Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Joe's Mom's Salt Pork Dressing Recipe

Every year at holiday-time my husband makes his mother’s Salt Pork Dressing, which uses fresh marjoram. We have, in the past, had no trouble getting a little bunch of fresh marjoram at the stores, but last year we couldn’t find any fresh marjoram, so he used dried, but he said the flavor just wasn’t right.

As a result, when I was ordering seeds for last year, I included marjoram seeds in the order. Since we wouldn’t need much, I grew only two plants, and one didn’t survive the wet Spring. The other never got exactly robust, but there would have been enough of the herb for a batch of Joe’s mom’s dressing if the poor plant hadn’t drowned in The Big Rain. I will try growing it again in the Spring, being sure to put the plant(s) in a place that will drain as well and quickly as possible, but if we have another soggy year, I am guessing that the result will be similar---drowned marjoram.

This year, we were lucky enough to find fresh marjoram at the Whole Foods store in the next town south of here (my town doesn’t have one), so Joe was able to make dressing that tasted right.

One of Joe’s sisters is assembling the family recipes into a book, and when she emailed Joe for confirmation on the instructions for their mother's mother-in-law's dumplings, Joe asked whether she had the Salt Pork Dressing recipe. This is what he said:

Yes, that is how I make them, according to Mom's instructions. By the way, do you have her mother's recipe for salt pork dressing? I make it every Thanksgiving and when I tell Mom about it, she gets very excited. Perhaps, if someone is not already doing it, you could make it for her on Christmas. It's easy assuming you can find fresh marjoram (marjoram was known to the Greeks and Romans as a symbol of happiness.

Boil salt pork in a little water for at least an hour (while your getting the turkey ready). Dice the salt pork when cool (lot's of fat so pick the meatiest piece you can find at the store). Mix with chopped marjoram (fresh, but dried will do in a pinch) and diced potatoes that have been boiled but not to the point of mushiness. Season to taste with black pepper and with the water the salt pork has been boiled in.

Notice that measurements are totally not mentioned, but I don’t think Joe’s Mom typically used exact measures except in some kinds of baking. As an experienced cook, she just used amounts that looked right. That's what Joe does, too. It may be part of the tradition!

Joe's parents both grew up in the German section of Buffalo, NY, so Joe's food heritage is very German, which probably accounts for the dumplings and the Salt Pork Dressing.

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