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Forcemeats, as they were generally called in old cookbooks, are nothing more than seasoned mixtures used to stuff meats, fish, and fowl. Forcemeat derives from the French fareir, "to stuff." Today, they are generally called stuffings or dressings. The stuffings given here are taken from seventeenth- and eighteenth-century cookbooks.

Chestnut Stuffing

2 pounds chestnuts

11/2 cups (3 sticks) butter

2 cups onion, chopped fine

2 cups thinly sliced celery

9 cups fine dry bread crumbs


2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried marjoram 1 teaspoon dried savory

Make a gash in the flat side of each chestnut, place them in a saucepan with boiling water to cover, and simmer for about 5 minutes. While nuts are still hot, remove shells and inner brown skins. Cover chestnuts with more boiling water and cook slowly for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender. Drain and chop coarsely. Melt butter in a saucepan, add onions and celery, and saute until limp. Add bread crumbs to vegetable-butter combination and mix thoroughly. Then add salt, thyme, marjoram, and savory, mixing them in well. Add the chestnuts. This is enough stuffing for a 12- to 15-pound turkey.

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