Potato dumplings are a family dish that we’re almost embarrassed to admit we love. Potet klub, or just klub, are Norwegian dumplings. My Dad’s parents were full-blooded Norwegians and continued to eat foods from their parents’ homeland, more often around the holidays. Klub is a dish that can be enjoyed any time of the year however, and for any meal.
This is probably the dish that comes to mind when I hear the phrase “it’s an acquired taste”. As Sunny at Arctic Grub said about them, “This is really a dish that fits into the “you don’t understand it unless you’ve grown up with it” category!” Sunny’s family recipe is a bit different than mine but that could be due to our families being from different parts of Norway. There are many ways to change the basic recipe.
Klub is simply peeled potatoes, ground up finely, salted, with enough flour added to make them hold together in a sort of flattened oval. They’re lowered one at a time into a medium sized kettle of boiling water until the dumpling firms up a bit, then scooped out and put into a very large kettle of boiling water to finish. The two step process is so that the larger kettle is kept free of the little bits that might break off the dumpling in the beginning. I’m not sure where that practice started. My Grandma Lillian taught my mother (the German) how to make klub and I in turn asked my mother to show me. I suspect my mother invented the 2-step process of kettles. She’s an absolute whiz at organizing the house, particularly in the kitchen.
My P.S. has learned to eat klub although he never looks as excited as my sisters and brothers, or my own kids, when I say I’m making them. When I say I’m going to make a batch of klub they will almost beat a path to my door. We eat our klub freshly made with either bacon grease or syrup poured over the top. Grandma Lil made the best klub syrup by simply melting brown sugar in a small about of water in a small kettle. I always thought that sweet goodness was better than maple syrup! I thought of it as “Grandma Syrup”.
The next best thing about klub Is that when cold, you can slice it up into 2-3” pieces, fry it in bacon grease until it is browned and crisping up, then at the last minute pour a cup or two of milk into the frying pan and stir until all the milk is absorbed back into the dumplings. This is the ultimate, crispy yet soft insides method that is best eaten covered in maple syrup. You get the bacon flavor AND the sweet maple flavor in each bite. Of course the bacon is eaten on the side in crispy strips. But more on that in my next post.
I’ve heard others describe their family’s klub recipes and many insist that each dumpling should have a piece of ham or salt pork tucked inside. This wasn’t my family’s tradition. I suspect my family’s recipe with simply potatoes, salt and flour was due to times when meat wasn’t available to tuck inside or add to the boiling water as a sort of seasoning flavor to the boiling klub. Our klub is a very inexpensive way to feed the family in an area that is one of the largest potato and flour producing states in the US. But since the recipe was brought over from Norway, perhaps it just continued to be a family staple because the family had settled into an area that produced potatoes and flour.
When making klub my mother used to enlist my father’s arm to grind the peeled potatoes with a manual grinder that screwed onto the edge of the kitchen counter. It seemed like a daunting task to get all those potatoes ground quickly. Potatoes will begin to turn color when exposed to air; they turn a kind of pink color at first. Adding salt and stirring as more are added will slow down this process, but one has to be fast at making klub. After watching my mother make it when I was a new wife, I had the thought that my food processor might be very helpful in the grinding process.
I returned home and peeled potatoes, then cut them in large chunks and filled the food processor. I pulsed it a few times until I saw they were finely ground, and then emptied the processor’s contents into a large bowl. I salted and added flour and mixed until they were the right consistency and just that simple, I invented the modern times version of my family’s traditional klub!
Huge kudos to whoever invented the food processor. I researched and found Cuisinart was the first to introduce food processors in North America in 1973. Only 5 years later we received our first food processor as a wedding gift, from my mother. Mom always has been a bit on the cutting edge of kitchen technology. I’m the daughter who usually took her advice and expanded on it. This worked out very well in the evolution of klub, of all things!
