The Year Google (and Goya) Saved Thanksgiving

 

My sister and I may not have grown up rife with traditions–when when Jill and I hung our socks on Christmas eve, the flat unfilled sight of them the next morning may have reminded us that Santa didn’t stop for little Jewish girls–but darn it, we had the stuffing handed down from Grandma Millie. If we were on death row, our last meal would be the stuffing.

You could tweak it (Jill uses garlic, I don’t) but you never messed with the main ingredients: Uneeda Biscuits and stale rolls. The stale rolls might change from year to year—we’re flexible. Recently I’ve discovered that Bertucci’s rolls are perfect and we make sure to stop by the restaurant where our take out order is, um, 2 bags of rolls.

But don’t mess with the Uneeda biscuits.

In recent years, Thanksgiving became a little scary. The weeks before the hallowed meal I became obsessed with finding the suddenly difficult to find blue cardboard crackers boxes decorated with the little boy in the raincoat. Year round, the entire family went on the lookout for these increasingly rare crackers. What was going on with Nabisco?

One year I was able to order them from Amazon. Then not. Finally, I discovered that DeLuca’s Market in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston stocked them (I think for nearby frail ladies in their nineties who crumbled them in their Campbell’s.) For years, I’d drive down and clean them out, sometimes, when only 4 or 5 boxes remained. I’d shudder, knowing how close I’d come to a Uneeda-less year.

Then, when we were already dangerously close to Thanksgiving, they seemed to have disappeared. My older daughter swore she’d seen them in a Market Basket in a suburb 40 minutes from our house. My husband and I raced over. We scoured the aisles. I called my daughter—oh, had she forgotten to mention the sighting had been months before? We drove to DeLuca’s, (surely they’d re-stocked) thinking it an auger of success when we found a parking spot in front (a Beacon Hill miracle.)

Introduction to Stuffing circa a long-time-ago

Nothing.

A wonderful clerk went to the order form.

Nothing. No longer being ordered.

Nauseated by fear, I went home to, of course, Google Uneeda Biscuits. Where I learned, on Chowhound (my new best friend) that it was over. They were gone. Discontinued. Kaput.

But, oh Lordy, it turned out that Grandma Millie’s secret ingredient was known by others. OMG! We were not the only family in America using Uneeda Biscuits for stuffing. We were not the only family in America for whom Uneeda Biscuits were the cure for stomach aches, depression, and holidays.

We were not alone.

But wait; there’s more. The miracle of Thanksgiving unfolded on my screen. Others, secret byte-sized friends, had already attacked the problem: Goya Snack Crackers. They weren’t a clone or a complete match, but, as my savior,Bicycle Chick wrote, they are quite similar in flavor.

She was correct.

We were saved. Because when it comes to keeping tradition alive, sometimes you have to go online.

Happy Thanksgiving to friends of all dimensions.

GRANDMA MILLIE’S (FLEXIBLE) STUFFING

This is as close as I can come to giving this recipe—as it has always been a trial, error, see-how-it-tastes-raw and then cook-it-when-it’s ready sort of food.

Preheat oven to 350°.
I don’t stuff the bird, but you can. I prefer baked stuffing.

Close as I can come to amounts are:

A bag or two of Goya crackers.

A dozen small Bertucci rolls, or 6 large crispy rolls. (Buy ahead and let get stale. Toast in oven if you forgot to make them stale.)

Break crackers and rolls into small (but not teensy) pieces.

Soak crackers and rolls in warmed milk. (Enough to cover, but not overwhelm. You want the milk to soften the carbs, but not drown them.)

Beat about 5-8 eggs (or more, depending on how ‘eggy’ you like your stuffing)
A bag of carrots (or more, depending on your taste), shredded
One or two large onions (or more, depending on your taste)
5-8 stalks of celery (or more, or less, depending on your taste)
1-3 boxes of sliced mushrooms, depending on how much you like mushrooms

Melt lots of butter in largest skillet or sauté pan you have. Add onions, sauté for a bit. Add all other vegetables and sauté until soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Squeeze leftover milk from crackers (or add more if they seem too hard). Mix in vegetables and butter. Pat into baking dishes and bake until top seems crunchy (about an hour, sometimes less).

