I don’t know about you, but I don’t use a lot of poultry seasoning – I may add just a smidge to a dish now and then throughout the year, but I always use it in my Thanksgiving stuffing. Two teaspoons, every year. I really don’t want to buy a whole container and have it sit, taking up room in my spice cupboard.
So when I wanted to mix up some, I turned to the net, and was quickly overcome with all the options. It’s a serious business this (yep, all this for two teaspoons!) because I want a specific flavor to my stuffing – the same one I’ve had over and over for decades. While a little deviance from my recipe might be a good thing, it won’t be the same thing, and the herbs & spices in poultry seasoning are strong enough to skew any recipe, even used in small amounts.
I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so everyone can pick and choose for a homemade blend. You can go with a classic or have options to sally forth and create a “house” blend. Write it down, so your kids don’t ever have to hear, “Good stuffing; almost as good as Mom’s” or “It’s almost right, but something’s missing!”
For years, poultry seasoning followed a pretty standard formula, one that appeared in very early cookbooks and should be pretty familiar to those who favor Schilling. Not surprisingly, early records of Poultry Seasoning seems to be tied to the Baltimore area, an area home to some of the earliest published cookbook authors. Ingredients: rubbed sage, marjoram, thyme, nutmeg, and black pepper.
Then an upstart appeared: Bell’s. According to their website, “In 1867, William G. Bell, a Boston inventor, and cook created Bell’s Seasoning. A unique combination of rosemary, oregano, sage, ginger, and marjoram – today’s blend is unchanged from the original recipe.”
Around the midpoint of the last century, the Schilling canisters indicated they were tied to McCormick’s, and McCormick’s current list of ingredients states: thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, black pepper, and nutmeg.
The three classic Poultry Seasonings, above, are all pretty similar with the exceptions of rosemary, oregano & pepper, which appear only in some and a swap out of nutmeg & ginger in others. The proportions differ, though, in the main ingredients from one to another.
Many spice companies produce their own house blend. Penzey’s, for instance, describes theirs as a “Sage-rich Southern blend” and lists their ingredients: hand-mixed from sage, white pepper, bell peppers, lemon peel, savory, rosemary, dill weed, allspice, thyme, marjoram, and ginger.
To further complicate things, many of the big cooking websites, those from television networks, cookbooks, cooking magazines and sites composed of consortiums of chefs whip up their own blends and versions. Some of these include more herbs and spices in addition to or instead of the ones above: celery seed, dried onion, garlic, clove, cayenne, coriander & parsley, just to name a few.
Note: all the photos for the spice boxes come from ebay.
- 2 teaspoons ground sage
- 1 1/2 teaspoons marjoram
- 1 1/2 teaspoons thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
Place marjoram & thyme in a mortar & pestle (or spice grinder) and lightly process until powdered. Add remaining ingredients.
- 4 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
- 4 tsp dried oregano
- 3 3/4 tsp dried sage
- 3 1/2 tsp ground dried ginger
- 3 tsp dried marjoram
- 2 3/4 tsp dried thyme
- 3/4 tsp ground black pepper
Mix together and grind to fine powder in a coffee or spice grinder. Makes about 1/2-cup.
- 2 tablespoons dried thyme
- 5 teaspoons dried sage
- 2 teaspoons dried marjoram
- 1 1/4 teaspoons dried rosemary
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Measure thyme, sage, marjoram & rosemary to a spice grinder. Process to a medium grind. Add pepper & nutmeg, blend 5 more seconds.
- Use 1/2 to 2 tsp. to 4 cups bread cubes for stuffing for poultry, veal, lamb, burgers or pork.
- Add to chicken, turkey, game birds and other meats as a rub. Add to stuffings & dressings, casseroles, barbecue sauce, meat loaf and herbed breads. Works well with many chicken dishes, including chicken stews, fricassees, soups, chicken & dumplings, pot pie. Flavors chicken soup as well as other soups, including vegetable.
If you’d like to see more of my spice & herb blends, check out Spice, Herb & Flavor Packet Substitutes. I’m adding as I go along!