Not many of the family make klub anymore. I make it around holidays when one of the kids and their families will be around for breakfast because it is an easy and quick breakfast. We all prefer it leftover, sliced and fried in bacon grease. Large dose of carbs, bacon grease, maple syrup over it; let’s not discuss this with our dieticians. But in my defense, it is a rare treat. Not healthy, but neither would a caramel roll nor loaded waffles qualify as healthy choices. It’s ethnic comfort food, plain and simple. And made ahead, it lasts for several days in the fridge as large grey lumps that perk right up when fried in bacon grease. That’s home cookin’ at its best.
This recipe is a rough estimate; it is one of those dishes that can’t be specifically measured. You must be brave and just learn that how many you make depends on how many potatoes you peel. And the amount of flour is used accordingly. Salt is also a learned measure; you can taste the dough to see if it’s salted enough. You want it just a touch salty because that will be disbursed throughout each final klub.
Potato Dumplings (Potet Klub)
2-3 lbs peeled potatoes, cut into large chunks
Put potato chunks into the food processor, filling about 3/4 full. Pulse until smooth and finely ground. You might have to remove the lid and stir it down with a rubber scraper a few times. The mixture will be slightly watery when done. Discard any remaining random chunks and reserve for the next batch.
Pour the potatoes into a large bowl and stir in 1 teaspoon salt. Continue processing potatoes in batches and adding to bowl and adding salt until you have as much as you want.
Add flour to the bowl; begin with 2 cups and add from there until the dough is just able to hold together in your hand without losing shape. Mix with your hand. You will learn the right consistency the more you make klub. It will have the right feel. Never panic; you can add more flower to the dough at any point as you’re shaping and laying them in the water. You can also add water if you feel they’re too firm, although I’ve never had to do that. More often I end up adding more flour halfway through. When making this batch I actually ran out of flour so my dumplings were a bit soft in my hand and didn’t end up as nicely rounded as usual. But they still tasted the same.
I have a waiting bowl of water in the sink and dip my hands into it, then scoop a portion of dough into my hands and shape it into an oval about 4”x2” and about 1” high. Lower a klub into the boiling water in the medium sized kettle gently using a slotted spoon. Let it set on the bottom a minute or two and use a slotted spoon to loosen it from the bottom. Allow it to cook for 3-4 minutes, then gently turn and cook another minute or two. When the dumpling seems firm enough to handle being moved, pick it up with the slotted spoon and lower it into the large kettle of boiling water. Repeat until all the dough is used.
I usually have two klub in the smaller kettle at a time, turning and transferring them at the same time to the larger kettle. My kettle is wide enough to accommodate two klub that are approximately 4”x2” ovals. This is a good cooking size and also the perfect size to cut in half the long way, then slice in ½” slices and fry up.
When all the klub are in the large kettle allow the last few klub you transferred to cook about 10 more minutes. In the meantime you can begin removing the klub to a platter or large container as they begin to float to the top. Test by slicing one in half; they should be uniformly firm all the way through. When all klub are out, let them fully cool on the countertop then store in a covered container in the fridge. If eating immediately, you could keep them all hot floating in the kettle until ready to serve.
I once introduced a good friend to klub and told her how super they are fried up for breakfast. I sent her home with 5 or 6 large grey klub and told her fry it in bacon drippings. The next evening she called and said they liked them and sounded hesitant. I asked if something was wrong. She said they thought they would have liked to have it browned a little more all over the dumpling. I then realized I’d forgotten to tell her to slice the klub before frying! Oh my we laughed. She agreed that slicing them before frying would make way more sense. They’d thought my large grey lump with the browned circles on each side had potential, but nothing they’d ever crave. Yeah me either.
My dad used to joke that potato dumplings were not something you’d want to fry and serve for supper and have the minister drop by unexpectedly. Seeing the not so attractive lumps on our plates would have made us look like “poor people” he said. I laugh now as I realize any of our Lutheran ministers would probably have known what we were eating and been jealous anyway! But people thought about things like that back in the 60s and 70s I guess.