Old Fashioned Dumplings – No, not the Bisquick kind plopped by spoonfuls into boiling liquid. These are put into boiling liquid, but not by ploppy spoonfuls. These dumplings are my great-grandmother’s recipe and I have no doubt it was literally handed down from mother to daughter in the Howland/Coffin/Pitts/Nigh/Tribby/Harris/Woolard family for many generations. Perhaps as far back as Plymouth, England, to Plimouth Plantation, New England, to Nantucket, Massachusetts, to Yadkin Co., North Carolina, to Shelby Co., Indiana, to Alachua Co., Florida. In other words, who really knows exactly how old this recipe is? 😀
Great-grandmother Dorothy (Grandma Dorty to all her great grandkids who couldn’t say Dorothy) didn’t use typical measuring instruments when making her dumplings, so Great-Aunt Ruth watched Grammy make them a time or two. She figured out how many of Grammy’s little handfuls of flour it took to fill 1 cup. And how many handfuls were used to make a single batch. Same with the shortening, buttermilk, egg, and baking soda. The same process was used to discover the measurements of Grammy’s egg noodles.
My mom remembers Grandma Dorty saying things like, “these dumplings are too short.” She figures that meant there was too much shortening in the dough which caused the dumplings to fall apart in the boiling broth. The very first time I made them, that’s exactly what happened. They split apart in a very weird way. They still tasted good, but they were slippery and hard to spoon out of the pot.
Old Fashioned Dumplings Tradition
Mom took over the making of these dumplings for Thanksgiving dinner for the entire clan of around 40-50 people. Traditionally, our family has turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, and dumplings at Thanksgiving. Ham, baked beans, baked mac & cheese, potato casserole, broccoli casserole, etc. for Christmas. Since her noodles are as fabulous as her dumplings, she now makes them for Christmas with Julie bringing the mashed potatoes to go with them. Unfortunately, my family unit doesn’t get to go home for Thanksgiving and Christmas so I’m still working on perfecting all these dishes we love that everyone else typically contributes to the dinner. I’ll share the noodle recipe when I get them as close to Mom’s as I can. It might take decades. 😉
I’m here to say, I’ve finally mastered the dumplings! Getting the dough right is necessary, but so is having a great broth/stock. Without a super savory stock, dumplings will taste like bland pieces of cooked dough. Firstly, the key is 1/3 turkey stock, 1/3 chicken stock, and 1/3 chicken broth. Secondly, taste the liquid to make sure it has enough salt & pepper. If it’s way too salty, dilute with a little more chicken broth.
So, if your family does turkey and all the trimmings at Christmas, do try this heirloom dumpling recipe to go with your mashed potatoes. Moreover, if you’re Jewish and looking for a new delicious dish to add to your Chanukkah celebrations, give these old fashioned dumplings a try! I think you’ll love them as much as we do! I plan to add fried jelly donuts and rugelach to our Christmas festivities!
Note: All pictures below show the recipe doubled
3-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading and dusting the counter
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup shortening, exactly
1 cup real buttermilk (is best) make *buttermilk in a pinch, use a 2-cup measuring cup
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 egg, well-beaten
32 oz. turkey stock (or all the broth from a freshly roasted turkey seasoned only with butter, salt, & pepper)
32 oz. chicken stock
32 oz. pint chicken broth (have an extra on hand in case more is needed)
Salt & pepper, to taste
*Make buttermilk by adding 1 tbsp. white vinegar to 1 cup whole or 2% milk. Let sit for 5 minutes or more.
In a large bowl, cut shortening into flour with a pastry blender or your hands until pea-sized balls form. It may look somewhat powdery, but will hold together when pressed between your fingers.
Add the baking soda, salt, and egg to the buttermilk and stir together.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour in the buttermilk and quickly stir together bringing the flour in from the outside edges.
Turn the sticky dough out onto a well-floured surface. Dust with more flour and gently knead into a ball bringing flour in from the counter as needed. Don’t over-knead or the dumplings will be tough.
Work with one half of the dough at a time.
Flour rolling pin and roll dough out to about an 1/8-inch. A perfect rectangle would be ideal, but not necessary.
Cut dough into 1-1/2″ x 1-1/2″ squares. A pizza cutter works great for this. Dust a jellyroll pan with flour and transfer dumplings to pan. Lightly dust with more flour to keep them from sticking together.
If cooking right away, no need to cover. If cooking the next day, cover tightly with aluminum foil and leave on counter. Do not refrigerate and do not leave out for more than 12-16 hours. The dumplings may darken, but will turn back to their normal tan while cooking.
Bring broth/stock to a roiling boil. Drop each dumpling into a boiling spot in the pot one at a time, gently stirring with one hand while the other drops the dumplings in. Once all are in the pot, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let cook, stirring occasionally, for 25-30 minutes, or until dumplings are cooked through, tender, and broth has thickened.
Served with mashed potatoes.
I hope your Christmas and Hanukkah shopping is a happy chore. It’s so easy to become overwhelmed with all we feel we have to do during the holidays. Take a step back and reassess whatever the situation. Is it vital to a happy holiday? Remember the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days instead of one. And the reason Jesus was born. That’s what all the fuss is about!
Depending on when you stumble across this post and read it through to the end, Happy Thanksgiving! Happy Hanukkah! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!
Happy eating! 😊