“Herod called a meeting of all the leading Jewish priests and teachers of the law. He asked them where the Messiah would be born. They answered, “In the town of Bethlehem in Judea, just as the prophet wrote: ‘Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, you are important among the rulers of Judah. Yes, a ruler will come from you, and that ruler will lead Israel, my people.’”” Matthew 2:4-6 ERV
Bethlehem – “bread town” was the place God chose for his son, the “Bread of life” to be born. So I thought it was fitting today to include a recipe for my mom’s homemade bread and potato “filling” which always graced our table on Thanksgiving and Christmas when the family gathered for dinner.
Mom came from German Mennonite background so she grew up understanding the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect her parents spoke and enjoying many traditional foods. Many of the old family recipes were lost though when she married and followed my dad into the Schwenckfelder church (another German-based denomination in south eastern PA). Also, since they married in the post WWII era, she was a working mom, putting in long hours in a sewing factory and later a factory that made floor tiles, so that our family was well-provided for.
However, the one recipe she never lost was her bread and potato stuffing. On the eve of every Christmas or Thanksgiving holiday, Mom cubed several loaves of white bread into a large 6-quart bowl. She amply covered the bread with about a half cup of dried parsley, then placed a towel over the bread to dry out over night. In later years, she began to buy 4-5 bags of already dried bread cubes.
Early the next morning, she would be up by 6 AM, peeling and cutting potatoes into small cubes to fill her 6 quart Dutch oven. She cooked them until they were tender, draining them and reserving some of the liquid to moisten her bread.
While the potatoes cooled a bit, she finely chopped 4-6 stalks of celery and 2 cups of onions, adding them to the dried bread along with salt and pepper. When I got old enough to help, this was my job. Boo-hoo and LOL!
She added the cooled potatoes and about a quart of the reserved potato liquid to the bread and mixed it together. It was important that the bread be slightly moist. About an hour before the turkey was done, she would add turkey broth to the mixture as well for flavor. She always knew just how much to add so the stuffing was moist and stuck together well.
Putting it into two large casserole dishes, Mom topped the mixture with pats of real butter to help flavor it and brown the top. She baked it at 350° for at least an hour , covered with foil. Then she removed the covering and baked it for another half hour or longer until it came out nicely browned on the top, but fluffy and moist inside.
Christmas reminds me of Mom and I still make her recipe for my family dinners, though I omit the potatoes. I never could figure out why we needed them in the stuffing and mashed too.
No matter how you fix your stuffing / filling / dressing at this time of year, take time to remember and praise the Living Bread of Bethlehem who came that we should never hunger or thirst for God again! Amen.