Thanksgiving Dinner Skill-School Day #4: Prep-Ahead, Wild & Rustic Sourdough Stuffing from Scratch

Yay! We’re so glad you dropped in to take a peek in our kitchen! Before we get cookin’ you may want to check out our first four posts in this series:

I’m rustic . . . he’s wild.

I’m often asked how in the world my husband and I ended up together. I’m an old soul . . . I love simple, quiet days with lots of reading and focused activity (you probably already guessed that). My husband, on the other hand, loves going on adventures (the kind that result in a satisfying layer of manly mud on his truck) and taking on projects in the garage that create a dumpster full of sawdust. I make bunting, he chainsaws bears (wooden ones of course). I love reading and cooking with the kids, he loves running around wild with them. I enjoy taking the kids on a hike, to the library, or to plant a garden in the back yard. He takes the kids on epic outings to go fishing, tracking, sledding, or skiing. I let them paint, he lets them use power tools. When papa is at work, the kids and I listen to lots of classical music together. When papa is home, bluegrass and classic rock rule the day. Suffice it to say my hubby is pretty bad-ass, and I . . . am not.

new hike, new state

Of course, my husband and I do have a few things in common: we love God, we love each other (most of the time), we love our kids (again . . . most of the time), we love nature, and we are very passionate about doing things grass-roots, do-it-yourself style. Oh . . . and we share an incredible distaste for living in the city (no offense to anyone in the city . . . we’re just not built for it). In fact, when we were stuck in the city not so very long ago, we used to fantasize about what we would do when we could finally move back to the country and get back out in nature. I talked about the herb garden I’d grow, and he talked about the hunting trips he’d take.

One of my lifelong dreams has been to grow a garden that could completely sustain our family (definitely still a futuristic dream). My hubby has had a similar lifelong dream to replace what little meat we eat (we are mostly plant-based) with only wild-caught game and fish. Since moving to the country this past summer (hurray!) his dream has truly become the reality for our family. A few weeks ago he brought home half of an elk, yesterday he brought home a seventeen pound turkey for Thanksgiving (and strutted around the house with turkey feathers in his hat), and today he is on a wild goose . . . hunt. We are giving away bloody packages to our friends, and still we will have plenty to meat our needs until the next hunting season.

Although I’m not . . . game enough to join my hubby on his fishing or hunting outings (or even assist him in the kitchen cleaning and processing his hauls . . . icky) I am loving how my rustic home-cooking has been featuring my wild half lately.

Today’s stuffing recipe is a sort of symbolic celebration for my hubby and my first holiday in our new home . . . a place where our souls have become alive again since splitting the city scene —where I’ve been able to enjoy rustic simplicity and where he has become wild and free once again. This is something for which I am truly thankful.

This from-scratch turkey stuffing is a complete 180 from it’s stuffed-in-the-convenient-bag cousin . . . you know, the dump-it-in-a-dish-and-bake-it stuff. This isn’t city stuffing my friends . . . it’s country stuffing. Like me, it’s quaint, rustic, and homey (no, not homely!), and like my hubby, it has an unexpected wild side. I guess you could say that opposites attract in this grass-roots, do-it-yourself, turkey stuffing!

Embrace your rustic roots and/or your wild-child spirit, and cook up some country-style, harvest-hallowing, heritage-hailing, holiday stuffing with us!

Prep-Ahead, Wild & Rustic Sourdough Stuffing from Scratch

~2 to 3 hours prep time with kids~

~What makes this stuffing RUSTIC & WILD~

  • We cut and aged our own bread cubes (you could go even more grass-roots and make the bread yourself if you’re feeling super cool)
  • We made our own turkey stock from the wild-caught turkey’s neck (gulp!)
  • We added chopped onions and celery for a fresh-from-the-garden flavor and pioneer look
  • We used a cup of wild rice (my mom’s secret) to give our stuffing flavorful depth, toothsome texture, and a rustic look!
  • We will add ground elk sausage this year!
  • We added mushrooms for a foraging sort of look and earthy flavor
  • We used fresh herbs rather than pre-ground for extra-fragrant, extra colorful stuffing!


*This recipe is our family’s own commemorative creation*

*makes enough for a large tray of stuffing + extra to stuff your turkey*

  • 9 cups dried out/stale bread cubes (half sweet baguette/loaf, half sourdough)
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 large onion, minced or chopped
  • *optional* 1 box of crimini, shitake, or button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tb fresh sage *or rosemary*, finely chopped (or 1 tsp dried sage *or rosemary*)
  • 1 tb fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
  • *optional* 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (or 1/8th tsp ground)
  • *optional* 1 cup cooked wild rice
  • *optional* 1 cup cooked ground sausage (we are using elk sausage . . . venison, pork, turkey, or vegan sausage can all be used)
  • 3 cups chicken stock (or turkey neck stock like we made!)
  • *optional 1/3 cup butter (if using our herb butter, you can omit the sage, rosemary, and thyme from above)
  • Please note: we do not include chestnuts or parsley in our stuffing. If you wish to do so, I recommend adding 1 tb fresh chopped parsley, and 1/2 cup chopped chestnuts)

Let’s get Cookin’!

