There are many foods that I associate with my grandmother, whom my family lost recently, but none more than potato dumplings. I had these more at my grandparents’ house than at any other place, and we often made them on occasions when a lot of the family was together. I remember helping to make softball sized dumplings when I was little (or maybe they just seemed bigger back then). In my family they inspire the kind of affection only tradition can instill. Pictured are the better-the-next-day version – sliced and fried for breakfast.
Chop about one cup of onion and the same amount of diced bacon or pork. Peel and grate a 2.5 pound bag of potatoes. (There is no point making a small amount. To do this recipe justice you need to make at least a dozen. You want to use starchy, older potatoes.) Start a couple litres of water boiling in a stock pot or large dutch oven. Mix about three and a half cups of flour into the potatoes, or until they make a dough that somewhat holds together.
Form hand-sized patties of dumpling dough on a generously floured surface and put a tablespoon or more each of onion and meat on each patty. Generously shake pepper overtop (also salt if you are using pork and not bacon) and close dough around filling, making sure that none of the filling can leak out and there is no air inside. Your hands will be getting really sticky, and the dough will get wetter and stickier as it sits so you want to form the dumplings quickly and roll them in flour (add more flour if dough gets too soft to work with). Another reason to work quickly is that the flour does not prevent the potatoes from getting brown – this is why you want to chop everything, put the water on, and form and cook the dumplings as soon as possible.
Drop dumplings into boiling water, add a couple tablespoons of salt, wait til water returns to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for an hour. Gently pry dumplings apart if they are sticking together and eat with butter and salt while very fresh and tender, or slice and fry to eat for breakfast the next day with coffee.
The dumpling water is very starchy and flavourful - similar to the bowls of broth, noodle water or vegetable cooking water that 'family style' restaurants in