Apple and Sausage Stuffing

The best recipes this time of year are family recipes — the ones that with just one bite, you are automatically transformed to a time and place of your youth. This recipe is from many a family Thanksgiving of my past and I still make it today – originally from the kitchen of my aunt, Lore Edidin. I’ve made it local with the use of North Carolina apples and local sausage – enjoy!

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large onion finely diced
2 stalks celery diced small
1 cup mushrooms rough chopped (use a mix of button and wild)
Salt and pepper
Dried thyme and parsley to sprinkle
6 ounces local hot Italian or sweet breakfast sausage meat
1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves
1 Gala apple peeled and diced small (or try local pears!)
5 cups assorted bread torn
1/2 cup apple juice or cider
1/2 cup chicken stock

Heat a nonstick high-sided pan with the olive oil. Add finely chopped onion and celery. Sauté on medium-high heat for about three minutes until vegetables start to soften. Add mushrooms and continue cooking another three minutes. Season with salt, pepper, parsley and thyme. Squeeze sausage meat out of casings into the mix. Break up with spoon. Add chopped apple or pear and sauté for two minutes. Add sage leaves. When sausage meat is cooked through add bread pieces. Mix well with spoon to incorporate

Pour apple juice over the stuffing to moisten the mixture. Add chicken stock and continue stirring to combine. The stuffing should be moist and cohesive, with distinctive chunks of apples, mushrooms and sausage. More liquid may be needed depending on how dry the bread was. Add extra apple juice as needed.

If you are roasting a turkey, you can stuff the bird just before roasting, but make sure the stuffing is cooled to at least room temperature first. Otherwise place the prepared stuffing in a buttered baking dish that can be covered with foil or lid. Bake 30 to 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Heidi Billotto is a culinary expert that lives in Charlotte.