Quote of the Day: Dumplings are a memory food. Jane Aalgaard, my mom
We spent the whole Thanksgiving weekend at my parents’ farm, preparing food, eating food, cleaning up the food, doing projects, and playing a few games. I made it a point to photograph the process and take some notes. My food focus today is Potato Dumplings, a favorite of folks of the Norwegian descent.
Picture me following my mom around with my camera and notebook, trying desperately to learn how to make the dumplings and record the stories that accompany them. The truth is, I don’t know how to make them. Whenever I called Mom up to ask what to do, she would reply, “Oh, just come out here and have them. I was in the mood to make them, anyway.” So, I did. The most I’ve ever done is grind the potatoes.
First, you peel the potatoes. For our Sunday dinner, “Dad stood in the utility room for three quarters of an hour, peeling,” said Mom, which was approximately 10 pounds (probably more).
Then, you run them through the grinder.
Mom and Dad grinding the potatoes
Close up of the grinder. I have one just like it that I’ve never used.
I don’t even know where it is!
Joy, dancing & grinding
Mom, preparing the dumpling mixture.
I tried to pay attention to Mom as she was mixing the dumplings. Here’s her “recipe.”
Start a big pot of water boiling with a hambone
Peel about 10 pounds of red potatoes
Grind the potatoes
Put in about 2 Tablespoons of salt (You need lots of salt.)
Mom puts in one cup of whole wheat flour and keeps adding white flour “until it’s the right consistency.”
“How much is that, Mom?” I asked.
“Enough flour to hold them together,” answered Mom.
Also, if you have some leftover, cooled, mashed or boiled potatoes, it is good to add them to the freshly ground ones. They’ll stick together better and be lighter. (As if a dumpling could ever be light.)
Be sure the broth is boiling hard the whole time that you’re adding the dumplings. If the water stops boiling, the dumplings will fall apart and mush to the bottom.
Mom’s hands forming the dumplings.
It looks pretty good to me.
I think Mom boiled them for about 45 minutes.
Serve them with ham, the juice from the boiled hambone, loads of butter, and maybe some vegetables. Some people put a piece of ham or fat in the center of the dumpling before boiling it, but Mom thinks that it makes them fall apart easier.
She said that the biggest crew she ever served potato dumplings was one New Year’s Eve, back in the ’70’s when she invited Dad’s siblings and cousins in the area and their families. Plus, all of her six kids were still at home. She couldn’t remember the exact number. She served 15 of us on Sunday, more than were there on Thanksgiving. I said, “You probably couldn’t even mention that you were making dumplings when you were at church today because everyone would want to come over.” In fact, a couple people must have smelled the evidence because they were complaining that they hadn’t had potato dumplings in a long time. We did invite Mable, our closest neighbor, but she’s like family.
When they do a dumpling dinner for a church fundraiser, they peel about 300 pounds of potatoes. Mom’s not sure how many they serve. It varies, I suppose, and they “give some away, throw some in the woods and scrape the rest off the bottom of the kettles.” Sometimes, they stick so badly, they have to soak the kettle for a week. One year, someone had the bright idea that if they put a plate inside on the bottom of the kettle the dumplings wouldn’t stick. “Sure, they didn’t stick,” said my Mom, “But, you couldn’t get the plate out of there.” The pastor spent the whole afternoon trying to pry the thing off the bottom of the kettle.
Dumplings are the poor immigrant’s food, like lefse and lutefisk. I’ll have to take photos and notes at Christmas for the lutefisk post. The wonderful thing about food is that it is a memory trigger. It links us back to the old country, wherever that may be. It brings up cozy times of growing up and eating together. Many times, it is a special occasion that you’re sharing with folks you love.
May your tastebuds bring joyful memories, while creating new ones.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: Write about a food tradition.
You have Successfully Subscribed!
Three hundred pounds of potatoes? Bet that takes a while to peel. I don’t think I’ve ever had potato dumplings either.
Great photos and description of the event Mary!
My mother used to make potato dumplings. She loved them, but I wasn’t fond of them. She would put a little piece of ham in the middle and eat them with butter and vinegar. I’ve never had a desire to make them. It’s a “stick to your ribs” type of food! My favorite traditions are lefse, rosettes and krumkaka….give me the sweets!
Mary, nice shots and great descriptions. Sounds wonderfully yummy and warm to me. I love the thought of food bringing people together and keeping them cozy and happy.
Thanks for capturing the sights and sounds of this family tradition. The dumplings were particularly good this time…must have been because you were watching so closely!
My grandmother (German descent) used to make dumplings. Very fortunately, I was too young to peel the potatoes. :))))) But I could eat all I could hold, quite a few found a happy spot in my tummy. Love those things. Now, about that fish – er, my Norwegian-American friend from Minnie warned me – doesn’t it have, ahem, a certain aroma, hmm, that one either loves or hates?
Actually, my comfort food from yesteryear is Fig Newtons. My grandmother always had them in the cookie jar when we visited. Now, I can do some serious damage on a box of those goodies!
Sounds scrumptious, and perfect for the long, cold nights ahead. I love memory foods.
Wow!! 300 pounds for the church fair? That’s AMAZING! Food really does trigger memory. We have a chocolate torte cake passed down from my great great grandmother that is the best thing that’s ever crossed my lips. It’s our birthday go-to cake. We can’t make it without thinking of the generations who made it before.
Lovely post! And thank you for following my blog. It’s nice to “meet” you! I’m a new follower too…
I didn’t know there was such a thing as dumplings! They sound so good, though. Loved the photos: fun and togetherness. Very sweet, thank you for sharing.
Shannon at The Warrior Muse
This reminds me of my husband learning to make plum dumplings at his parents’ house a couple months ago. Potatoes are in the dough and a plum with brown sugar in the center. His grandfather made potato pancakes using a meat grinder for the potatoes.
Look what was on my plate every New Years Day with pork and sauerkraut ~ tradition in my mom’s kitchen