A couple years ago I met a delightful elderly lady who had a deep German accent. She lived in a part of Southeast Missouri that is filled will families with German roots. Her parents had been born in Germany and came to the United States just a couple years before she was born. She had grown up speaking German in her home. When I told her that my family names were Schuster and Mueller, she started singing a song about Schuster … I think it was kind of a ‘bar song’ … a little bit naughty!
I talked at length with her about German cooking and I asked her how she made chicken and dumplings. She told me all about the ways she prepares the chicken. She even told me about raising (and killing) chickens when she was a young wife. I asked her how she prepares the actual dumpling. I was specifically interested in whether she rolled her dumpling dough or dropped her dough into the broth. She looked at me, waved her hands … and admitted that she buys her dumplings frozen … at Walmart! We got a good laugh out of that!
Dumplings in my childhood home were delicious! When I was really young, we raised chickens and we had a dog named Ringer that would catch a chicken for my mother. She’d tell him to ‘get one’ and he’d quickly retrieve a chicken and bring it right to Mother! I’ll leave the rest of the story to your imagination, but it wasn’t long before she had that fat chicken plucked of its feathers and in a pot of simmering water!
I can humbly say that my chicken and dumplings are as good as my mother’s! I think they are even better because I add a little saffron to the broth and Mama certainly never afforded saffron! Today, I’m going to share a recipe for something much different, though. I saw a Facebook post a few weeks ago about a German potato dumpling. I’d never seen them before … not in my German grandmother’s kitchen or even on a German restaurant menu. I was so intrigued, I had to make them. I’m so glad I did! They will become a family Sunday dinner favorite, I’m sure. Hoorische Knepp are elongated potato dumplings that are delicious served as a side with roasted meat or served as a main dish with a delicious sauce. They can also be made to sauce with fruit.
When the potato finally found its way to Germany, cooks quickly incorporated it into recipes where the potato could replace some of the wheat products.
I’ve described the route of the potato in past columns, but let’s be reminded that the Inca Indians in Peru were the first to cultivate potatoes and that began in about 8,000 BC. In 1536 Spanish Conquistadors discovered the flavors of the potato and carried them back to Europe. Sir Walter Raleigh introduced potatoes to Ireland in 1589. By the late 1500s, the potato was grown in Germany, but they were used as food for livestock!
Frederick the Great ruled the Kingdom of Prussia from 1740 until 1786. During that time, he ordered soldiers to guard a field of potatoes. He wanted his precious crop protected. Curiosity caused the local farmers to steal some of the potatoes and start growing them. Potatoes were already in Germany and were successfully cultivated in the mid-1600s, but they were not popular until “Old Fritz” as he was called … issued a famous “potato decree” making farmers to grow potatoes.
To make these wonderful dumplings, we need to use a starchy potato. Russet, Idaho and Yukon gold potatoes are at the top of that list. I think these dumplings are delicious topped with crumbled bacon and I use the remaining grease, too. The recipe calls for a pound of starchy potatoes. Three medium russet potatoes are about a pound and they will make about 3 cups of mashed or riced potatoes. Fried sage leaves are delicious and easy to make. If you don’t have fresh sage, just sprinkle the dumplings with a little rubbed sage.
1 pound of starchy potatoes
2/3 cups flour
pinch of salt
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
1 Tablespoon of butter or remaining bacon grease
handful of sage leaves
After washing thee potatoes, cook them in simmering water until they are soft. Leave the peels on the potatoes. When done, let the potatoes cool until you can handle them and remove the peel. Press them through a ricer and spread the potatoes out on a baking sheet. Let the potatoes cool completely. The water left in the flesh will evaporate as they cool.
Cook the dumplings in lightly boiling water or broth. They will float to the top when they are done. Remove them and let the cool. At this point, you can refrigerate the dumplings and use them later or you can continue the preparation.
While the dumplings cook, fry chopped bacon. Remove the bacon when done but reserve the bacon grease. Prepare the fried sage by simply dropping the leaves into the grease and they will become crispy. Remove them before adding the dumplings. Sauté the dumplings in the bacon grease for about 10 minutes until the brown. Serve the immediately. Garnish with bacon and sage leaves.
*If bacon and grease are not on your diet, use butter or your preferred oil. You can also add a sprinkle of garlic powder or paprika to enhance the flavor of the dumplings.
I’m posting this as a part of my 2020 Vintage Vegetables project. If you’d like to see similar posts, just click the menu button. I’m also going to share with a couple blog parties. My favorites are listed in my sidebar, so click on over to meet the party goers!