Want to make chicken and dumplings?
Here's how I do it:
First of all, you need chicken. Being the opportunist that I am, I jumped at the chance to get some free chicken. You know, the kind you have to feed. I got a call from my sister-in-law who informed me that the FFA group at the local high school had some peeps they had used in an agricultural fair that now needed a home. Never mind that it was late fall with winter on the way! Of course, I said, "yes". Thinking I was getting laying birds, you can imagine my surprise when the peeps began growing even more quickly than they normally do? It didn't take me long to figure out that I had meat birds on my hands instead of laying hens.
Now what was I to do? I had meat birds that I really did not want to feed commercial feed. There were not any bugs or grass for them to eat because of the late season. Since I have cows and milk in abundance, I fed them clabbered milk, of course. (These birds ended up being Cornish Cross meat birds and I really don't care for Cornish Cross. They have been genetically modified to have huge breast and as result, many are not able to even carry their weight as adult birds. They basically sit in front of the feeder and eat until their short lives are complete. I really don't get any joy out of raising such a bird, and think it's almost cruel that they have not quality of life. I would much rather wait a little longer, have a smaller breasted bird, and one that is able to free range and forage for their food. However, being given these birds, I intended to make the best of things.)
After I raised the birds, I then needed to butcher the birds. Let me admit something here. I really have a hard time butchering anything that I raise, even if it's a genetically modified freak of a chicken. It also does not help that I was permanently scarred as a young teenager by working in one of those commercial chicken houses! It took me years to be able to eat chicken after that! Being not only an opportunist but also resourcful, I strategically planned a visit from my brother to coincide with chicken butchering day. Never mind that it was now mid winter and we were having extremely bitter temperatures. I somehow convinced my brother that he needed to help Mike butcher the birds. My sister-in-law and I stayed inside where it was warm and cleaned and cut up the birds and put them in the freezer while the guys did the dirty work outside!
So, there you have the first step...........getting your chicken.
The next thing you need is flour. Having some home milled flour available that had been given to me by a friend, I did not have to work myself to have fresh milled flour. It really does appear that I am an opportunist, does it not? (If you have not read my other post, I am looking for a mill of my own so that I can start grinding my own flour!)
Another ingredient that is necessary for making great chicken and dumplings is buttermilk. To have the best buttermilk possible you must first own your very own Jersey cow. You must go out twice a day and milk this cow, strain the milk, chill it, allow the cream to rise, skim the cream off the milk, place cream in a butter churn, allow the cream to sit out for at least 24 hours and develop the culture needed to make good tasting butter. (Or, if you are not able to trap the naturally occuring, good tasting culture from the air, you can start the process by adding a bit of store bought live culture buttermilk or some fresh, homemade buttermiilk from your last churning!) Once your cream has set out and cultured, you then churn the cream until the butter breaks, rinse the butter, and salt the butter. The milk that is poured off the butter at this time is your cultured buttermilk and that can be used in cooking your dumplings. (I told you this was easy!)
You will also need salt, soda and lard or butter.
Now that you have gathered all your ingredients, here is the recipe for the dumplings. This recipe is suppose to be at least 100 years old.
Chicken and Dumplings:
Cook chicken (fattest hens are best). Freeze part if you dont' want to use it all. Remove chicken from broth, and add a little milk, salt and papper to taste. Sift together 2 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp soda. Cut in 2 tsp lard or butter. Add one cup of buttermilk and mix until dough is stiff. Roll out and cut into pieces and drop into boiling broth. (Or, if you prefer, you can drop by spoonful into boiling broth.) Let dumplings cook about five minutes until done.
So simple, so good!