This recipe calls for the ability to play and taste as you mix, sauté, and cook. Uncooked it should be heavy and soggy, but not wet. Baked, it should be crunchy in places, soft in others, buttery, and, if you are a carb lover, you should find it almost impossible to stop eating.

 

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18 Comments

  1. Posted November 20, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    I love this story (and like you, I also think the world is better with the web). I have never heard of Uneeda biscuits or Goya crackers. But it reminds me of another cracker story… when we moved to Maine I found out about Crown Pilot crackers which have been discontinued off and on by Nabisco — much to the outcry of people on a small island near where I live. Apparently they are integral to a Clam Chowder recipe. And the Chebeague Island people have used the internet to campaign for their crackers. Again, thank goodness for the web!

    So happy you can continue your tradition! Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. mary ann
    Posted December 23, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    I too used uneeda biscuits for a stuffing recipe and am very excited that I just might be able to make this recipe again after several years of not. My question is do you know how many crackers are equal to a box of biscuits. My recipe calls for two boxes so not sure how much to use???

    • Posted December 23, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      I am pretty loose when I cook–I do it by look and feel. But the size of a box of Undeeda is probably about equal to a about twenty or twenty-five or so of the large goya crackers. (In a pinch I’ve used Saltines, but they are never the same.) Good luck!

  3. Hillary Willick
    Posted September 30, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Loved the story ! My family and I also grew up on this delicious tradition as my maiden name was Meyers. How sad was I when I heard that those wonderful little versatile crackers were discontinued . Unfortunately my mother passed away along with her recipe . I was wondering if you would share yours with me. I cannot find it any where else . Thank you so much and I think I just found a new author to read while I am recuperating from surgery!

    • Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      Hi Hillary,
      Another lover of the stuffing! Here’s the recipe (it is very forgiving!)
      Preheat oven to 350°. I don’t stuff the bird, but you can. I prefer baked stuffing.
      Close as I can come to amounts are:
      A bag or two of Goya crackers.
      A dozen small Bertucci rolls, or 6 large crispy rolls. (Buy ahead and let get stale. Toast in oven if you forgot to make them stale.)
      Break crackers and rolls into small (but not teensy) pieces.
      Soak crackers and rolls in warmed milk. (Enough to cover, but not overwhelm. You want the milk to soften the carbs, but not drown them.)
      Beat about 5-8 eggs (or more depending on how ‘eggy’ you like your stuffing.
      A bag of carrots (or more, depending on your taste), shredded
      One or two large onions (or more, depending on your taste)
      5-8 stalks of celery (or more, depending on your taste)
      One to three boxes of sliced mushrooms, depending on how much you like mushrooms.
      Melt lots of butter in largest skillet or sauté pan you have. Add onions, sauté for a bit. Add all other vegetables and sauté until soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.
      Squeeze leftover milk from crackers (or add more if they seem too hard). Mix in vegetables and butter. Pat into baking dishes and bake until top seems crunchy (about an hour, sometimes less).
      This recipe calls for the ability to play and taste as you mix, sauté, and cook. Uncooked it should be heavy and soggy, but not wet. Baked, it should be crunchy in places, soft in others, buttery, and, if you are a carb lover, you should find it almost impossible to stop eating.

  4. Barbara
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    It wasn’t stuffing that my mother Millie made but the most delicious beer meatballs. They were a staple at every family cookout. My mother is gone, but I try to bring her food traditions to my family. Sadly, our eating habits have changed over the years and recipes using salami or schmaltz (chicken fat) are no longer something I use often, but the meatballs…I have never made them because of the lost UNEEDA biscuit. Thanks for letting me know about the Goya crackers. I have my 13 nieces and nephews and son and girlfriend coming to my house in the country for four days and feeding these troops is a herculean task. Perhaps the meatballs will save the day.

  5. Linda A Ganiaris
    Posted October 11, 2014 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    I have used you Uneeda biscuits for years and was so disappointed that I couldn’t find them. Triedsaltines it didn’t work verybwell for stuffing and did not come out so good. I am so happy that I found Goya crackers.