*click here to check out our tips for kicking it with kids in the kitchen*

1.) Cut bread cubes: 9 cups of 1 inch bread cubes, roughly half should be from a sweet bread/loaf/baguette, and the other half should be sourdough (ages 7 and up with best judgment according to child)

2.) Dry out/age your bread cubes: arrange a shallow covering of bread cubes onto trays or in pans so that the bread cubes are exposed and can dry out or stale. Lightly cover or drape a thin cloth or napkin over the tray to keep out dust or bugs, but do not tightly cover as to allow air to circulate and dry the bread. Leave to dry for at least 36 hours or until fairly dry. Store fully dry bread cubes in a zip lock in the pantry or freezer for as long as you like.

3.) Make *optional* turkey-neck-stock: place raw turkey neck in a cooking pot and cover with 6-8 cups of water to cover the top of the neck. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid. Let simmer for 1-2 hours. Let cool, strain out the neck and tiny bones, then allow strained liquid to settle for several minutes. Pour liquid slowly into another container and watch carefully to stop pouring once you reach any fine sediment at the bottom. Pour the sediment liquid over your pet’s dinner, or discard. Place the strained stock in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 5 days or in freezer indefinitely.

I promised myself growing up that I would never, ever do this. My mom cooked the turkey neck to make a rich stock every Thanksgiving to use for the stuffing and gravy. I was so disgusted by the sight of that raw neck that I swore I would never, ever cook the turkey neck when I was the mama. Well, here I am . . . my third year cooking a turkey neck, and now I’m even posting a picture of it! Don’t get me wrong, I’m still totally disgusted by it. And I’m pretty sure I’ve never pointed my lens at a more hideous subject. But if there is anything I can’t stand, it is being wasteful. When we do eat meat, we try to be really conscious to use as much of it as we possibly can. That being said, there is no filter in the world that will make this turkey neck look any less disgusting than it really is. Our son was so completely disgusted by the sight of it, I had to laugh! He takes after his mama.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you! Cheers to the grossest thing on my blog!

*You can also use the neck meat if you wish: carefully pull meat off the cooked neck strip by strip, avoiding small bones and sharp vertebrae. Chop up the pulled meat to add to your stuffing or give to the dog or cat. I don’t think the neck meat is really very good personally, but I didn’t want to waste it . . . so I just treated our LUCKY DOG!

4.) Cook wild rice: rinse rise thoroughly in a strainer, and follow package directions to yield one cup of cooked wild rice, about 1/4-1/3 cup dry (ages 2 and up for washing rice with help). Once cooked, the rice should “split” and be quite fluffy. If you need to strain off any remaining liquid, reserve it and add to your chicken or turkey stock for more wild-rice flavor. Cool and store rice in the fridge until ready to assemble stuffing.

5.) Prepare vegetables: wash and dry celery, onion, and *optional mushrooms* (ages 2 and up), chop celery, mince or chop the onion, and slice the *optional mushrooms* (ages 7 and up with best judgment according to the child)

I was really brave and let our Kindergartener use his “crinkle cutter” to help me chop the celery and mushrooms. I showed him how to do it—with a longer than necessary explanation about fingers and blades in which I may have exaggerated the dangers to the extent of “cutting off your finger”— then took a deep breath and tried not to hover. Despite how nervous I was, he did an excellent job and never once brought the blade too close to his face or fingers. Whew! He was also super proud of himself. If your child seems ready, I encourage you to try and let your child develop this skill.

6.) Prepare herbs: wash and dry thyme and sage (ages 2 and up), harvest the leaves from the herbs and place into separate bowls to measure out (ages 2 and up with help), then finely chop the sage *or rosemary* (ages 6 and up with help), and zest/grate fresh nutmeg (ages 5 and up with help). Store separately or all together in the refrigerator for up to two days.

7.) Cook vegetables: heat a pan to medium high heat, drizzle with about 1 tsp of olive oil or put in your *optional 1/3 cup butter*. Add onions, celery, and mushrooms, and cook over medium high heat for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables begin to brown (ages 5 and up, with help and comfortability).

7.) Store everything until ready to assemble and bake your stuffing: store cooked vegetables, fresh herbs & *optional nutmeg*, chicken or turkey broth, *optional cooked ground sausage*, and *optional wild rice* in separate air-tight containers in the refrigerator up to 2 days for vegetables and herbs, and up to 5 days for broth and rice.

8.) Assemble and bake your stuffing: in a very large mixing bowl, add bread cubes, cooked vegetable mixture, wild rice, and fresh herbs. Toss well until evenly combined. Season with salt and pepper, taking care to sprinkle a little bit at a time as you mix to avoid uneven distribution. Toss well. Pour chicken or turkey broth over the mixture and gently toss to combine. Pour mixture into a greased or parchment paper lined 9×12 baking dish, reserving some to stuff your turkey if you wish. Bake covered in tinfoil in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for 30 minutes and uncovered for an additional 10-15 minutes or until browned and crisping on the top edges.

*You can bake your stuffing a day or two before Thanksgiving, or bake it just before the feast. With everything pre-prepped it should only take about ten minutes to prepare it for the oven.

Thanks for Kickin’ it in the Kitchen with us this week! Join us tomorrow for Spuds with Buds + Maple-Bacon-Braised-Brussels-Sprouts!

Thanks for reading!

Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~

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