A great stuffing whether or not you make it ahead of time or not. The “make ahead” portion of this recipe is purely optional. I find that on the morning of Thanksgiving it’s so much nicer to just dump my premade “stuffing kit” into the crockpot and get on to other things than to mess with all the chopping and sauteeing that a good stuffing requires.
This stuffing is delicious. The drippings from the sausage along the essence of caramelized onions and apples drenches into the rich, toasty bits of wheat and white bread. The dates intensify this sweet/savory amalgamation and the pecans make the dish the perfect kind of buttery and nutty.
I developed this stuffing recipe when we lived in Rhode Island back in 2006. In the Northeast, a good bread stuffing is most popular. While I do enjoy southern cooking (and it’s in my blood), I prefer a northeastern style Thanksgiving stuffing. The pecans are just my own southern touch.
To make the pre-prepared stuffing, sautee the vegetables (onions, celery), add the herbs, add the sausage, apples, onions and pecans. I keep this sautee mixture in a container in the fridge for up to a week. While I’m making the sautee, I toast the bread cubes. I store the toasted bread crumbs in a plastic bag in the fridge. On Thanksgiving morning, I just butter the crockpot well, pour in the sautee and the bread crumbs, stir, and pour chicken broth over all of it. Then I just set the crockpot to low and let it bake for about four hours. No oven space is sacrificed and you won’t dirty up any pans or knives or cutting boards on Thanksgiving morning.
If you’d like to make this stuffing in a casserole dish, just follow the instructions as written and instead of using a crockpot, just assemble all the ingredients in a casserole and bake at 350°F for 30-40 minutes.
Crockpot Sage, Apple, Date and Pecan Stuffing with a Make-Ahead Option
- 8 pieces whole wheat bread cubed
- 8 pieces white bread cubed
- 2 onions onions diced
- 6 stalks (ribs) celery sliced
- 1/4 cup butter for the sautee
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- 1 pound Jimmy Dean Sage Sausage
- 1 Granny Smith apple chopped
- 1/2 cup dates pitted and chopped
- 3/4 cup pecans chopped
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1/4 cup additional butter for lining crockpot
- Arrange the cubes of bread on a sheet pan and bake at 400 degrees for about ten minutes, stirring halfway through. Set aside to cool.
- In a heavy-bottom pan, sautee the onions and celery in 1/4 cup butter. Add the salt, white pepper, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, sage and parsley. Saute until the vegetables are partially cooked down – about five minutes.
- Add the sausage and break up with your spatula, as you're stirring it around. Add the apples, dates and pecans, and saute until the sausage is cooked through.
- *If you are making this ahead of time, store the bread cubes in a sealed plastic bag, and the vegetable/sausage mix in an airtight container in the fridge.
- To cook, combine the bread cubes and the sausage mixture in a crockpot after you've buttered the sides of the crockpot with the last 1/4 cup of butter. Pour the chicken broth over all of it, stir to combine. Set on low and cook for four hours, stirring mixture away from sides every hour or so. Serve immediately or use the "keep warm" feature on your crockpot until it's time to eat.