Of all the memories I have of my maternal grandmother, the making of this recipe is one of my fondest. Most of my good memories of her are in the kitchen, actually. She was from a large family, she was one of thirteen kids, and had her own brood of children in her time. When I think of this recipe I see her kitchen table covered in flour. I see balls of dough that she rolled to flat. I remember how she would give me a butter knife and let me cut the strips that would eventually become the most delicious dumpling-noodles I'd ever tasted.
My grandmother was from farm stock. She lived through the Depression and still made meals from scraps. This is one of those recipes, although it is a wide-spread meal shared by many people of German descent. Like hog maw and steamers, this a regional thing that my uncles, aunts and cousins will crawl out of the woodwork to get a sample of. I happily abstain from eating hog maw, not a German-heritage dish I particularly care for, but that's another story.
Left over ham bone with some quantity of meat attached*
Flour, start with 1 cup and work from there
Potatoes, 2-4 depending on size
Salt & Pepper
This is probably the easiest recipe you'll find for an extremely hardy meal that is perfect for cold winter nights.
Step 1: Get out a large pot that will hold at least a gallon of water. Put your hambone and meat scraps inside and fill with water to an inch or an inch and a half from the top. Salt the water - maybe 2 tsp for now and to taste later. Set to boil.
Step 2: Wash, peel and chop your potatoes into 1 inch chunks. Drop these into the pot and walk away for about 25 minutes.
Step 3: Remove the hambone from the pot and set it aside to cool down. If there is meat on it you'll cut the meat off after Step 4 and return the meat to the pot, if not you'll be pitching it.
Step 4: On a clean surface pour out your measurment of flour and shape it like a volcano. The more you use the more dumplings you'll have, just keep in mind how much room is in your pot for potatoes, dumplings, etc. Add pepper to the flour - I like to use 2 tsp per 1 cup of flour.
Using a measuring cup or ladle, spoon out some of the broth from the churning pot and pour it onto the volcano of flour. You don't want to saturate the flour, you want to add it little by little while folding and mixing it into a dough. If you saturate the flour, just add more flour. Find it's falling apart and not quite as malleable as dough should be? Add more broth.
Once it's just right, press or roll it out to about an eighth of an inch (they'll swell in cooking), then cut it into long strips. Your strips should only be about 3 inches long. You will add them one-by-one to the pot. It's important that you let them get entirely covered in the broth before you let another touch it or they will stick. I usually add them clockwise around the pot because by the time I get to the same spot the other noodle has started to cook.
(This is when you cut the meat off that hambone and add it back to the pot.)
Step 5: Everything is in the pot now, you just have to cook until the dumpling-noodles are ready. Presumably by now your potatoes should be cooked to perfection (or slightly past perfection depending on how long it took you to make the dumplings). It should only take about 10 minutes to cook the dumplings.
This is served either in a bowl or on a plate - the thing to know is the broth is good and will slosh off your plate if you're not careful. Oh, and the dumplings. Mmm dumplings. Get lots of those. MMMMmmm.
I started making this recipe for myself earlier this year. Now that my grandmother has passed away, I'm finding myself craving it more frequently.
*This is typically made from leftovers after your family has had a nice ham dinner and probably a day or two of ham sandwiches. The idea is to have ham meat in the dish but not necessarily to have mega chunks of meat.