Sage and marjoram were grown widely in colonial America, having made the voyage from Europe where they featured prominently in many flavorful dishes, and were prized for their medicinal qualities. In Thomas Jefferson's notes on "Objects for the garden this year" in 1794, sage and marjoram are listed, and correspondence shows that he requested sweet marjoram from his neighbor, George Divers, in 1820.
In American Cookery, Amelia Simmons uses these herbs, among others, extensively in her recipes. The recipe below replicates almost exactly her instructions for making stuffing "To stuff a turkey," which included copious amounts of both sage and marjoram.
From The City Tavern Cookbook: Recipes from the Birthplace of American Cuisine ©2009 by Walter Staib
- 1 loaf firm white bread (about 1 pound), crust trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 onions, chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 celery ribs, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
- 4 cups sliced mushrooms (about 12 ounces)
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 3/4 cup chicken stock
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Spread the bread cubes in a single layer in a shallow baking pan and bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until crisp, dry and golden. Transfer the bread cubes to a large bowl.
- In a large skillet, sauté the onions in 1/2 tablespoon of the oil over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden.
- Add the celery, garlic, thyme, marjoram, sage salt, and pepper, and sauté for 5 minutes, until the celery is soft.
- Add the wine and cook about 5 minutes, until the liquid is evaporated. Add the vegetable mixture to the bread cubes in the bowl.
- In the same skillet over high heat, sauté the mushrooms in the remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil for 5 to 8 minutes, until browned and the liquid is evaporated. Add the mushrooms and parsley to the bread cubes and mix well. Add enough of the chicken stock to moisten the mixture, but be careful not to make it soggy.
- Transfer the mixture to a lightly greased 3-quart baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake about 15 minutes more, until crisp. Serve hot.
Tips/TechniquesChef’s Note: You can refrigerate the stuffing for up to 24 hours before baking, but if you do, you’ll need to increase the baking time by 15 minutes.