Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Grandma Ford's Chicken and Dumplings

Grandma Ford's Chicken and Dumplings

It's cold, really cold. And nothing will warm you up like home-cooking! I'm going to give you my memories of Grandma Ford's dumplings, but I know my parents, sister, aunt and cousins (and probably even more extended family and friends) all have recollections of Barb's dumplings. And I encourage anyone with memories, to PLEASE add them to the comments below! This is a lengthy post, so bear with me :) It's worth it!

Nothing warms your heart, and tummy, like
Grandma Ford's dumplings

My dad seems to think that the dumpling recipe was handed down by Great-Grandma Ford, but I have to think my Grandma Barb perfected it. Dumplings were a tradition at almost every holiday - we didn't discriminate - Christmas, Easter, 4th of July, birthdays...any occasion was an occasion for dumplings. In fact, Grandma was so well-known for them, she was even commissioned to do large church events and fundraisers, over-seeing the production of a whole mess of them.

Grandma taught all of us at one time or another how to make dumplings, she made it a point. It was something that she could pass down, and she was proud of that...and her dumplings. Even Grandpa was a student at some point, and he got pretty good at it. She'd first tell you, "you have to start with a good, fatty chicken." And over time she realized that today's chickens were nothing like those from the farm years ago, so she got to the point where her local butcher would have to save some "good fat" for her in order to get a great end result.

We all craved them, and they were always the highlight of any Ford family gathering. It was always the first question asked, too: "Well, is Grandma making dumplings?" The answer might determine if you showed up for dinner or not!

I probably have 1000 memories tied to Grandma Ford's dumplings, but my favorite are just of her - working on them in the kitchen, and the satisfaction she got out of having her family there to enjoy them. Making this brings all the memories back, it's like getting a hug from heaven...in a bowl. Love and miss you Grandma!

*Note - this "recipe" is an approximation game and depends on how many you're making! Getting it right takes time, and practice.

**Great tips:

  1. You can freeze the dough ahead of time (my family has even cut the dumplings in advance and frozen them on cookie sheets)
  2. Our new tradition is using the leftover Thanksgiving turkey, drippings and meat to make dumplings

Grandma Ford's Chicken and Dumplings

(the recipe below serves about 6 adults, plus seconds, because everyone will want them. adjust the proportions to make more or less as needed)

1 Fatty chicken (4-5lbs)
Water (8-10+ cups to cover chicken)
2-3 Cups flour
2 eggs
Salt and Pepper

Plan to cook your chicken in advance, you'll need the stock for the dumpling dough. Season your fatty chicken with the salt and pepper, place in large stock pot (the oblong one we use is a family favorite and vintage, Aunt Debbie has made sure we all find one to love). Cover the chicken with water and boil ~90 minutes to cook through. Remove chicken from the stock. Set aside to cool - also allow stock to cool slightly. 

Once the stock temperature has reduced to where you can touch it (and not burn yourself), you're ready to make the dumpling dough. You have two options, make the dough in a bowl, or, on a flat surface where you can work to roll out the dough. Measure out your flour, add a Tsp of salt and Tsp pepper (it's to taste really, and you can certainly season afterwards, so go easy); create a well in the middle and crack your eggs in the well. Using your hands/fingers begin to mix the eggs into the flour. 

After initial mixing, you can slowly start to add in the stock - careful not to scramble the eggs! This is a combination of enough premixing and being sure your stock has cooled enough. Add the stock 1/2 Cup at a time, working it into the flour/egg mixture until a true dough forms. You will know when it is done when you have a slightly tacky ball of dough - something my Grandma taught me, and the "touch" you'll have to learn as you go. If you add too much stock, just add a bit more flour. Once your dough is mixed and slightly tacky to the touch, go ahead and turn up the heat on your stock (you can add more water or canned stock if needed).

Then...get rolling! Flour your rolling surface and work on one 3-4" ball of dough at a time. You can vary the thickness of the dumplings as you like, and cut out the squares. Grandma used a knife, but I've found a pizza cutter does awesome! Drop the dumplings in one at a time to avoid sticking and getting a huge ball of gooey dough. The dumplings will drop to the bottom, and eventually float. Put the lid on and let them cook for 45-60 minutes (if your pot is really full, it could take longer. One must know trick, do NOT stir them! 

Once they drop back down....they're done! Serve hot with chicken on the side (now Barb always served the chicken on the side, divided white and dark, but some like to add it back in - your choice).

Grandma Barb would be so proud of you :)

A few simple dry ingredients
Make a well, add eggs

Careful when adding the warm stock, don't scramble your eggs!

Bring your stock back to a boil

Work quickly to avoid sticking

Drop them in one at a time, quickly!

Hmmm, no room for dropping back down in this full pot!

You can peek, but don't stir!




  1. my mother-in-law, Ellen Johnson..age 100, always made awesome chicken and dumplings. After trying to learn for years, I decided to make them for Thanksgiving. Mrs. J was at our house and suspervised my mixing. When everyone arrived I was ready to serve my wonderful chicken and dumplings. I dropped them in the pot of bubling stock and watched carefully as the dumplings cooked...continued watching as they neared the final stage and continued watching as they all disappeared. I then served disappearing dumplings in soup dishes to everyone. Sure a good thing we had Ham and fixins to go along with the "soup."

    1. What a fun story! Something you'll always remember for sure :)

  2. Jane/Mom writes:
    These dumplings are so good! They even traveled to our house when someone asked Grandma to make them. Grandpa would make sure Grandma got into the house ok and then would go back out to get his 'pot o' dumplins'. They would be the main dish or the perfect side to whatever we were having. Either way there would be very few left. But if there happened to be some left for the next day, everyone wanted them. Then I would hear: 'Who ate all the dumplins?' LOL!