MaMa’s Ham Dumplings

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MaMa’s Ham Dumplings

By Damon Lee Fowler

Every year until well after I’d finished college, my family marked the end of the Christmas holidays with my grandmother’s ham dumplings.

On Christmas Day, our feast often included both my grandfather’s baked fresh ham and a cured ham (and turkey, too—my mother was a glutton for punishment). There were lots of leftovers, and dumplings were MaMa’s way of using up the last of the cured ham. Still, I think we looked forward to having them more than we did the ham.

Flat, noodle-like dumplings of this sort have a long tradition in the North Georgia of my grandmother’s childhood and weren’t limited to the holidays or to the stewed chicken they’re most often associated with today. MaMa made them year round, with everything from squirrel to chicken to leftover turkey, but only at the waning of the Christmas season did she make ham dumplings. They were as much a part of our New Year as black-eyed peas and collard greens.

When I make them now, I usually add herbs—a bouquet garni of bay, parsley, sage, and thyme in the broth, and a finishing handful of chopped parsley at the end. MaMa didn’t, but it doesn’t follow that she wouldn’t have approved of this meddling.

She spent her life looking forward, and never stopped experimenting or embracing change. The last few years of her life, in fact, she started making the dumplings from canned biscuits. That’s a change we could have done without, but then, we weren’t the ones mixing and rolling the dough.

The best hambone for this dish is that from a dry-cured “old” or country ham, but it is even respectable made with a brine-cured hambone.

MaMa’s Ham Dumplings
Serves 6

The bone from a whole ham or 3 pounds ham hock or knuckle
3 quarts water
1 large white onion, peeled and halved
1 large carrot, peeled and cut in large chunks
6 whole peppercorns, plus whole black pepper in a mill
1 recipe Raised Dumplings (recipe follows)
1 cup leftover boiled (or raw) country ham cut into julienne
1/4 cup chopped parsley plus 2 tablespoons for garnish, optional

1. Put the bones into a large stock pot and pour the cold water over them. Turn on the heat as low as you can get it and bring the water slowly to the boiling point, carefully skimming off the scum as it pops to the surface. It will take about 45 minutes.
2. Add the onion, carrot, and peppercorns. Simmer slowly for at least 1 hour, 2 is better. Strain, discarding the solids, return the broth to the pot, bring it back to a boil, and reduce it to 1½ quarts (about half).
3. Make the dumplings according to the recipe. Drop them a few at a time into the simmering broth and let them simmer for 5 minutes. Add a dusting of freshly milled pepper, stir in the ham and parsley (if using—my grandmother didn’t), and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes more. Ladle onto a serving platter or individual soup plates, sprinkle with more parsley, and serve at once.

Raised Dumplings
Serves 6

10 ounces (about 2 cups) unbleached, all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons lard, shortening, or unsalted butter

1 cup whole milk buttermilk or plain, all-natural whole milk yogurt thinned to buttermilk consistency with water or milk
1. Sift or whisk together the flour, soda, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl. Cut in the lard with a pastry blender until it resembles coarse corn meal.
2. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk or yogurt. Using a wooden spoon and as few strokes as possible, quickly stir the ingredients together.
3. To shape flat dumplings (sometimes called “slipperies”) like my grandmother’s, turn the dough onto lightly flour a smooth work surface. Flour you hands and gently push it away from you to flatten. Fold it in half, gently press flat with the heel of your hand, and give it a quarter turn. Repeat this until just smooth, about 12 to 15 folds. Dust the work surface and the dough with more flour and roll it out to a thickness of 1/8-inch. Quickly cut into 1-inch strips, and then cut them into 2-inch lengths. Cook immediately.

Damon Lee Fowler is a culinary historian and author of six cookbooks, including Classical Southern Cooking, Damon Lee Fowler’s New Southern Baking, and The Savannah Cookbook. His work has also appeared in Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, and Relish. He lives and eats in Savannah, Georgia.

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Reader Comments:

54321

My daughter-in-law made this Thanksgiving, and it was delicious. Thanks Paula

By susan lake on November 25, 2011

54321

My grandmother made this also. She broke several eggs into it and let them cook. I was not much on eggs but have made this your way for years.

