Friday, January 16, 2015

Ham Bone Dumplings

Belly warming and hearty, a slow stewed ham bone stock is finished with drop dumplings.
Belly warming and hearty, a slow stewed ham bone stock is finished with drop dumplings.

Ham Bone Dumplings

In the south, we'll drop some biscuit dough in just about any dish with a soup or stew consistency - beans, soup, stews, they're all game. All dumplings require is a full bodied stock and you're in business.

Starting ham and dumplings with a nice leftover ham bone, or absent that, a couple of meaty ham hocks, makes for a beautiful, rich stock base. The freezer preserved leftover holiday ham bone makes ham dumplings a pretty common thing in the first of the new year, especially when the weather outside's been frightening. Hey y'all, I know it's nothing like what our friends to the north face, but it's even been damp, dreary and downright cold down here in the Deep South of Coastal Mississippi! As I write this, I am seeing sunshine out of my office window for the first time in what seems forever.

In years past, that ham bone would have very possibly been from a nice country ham, but most of us use smoked half hams these days, buying our country ham more often by the slice in a cellophane wrapper, due to the cost. If you're lucky enough to have a country ham bone though, use it by all means, but either way don't salt the stew until you taste it, as any of the above will add a good bit of sodium already. I don't typically salt mine at all. Add a hunk of cornbread or French bread and you've got a hearty meal that'll keep you warm from the inside on these cold days.

For chicken and drop dumplings I prefer larger dumplings, so I drop larger spoonfuls and cook a little bit longer. Yes, I am one of the bold southerners who proudly say that I enjoy fluffy drop dumplings in my chicken and dumplings, more than the rolled, flatter dumplings, although if you put both of them in front of me, I sure won't argue. I'll just eat, thank-you-very-much, and enjoy every single bite of both! You can roll and cut these into dumplings - just increase the flour a bit for a stiffer dough.

For most other dumplings, such as these, I like the dumplings a bit smaller - not quite a teaspoon measure, but more of a soup spoon or even a tiny cookie scoop. By the way, I'll also be the first to say if a box of baking mix is a pantry staple for you, use it! I usually pick up a box during the holidays to make sausage cheese balls, and then I use it up on a few different baking mix recipes I love. It also makes a perfectly acceptable substitute for homemade dumplings, although I'll always tell you that homemade is freshest and best in comparison to anything boxed. Homemade dumplings are nothing more than homemade baking mix for biscuits anyway and not all that difficult to whip up, but frankly either will work and you can get away with canned biscuits too.

If you have the time, make the stock a day before you want to make the dumplings. Stock made and left to sit in the refrigerator overnight until the next day always makes for a more full-bodied and flavorful dish in the end. That is exactly what I did with the stew pictured above.

For those who might be interested, the dishes pictured are from Paula Deen's Signature Whitaker pattern {affil link} in aqua. They were so pretty and with an understated elegance, I just had to have a set. I love them!

Here's how to make my ham bone broth with homemade dumplings.

Recipe: Ham Bone Dumplings

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min |Cook time: 2 hours 15 min | Yield: About 4 to 6 servings

For the Ham Stock:
  • 1 large meaty hambone
  • 3 quarts of water
  • 2 whole celery stalks (ribs) with leaves, rinsed and cut into large chunks
  • 2 large carrots, unpeeled, rinsed and cut into large chunks
  • 1 large onion, unpeeled and quartered
  • 4 sprigs of fresh parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon of whole peppercorns
For the Dumplings:
  • 3 tablespoons of vegetable shortening
  • 1-1/2 cups of self-rising flour
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk or milk
  • 1/4 cup of reserved ham stock
  • Salt, only if needed, to taste
Place ham bone in a large stockpot, along with the remaining stock ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours or until mixture is reduced to about 1-1/2 quarts. Strain, reserving the bone and stock; discard vegetables. Once cooled, pick off any meat from the bone, reserving the meat and discarding the bone. Refrigerating the stock overnight is best when possible.

When ready to prepare dumplings, set aside 1/4 cup of the stock. Mix together the dumpling ingredients until they form a soft dough. Bring ham stock to a rolling boil. Using a small spoon, scoop out and drop into boiling broth and cover immediately so that the dumplings begin to steam; simmer on low about 10 minutes before checking. Don't overcook or dumplings will be dense and hard. Taste broth and adjust seasonings if needed, adding freshly cracked black pepper. Carefully scoop broth and a few dumplings into individual serving bowls.

Cook's Notes: May substitute 2 or 3 meaty ham hocks. If the bone or hocks you use are not very meaty, add in about 1 to 1-1/2 cups of chopped, smoked ham. Pinch off biscuits for a shortcut dumpling.


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©Deep South Dish
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Posted by on January 16, 2015
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