthy like lettuce.)
Delicious and fragrant with the sweet taste of Newfoundland savoury.