By Sylvia on July 05, 2011

54321

By Jeannie on April 13, 2011

54321

I made this recipe for sunday's supper, and they were scrumpious, really the best ever. This is a keeper if there ever was one. Thank you Paula, I can see where you got the knack for cooking.

By Sharon Thompson on January 10, 2011

54321

The photo of the dish looks like has cream in it? or is it the dumplings that make it creamy? I too have a left over ham bone and ham, so looking for something different. Your story makes it sound like it is very good. Thanks

By Donna Stropes on January 08, 2011

54321

grew up eating a dish called chicken and sliders that my grannie and my auntie AUnt SIster Arthur a dominican nun used to make only when she was there never had an idea how to do them and tried several this works and tastes the same Thank you now the kids and grandson can enjoy this too

By Maggie on January 07, 2011

54321

I enjoy your recipes very much. I have one of fresh peach meringue pie. Since Ga. has the best peaches around I would be honored to share it with you. Will be waiting to see if you really enjoy fresh peaches as much as we do. Also have a recipe for a rum drink with fresh peaches.I've been making for 25 plus yrs. We call it Bloomer Droppers.I'm Sure you will like this also.

By Mary Lou Foos on January 07, 2011

54321

Hi Paula, This recipe looks interesting. My mother is no longer with us but she used to make meal dumplings. My sister and I have done everything but still cannot duplicate those darn meal dumplings. We loved them so and only mother could make them just the way she did. They also were with the left over ham and bone. Then she would make the dumplings with corn meal and flower and shortning and chili powder. She would drop them in the hot broth and they would make a thicker broth that was to die for. Wish she was here to make them for us now. I don't know anyone else who has ever made them except mama. She had many great recipes. We are originally from Knoxville, Tn. Great southern cooks.

By Kay Montgomery on January 06, 2011

54321

Thanks, all, for all your good comments on my story and recipe. My grandmother's spirit has seemed closer than usual this holiday season, and she would be glad to know that her dumplings were such a hit!

By Damon Lee Fowler on January 05, 2011

54321

I had a ham bone leftover from Christmas and came across this recipe. I decided to give it a shot even though I had never made dumplings before and was scared to try them. However, not only was this recipe easy to follow, it tasted so GOOD!!! My family was surprised and happy with dinner last night! Thanks Paula! P.S. Now, I have a request to make it with chicken! wink

By Dana Noe-Sadler on January 05, 2011

54321

Every New Years Day I make Kumla which is a norweign potato dumpling that is cooked with ham hocks. Your recipe reminds me of our family favorite.

By Karla on January 03, 2011

54321

this was great-how did u know that I was looking for something new to use up the ham...rating 5

By glenda Holiday on January 03, 2011

54321

Thank You so much for showing this recipe on your web site. My family has been eating ham and dumplings for years. I can remember growing up if I would mention it in school that we had that to eat I would always get the same response, that doesn't even sound good, I would always tell them don't knock it until you try it. We would always have it with cornbread. I was raised in a large family so mom would always have to find ways to make a little go along way. This was always good everybody always liked ham and dumplings at our house. Thanks again

By Annette Hornbostel on January 03, 2011

54321

I tried this oh my it is wonderful I will pass this down to my family an what a great way to use up left over ham! Or fresh too it is wonderful you won't be sorry!!

By cindy Thomas on January 03, 2011

54321

Hey Paula, I love all your recipes but I must admit I haven't tried all of them but I certainly enjoy reading them and drolling! I just read the one for your MaMa's Ham Dumplins...sounds delicious! My grandma made Ham Dumplins with corn meal, have you tried making them that way? If you do, please, let us know on facebook or send me an email. Love ya, Becky

By Becky Wright on January 03, 2011

54321

Dumplings were great, loved them. never made ham dumplings, always made them with chicken. Thanks for the recipe. Oh yeah, my friends gave me lots and lots of paula deen cookware and dishes. They all knew what I wanted.

By Tutti Harris on January 03, 2011

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