Friday, July 23, 2010
When Slumping is Good
Rachel here: I have never made slump, though it seems like something I will make now that it's on my radar. Who doesn't love simplified cooking? Plus, it comes up in Little Women, one of my favorite books growing up (Oh! I just considered that M will read it someday and I got really excited...). I loved it for the reasons so many girls did, but also on two sentimental counts: my copy of the book was beautiful and a special gift from my dad and it was the movie I picked during the weekend G and S and I spent watching movies with our mom (one of the best. weekends. ever.). Anyway, it is most likely for these reasons that slump will appear on our table soon.
Janet here: I remember vividly our family watching Little Women, the one with Susan Sarandon and Winona Ryder before she went all crazy. Peter was away and I had decided we were all going to eat whatever we wanted for the weekend, watch as many videos as we wanted and stay in our pajamas all weekend if that's what we wanted. I can't remember the other movies Rachel, G and S picked, but I remember so well the festive feeling and feeling as if we were getting away with something. It was winter I believe and it so cozy in our home. We picnicked on the family room floor and ate ice cream and other silly food. It really is one of my favorite family memories, made even more special because Rachel began calling me Marmy after that. Whenever she's written it in a note or email, I've always felt so loved.
But on to the slump. Some people call slump the lazy cook's cobbler. I say it's an easy way to have a fabulous fresh fruit dessert without turning on your oven in the heat of summer.
Plus I love the history of it. Slump, according to the Oxford Companion to Food, got its name because "the preparation has no recognizable form and slumps on the plate." It originated in New England when clever early colonists didn't have brick ovens so they made this in a pot over the fire. It apparently also goes by the name grunt because of the sound of the bubbling fruit. And, to tie this back to Little Women, it was immortalized by Louisa May Alcott, who called her home in Concord, Mass., Apple Slump and recorded a recipe for the dish.
Summer Fruit Slump
2-3 pounds fruit of your choice, cut into wedges. I used peaches but nectarines, apples, and berries would likely work
3/4 cup sugar
1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 heaping tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon each baking soda, salt, cinnamon
1 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup cold buttermilk
Slice the fruit over a bowl so the juice collects in it. Combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt with the fruit. Coat well. Gently stir in the lemon juice. Pour fruit and juices into a 10-12-inch skillet with a tight lid. Let stand 15 minutes. Then heat the fruit on a low simmer, gently stirring occasionally to prevent the fruit from sticking to the pan. Simmer a few minutes until slightly thickened. Remove from heat.
For the dumplings, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a bowl. Add the butter and toss until evenly coated. Cut the butter with your fingers or a pastry blender until it's the size of peas. Add the buttermillk and stire until the mixture just comes together and forms a wet dough.
Place the dough in 6 portions over the fruit, distributing the dumplings evenly. Heat to a low simmer. Cover and simer until the dumplings are puffy and cooked through, about 25 minutes. Remove cover and cool 15 minutes before serving