  6. Sharon Kramer
    Posted November 27, 2014 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    Uneeda biscuit “cracker” stuffing has been a tradition in my family for 100 years! I don’t know the exact start date, but my Grandma was from Czechoslovakia (before the country split up) and this was a staple for any Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey. I was devastated when they stopped selling them. I find bread stuffing of any kind to be gross no matter how it is seasoned. Sorry if my description upsets you, but I guess it’s a matter of heritage, genes, taste buds, who the heck knows? Anyway…
    Look up a recipe for milk crackers. This is the closest substitute there is for the discontinued Uneeda biscuits. Couple of years I have made my own trying to get it right. It will work, but it’s an awful lot of trouble – worth it in the long run.
    This year I have made the stuffing with Goya Snack Crackers – they are OK as far as the taste, but they have a much more dense consistency. We’ll see how the taste compares when it’s done. Cooked IN the turkey to get enough flavor, by the way.
    My recipe differs significantly from the one above ( which sounds rather heavy in my opinion).
    Here it is:
    for a 10 pound bird (multiply as needed)
    2 boxes uneeda biscuits, crumbled ( about 1 1/2 bags of Goya crackers)
    1 lrg onion fried in butter until soft
    salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, parsley flakes (to taste)
    chopped celery with leaves
    1 beaten egg
    milk to proper consistency (holds together, but not soggy)
    pack loosely in turkey

    Not to be insulting, but the above recipe sounds like it would taste like a brick!

  7. Deborah Earle
    Posted February 1, 2015 at 12:55 am | Permalink

    Love your story! Happy Super Bowl Sunday and Go Patriots!!! In planning my party, I wanted to make my wonderful Mother’s Sweet and Sour Meatball recipe. It calls for 1/4 – 1/2 box of Uneeda Biscuits. Off to the Market Basket I merrily went…oh, no, NO Uneeda Biscuits :<((( And nothing that looked remotely suitable as a substitute. Next stop,,,the Hannaford, where I found a box of Classic Lunch Milk Crackers from Heritage Mills. Six of those little babies (soaked in a little milk) did the trick. Of course, they are not Uneeda, but they gallantly take a respectable second place. Good luck to all in your recipes needing the late, great Uneeda Biscuit!

    • Posted February 1, 2015 at 1:57 am | Permalink

      Ah, the sisterhood of those missing Uneeda biscuits continues! I will try the Classic Lunch crackers next Thanksgiving. (Or maybe before!) Enjoy the game!

  8. Gery Walsh Horan
    Posted April 28, 2015 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    Ah, I am yet another who grew up with Uneeda Biscuits, but not in stuffing. We used to break them up in a bowl, pour milk over them and let them get soggy, and eat then like cereal! We just called them crackers and milk. I miss them so much!

  9. Ed
    Posted June 4, 2015 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Well folks, if you are in Canada, or visiting, or close enough for a cross border trip– hit any store belonging to the corporate Loblaw (No Frills, Loblaws, Independent, Superstore, Fortinos, Provigo, Zehrs, etc.– basically any of the stores that carry “Presidents Choice” products). Go to the cracker aisle / section, and pick up a pack of President’s Choice English Cream Crackers, and go to the checkout and pay for them. Walk out to your car, rip open the package and try them, to convince yourself this is the full equivalent of Uneeda Biscuits. If it passes the test (it will), then walk back into the store and get yourself as many as you can eat by the “Best Before” date! Just made this discovery a week or so ago!

  10. Alice Sullivan
    Posted November 11, 2015 at 2:36 am | Permalink

    My Lithuanian grandmother also used Uneeda Biscuits in her stuffing. She used two boxes and a loaf of dried white bread. She soaked them in a quart of warm milk and added a melted stick of butter. Also added a finely chopped onion with finely chopped curly parsley then salt and pepper to taste and four eggs. Whatever did not fit in the bird was baked in a pan. I worked at Nabisco for fourteen years and was also upset to see them discontinued as they were the first cracker made by The National Biscuit Company and was a part of the company’s history. My cousins and I now use Oysterettes as I found the Goya crackers a bit too dense and hard to crumble. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

    • Posted November 11, 2015 at 2:47 am | Permalink

      I can’t wait to try Oysterettes! (I’ll make a practice batch first!) Happy Thanksgiving, Alice.

  11. Randi
    Posted November 13, 2015 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    My family too has always used uneeda biscuits for our turkey stuffing. I have been using oysterettes since uneeda has been discontinued, and they are a good substitute but a bit difficult to get the correct measurement. I will see if I can get the goya crackers. Thanks for the tip. Glad I’m not alone missing uneeda biscuits.

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