6 Things You Never Knew About Stuffing

1) Stuffing is one of the few European imports on your Thanksgiving menu.

Turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce—all were unknown in the Old World. Colonists either invented these dishes or adapted them from Native American diets. But bread stuffing is known as far back as Roman times.

2) The first stuffing recipe included…crushed brains?

The earliest-known stuffing recipe comes from a 1600-year-old Roman cookbook. It advises: “Crush pepper, lovage, ginger, cut meat, cooked spelt; besides crush brains cooked in the chicken broth.” That’s advice I’m not gonna take.

3) “Stuff” was originally a military term.

Now it basically means anything, as in, “Whose stuff is this?” But originally, “to stuff” meant to fortify a military force with needed supplies. So when you say “I made enough stuffing to feed an army,” you’re being more literal than you think.

Awesome Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Stuffing

Awesome Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Stuffing (Photo by beccajulia)

4) Don’t copy Stove Top. That stuff’s patented!

Yes, U.S. Patent 3870803 announces that “an instant stuffing having the textural, moisture and flavor characteristics associated with traditional baked stuffing can be prepared by providing a first component comprising dried yeast-leavened corn bread crumb or a mixture of…” Okay, you get the picture. Ruth Siems, an Indiana-born home economist, invented the product for General Foods (now part of Kraft). The first Stove Top stuffing hit grocery store shelves in 1972.

5) More and more, stuffing is no longer stuffed.

Stove Top made it so easy to cook stuffing without the hassle of also cooking poultry, cooks increasingly now make stuffing outside of the bird. The USDA actually recommends it, as bacteria cooked out of existence in the meat can survive in stuffing and make you sick.

6) In Middle Eastern food, it’s the meat that’s stuffed into the vegetables.

Countries that were part of the former Ottoman Empire usually have a dish of minced meat stuffed into vegetables. Egypt has Kousa Mahshi, Turkey has Sarma. Greek diner standby Dolma is often cold stuffed with rice but is sometimes stuffed with meat and served warm.

To become a true stuffing expert, check out the Easy Homemade Stuffing course, part of Allrecipes Cooking School. No crushed brain stuffing, we promise.