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Summer Savory, AKA the Bean Herb


By Becky Hoff

Fri, Nov 29th, 2013
Posted in All Columnists

Summer savory is a lesser known but useful herb traditionally used in bean dishes and meat dressings. It has the distinction of being the only herb (aside from dill) that was grown in my Grandma Raway’s garden. The holiday turkey dressing would not be the same without the addition of summer savory, which is referred to as ‘Bonnenkrautchen’ in the Raway family vernacular. This is German for ‘bean herb’.

I would describe summer savory as slightly similar to sage, though less pungent, and milder. (We are not fond of sage in my household.) My husband describes summer savory as tasting ‘a little bit like everything’ and indeed it is quite versatile.

Red wine vinegar infused with fresh summer savory is something that I make every year. This is added to roast beef in the crock pot, pasta sauce, and soup stocks. The dried herb is perfect for seasoning a roasted chicken, adding to a white bean soup (just a pinch!) and of course in turkey dressing.

My recipe for turkey dressing closely resembles my mother’s recipe, which resembles her mother’s recipe. Grandma no doubt got her recipe from her mother as well ... I imagine that the recipe has been passed down for countless generations, with variations being made along the way.

Cooks everywhere know that sharing recipes is a very real way to show love. When we use old family recipes, it seems we are almost able to reach back in time and visit with the past. It is a way to remember and respect our ancestors, and a way to share a small piece of those special people we have loved and lost with the next generation. Even if we put a new spin on old dishes, when we cook we remember the ones who came before us. We remember love, and pass it along.

I will always plant summer savory in my garden - and I will always use it to season my turkey dressing!

12-16 ounces seasoned breadcrumbs- the kind intended for use in stuffing

5 or so cups of cubed, toasted bread- I bake a loaf of basic white bread in the bread machine for this, or buy a loaf of Texas Toast at Harmony Foods. Cube the bread, put it on a cookie sheet, and broil until dry and toasty. Check it frequently- charred bread does not make for tasty stuffing!

Holiday Turkey Dressing

2 C finely chopped onion

2-1/2 cups finely diced celery

5 T butter

1 lb Italian pork sausage

1 generous t dried summer savory leaves

A pinch of dried thyme

1/2 t or so poultry seasoning- This is optional for those who have relatives (two sisters perhaps) who object to poultry seasoning.

3 C of chicken or turkey broth- I use the lower sodium type if using store bought. Keep an extra 1/2 cup to 1 cup of stock in reserve in case your bread mix is particularly dry.

Directions

Gently cook the diced onion and celery in butter until soft.

In a separate skillet, cook the Italian sausage until no longer pink, being sure to break it up into small pieces. Drain the sausage before using.

Combine the seasoned breadcrumbs, cubed toasted bread, browned sausage, onion, celery and seasonings together in a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine.

Add turkey or chicken stock, mixing to combine. Do not add all of the broth at once, the mixture may not need it all, or it may need a little more depending on the dryness of your bread. The goal here is a moist, but not soggy mixture. My mom likes to mix hers up the night before and then stick it in the fridge overnight. In the morning she gives it a good stir and adds a little more broth if necessary.

Pack dressing into a greased, deep 9x13 pan. Dot top with butter, cover with aluminum foil.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then remove foil, stir dressing, and continue baking without the foil for another 30-40 minutes. If you get a few dried out crusty bits around the edges, then you’re doing it right! Those bits are traditionally fought over in my household, they’re delicious.

Happy Holidays!

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