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As I shove the casserole dish into the oven, I notice the olive oil spray can, the top of the paper towel holder, knives, and a scissors all besmirched with sausage. When did stuffing a Dutch goose (euphemism for pig stomach) take so much time and effort? It seems my mother just sits on her stool in front of the sink, peels and dices potatoes, mixes them with sausage, fills the stomach cavity, and slips it into the oven. A few hours later she asks me to take it out, all done. Easy as that!

On my last visit to Pennsylvania, I bought chipped beef, a pig stomach (yes, the organ from a hog) from Groff’s Meats, and 7 1/2 pounds of ham loaf from Wenger’s Meats in Elizabethtown. Now at home I’ve thawed the pig stomach and am preparing it as a mystery dish for our daughter’s family. For future reference, I must assemble all the tools required: knives for dicing potatoes, darning needle, white thread, scissors before I begin. And start sooner, for goodness sake!

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Has anyone ever written out a recipe for pig stomach? I don’t know, but I’ve never seen Mother use one, so I call her mid-way in the process to ask for direction.

“How many potatoes should I use?”

“Oh, just however many you think.”

“Eight . . . ten . . . twelve?”

“Oh, it doesn’t matter. You can always put the left-overs in a casserole dish on the side,” so I see now it’s a guessing game.

No other dish I know off blends the culinary and sartorial arts so handily as filling a pig stomach, hence the needle and thread. To begin: the organ does have several orifices: intake, outgo, and a pyloric valve in there somewhere. This particular one has a tear, so I’ll have to stitch up 4 openings. Heaven forbid any of the sausage-potato stuffing leaks out. Mid-way through my first sew-up, I realize I’m stitching the large opening best suited for stuffing, so I have to undo it all, retracting thread through a gooey mess of fleshy tissue. Drat!

IMG_2714  Finally the dish is ready for the oven . . . almost! As I pre-heat the oven, I recall the end of my phone conversation with Mom:

“How long do you bake it?” I ask.

“Oh, whatever you think.” she says.

“Well, I don’t know what to think . . . 2 hours? 3 hours?”

“Just take a look at it, and when it’s golden brown on top and a little bit around the side, it’s done.”

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Using the convection feature on my oven part of the time, the baking time turns out to be about 2 1/2 hours and after “resting,” ready to serve.

After gobbling up his first serving, Patrick speaks up, “NaNa, this is as good as ham loaf! May I have some more?” Jenna joins in with yummy sounds. There are requests for more all around the table now, and I’m happy it’s a hit.

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Sustenance for the body, that it is. But more than that, it has occurred to me, we are experiencing what always happens when family gets together: stuffing memories into the space of our hearts as well.

So, I’ll do it all again with our son’s family after my next trip north when I visit Groff’s. Incidentally, Groff’s Meats has begun selling pig stomachs already filled for the princely sum of $ 15.00.

I have to say, I’d charge $ 25.00, more if I have to re-stitch!

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 ã Marian Beaman

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