Blueberry Lemon Dumplings
Blueberry by the hand with a bucket and a bush, was a song that Ms. Mattie used to sing to my daughter as an infant. I'm not sure how it goes and perhaps it was something she came up with. Yet, sometimes I hear my daughter humming that same tune and I'll ask her what she's singing, "I don't know it's just always been stuck in my head." She'll say. Blueberry by the hand with a bucket and a bush was Ms. Matties way of singing the story of African American berry pickers. She had a painting on her wall, one that showed 3 black woman dressed in white with large straw hats upon their heads, blue stained hands and large buckets at their bare feet. They are surrounded by fields of berry studded bushes that appear to be blowing in the wind. It was mesmerizing and spoke without words of a story often untold. How important the role African Americans played in the agricultural history as well as the economic progress of the United States. Blueberry by the hand with a bucket and a bush.
As a child in the early 1900's, Ms. Mattie found herself working in the fields picking berries. I've heard stories of buses coming (In North Carolina) and picking up people as early as 3 am back in the 1930's. They would be paid at the end of the day after working from Sunup to Sundown. In some cases, there was housing right on the farm where they would work, housing meaning shacks with several people living in one. Sheets with hues of blues and reds hung out to dry showing the stains of their labor. Blueberry by the hand with a bucket and a bush. This weekend, my daughter and I went online in search of that same painting that hung in Ms. Mattie's front room. Unfortunately we were unsuccessful in finding that one in particular. However the one we did find currently hangs on the walls in the African American Museum of Art in Los Angeles. Needless to say we need to keep looking, although my daughter is excited about a trip we are planning to California in search of colleges (even though I would never let her go that far) hopefully we can fit in a visit to see this painting. We talked of this and history and blueberries while she snapchatted my process of making blueberry dumplings, which is the most delightful summer dessert. These dumplings can be adapted to fit the fruit of the season, like strawberry dumplings or apple dumplings. You start with a simple dumpling dough that can be a bit bland without a kick of something, like lemon zest which I added here. Then you make a syrupy sauce out of the blueberries. I always have trouble not pouring the sauce in a glass and just drinking as is because I'm weird like that. Once the sauce starts bubbling you drop in scoops of dough that reminds me of drop biscuits. The results are blueberry covered dumplings that Violet Beauregard would love.
Blueberry Lemon Dumplings
Dumplings: 2 cups all purpose flour 1 teaspoon granulated sugar 2 teaspoons baking soda ¾ teaspoon salt Zest of one lemon ½ cup cold butter, cut into ½ inch pieces ¾ cup cold milk
Blueberry sauce: 3 cups fresh blueberries 2 cup water 1 cup granulated sugar Directions: In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Grate the lemon zest into the flour mixture. Using a fork or pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until dough resembles coarse crumbles. Stir in the milk gently until soft dough forms. Place the bowl with the dough in the fridge while making the blueberry sauce. Add blueberries, water and sugar to a large sauce pan and bring to a boil. Stir together mixture and allow to boil until sugar dissolves. Drop the chilled dough into the hot boiling blueberries by the spoonful. Using an ice cream scoop will give you nice round dumplings. Reduce heat to low and cover saucepan allowing the dumplings to cook slowly for about 20 minutes. It's important not stir the dumplings while they cook, also let the cover remain on the saucepan, letting them steam. Serve dumplings while still warm with a little extra syrup from the pot poured over the top. Add a little whipped cream or ice cream if that's your fancy. Enjoy!