Granny Rutherford’s Sausage Dressing

Granny Rutherford’s Sausage Dressing

One of our family’s favourite dishes at Christmas, is Granny Rutherford’s Sausage Dressing. It is savory, rather than spicy, and seasoned lightly with sage and onions. It was a perfect complement to Mother’s juicy, flavourful, roast turkey, and always graced the table of our childhood Christmas dinners. In our Granny’s youth, in England, it was more common to stuff a goose than a turkey, but her sausage dressing works well for either.

It was no surprise that Granny, (Dorothy Woolsey Rutherford) was skilled in making such a delicious dressing – after-all, her parents owned two butcher shops, – both popular in providing the residents of Huddersfield, England, with the finest selection of meats and savories, perfect for a traditional Christmas feast.

Stuffing or Dressing?

Some say ‘stuffing’, and some call it ‘dressing’, and that seems to depend on your origins. In some regions in Canada, the term ‘stuffing’ refers to something that is stuffed into a cavity, and ‘dressing’ is something cooked alongside, in a separate pan. In the United States, the southerners are more likely to say dressing, and in the northern states ‘stuffing’ is the most common term.

In the records of previous generations in England, the term ‘dressing’, originated in the 1850s, when the upper-class Victorians thought that the word ‘stuffing’ was too crude. It was around the same time that the term ‘dark meat’ was used to refer to poultry legs and thighs.

Dorothy Woolsey Rutherford, (Granny Rutherford), born in Lincoln, Nottinghamshire, England, 1893

Canterbury Meat Company, 15 Market Street, Huddersfield, England

Granny Rutherford grew up in the family business. The Canterbury Meat Company, was one of two locations in Huddersfield England, owned by William Henry ‘Harry’ Woolsey, and his wife Mary Jane Foster Woolsey. The family, (including my grandmother, Dorothy Woolsey) lived upstairs, above the store.

William Henry ‘Harry’ Woolsey (1856-1921)

William Henry ‘Harry’ Woolsey, Dorothy’s father, came from a family of jewelers. His parents W.H. Woolsey Sr., and Eliza Hunt Woolsey, owned the W.H. Woolsey Jewelry store, in Grantham, England. In 1878, he opened his own store, and conducted business for many years.

Ad for the opening of Wm. Woolsey Jr.’s jewelry store, in Grantham, 1878.

A gold watch, signed by his father, William Woolsey, from his jewelry shop.

Mary Jane (Foster) Woolsey (1852-1909)

From the Jewelry Business to Butcher Shops

Mary Jane Woolsey, Dorothy’s mother, came from the Foster family. The Foster butcher shops were well-established over the generations, and so, when William Henry ‘Harry’ married Mary Jane Foster, he left the jewelry business, and opened two butcher shops in Huddersfield, England.

Woolsey-Foster marriage announcement, “The Grantham Journal”, Dec. 27, 1879

It was as a young lady, during the time she lived with her family, above one of the butcher shops, that Dorothy perfected her recipe for savoury sausage dressing.

Arlene Stafford, Granny Rutherford (Dorothy Woolsey Rutherford) Audry Rutherford Stafford, at the Stafford House

…And so the tradition continues, and the recipe was passed down through the generations, from its origins in Huddersfield, England, in Granny’s family’s butcher shop, down to my mother, and from her, down to us.

Granny Rutherford’s Sausage Dressing:

1 lb sausage meat

2 eggs

1 c milk

7 c breadcrumbs

1 c chopped celery

2 Tbsp chopped onions

1 tsp salt

4 Tbsp parsley

Method: Fry sausage meat until brown. Drain off fat. Add eggs, hot milk, and the remaining ingredients. Stuff into the clean cavity of the poultry of your choice. You may bake additional dressing in tin foil in the oven.

Whether your family calls it stuffing or dressing, it’s a delicious part of Christmas dinner, enjoyed by many, around the world. Try Granny Rutherford’s Sausage Dressing, and bring the taste of old-world Victorian England to your own Christmas table!

Recipe for Granny Rutherford’s Sausage Dressing, from “Recipes and Recollections: Treats and Tales from Our Mother’s Kitchen”,

Available at:

The Book Nook in Perth, Ontario: https://thebooknookperth.com/shop/

The Bookworm, in Perth, Ontario: https://www.bookwormperth.com/

Mill Street Books, Almonte, Ontario: https://millstreetbooks.com/

or at: http://www.staffordwilson.com

2 comments on “Granny Rutherford’s Sausage Dressing

  1. Jackie Wharton says:

    I can almost taste it! Good story.

  2. Chris Luck says:

    Hello Arlene – thanks for this excellent info – I shall have to try your Granny’s recipe. I believe we are related through the Foster and probably Sawyer families of Lincolnshire. They married into the Lucks, brewers in Louth. Just trying to sort it out. Drop me a line please if you would like to collaborate including DNA.

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