Forget what you have heard all these years about Southern Chicken and Dumplings being a depression era recipe, this delicious comforting meal was served up in Southern kitchens long before The Great Depression. Various dumplings have emerged in recipes in various ways since at least the 1800’s here in the South.
It seems; many folks when writing up a recipe and tossing it on the net seem to think our beloved Dumplings are a reminder of an era that called for tossing shit together like an afterthought. Yes, I just used the word shit in case you were speculating on what you just read.
Chicken and Dumplings shouldn’t dare to be called poverty food of The Depression; on many menus dating long before the 1929-1939 Depression-era Dumplings were proudly served on menus right along Roasted Lamb, beef, and other luxury menu items.
A few of the many recipes that include dumplings or dumpling techniques…
- In 1836, in the cookbook The Virginia Housewife; Mary Randolph has a recipe for Meat Dumplings, a boiled meat pie. Made with a basic pastry made with beef fat, then rolled out, It’s filling consists of parboiled beef or mutton, then folded over and sealed.
- Mary Randolf’s recipe for Potato Paste has also been recognized as a dumpling recipe, made from potatoes and flour, rolled thin, then filled with fruit. The dumplings are wrapped in a clean cloth, boiled, and served with butter, sugar, and nutmeg.
- In 1839, in the cookbook The Kentucky Housewife; Lettice Bryan has several recipes for dumplings, including strawberry dumplings, cherry dumplings, and plain apple pudding made “in the form of a large dumpling.
- In 1847, in the cookbook Carolina Housewife; Sarah Rutledge has a recipe that suggests that our beloved dumpling-making was a popular cooking method in the South Carolina kitchen. In her recipe for Hog Head Cheese, Sarah Rutledge instructs the cook to wrap the skin from the hog’s head in a coarse cloth “in the same manner as you would put paste to make an Apple Dumpling” and then “tie it up as for a dumpling.”
By the 1890s, the Southern states preferred what was known as, a rolled version of dumpling making was the most popular technique. The chicken was usually stewed with a scant amount, if any, vegetables or spices, then often removed from the pot and cooled while the thinly rolled dumplings were cooked in the chicken’s broth. By the end, the chicken was then pulled from the bones, then placed back in the to the pot to marry with the dumplings and rich homemade chicken broth.
Let’s roll to the year 2015, you will find various recipes and techniques used to make Dumplings, you will also find not all recipes claiming to be Old Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings are created equal; I tend to chalk it up to a learning experience and personal preferences of the chef in charge of your dinner. I play around with about 3 family recipes; all from various time periods. —–> Recipe for Southern Style Chicken & Dumplings