I'd had a great-grandma in Washington, an ancient woman in a nursing home who had suffered decades of illnesses. Spending time with a member of my great-grandparents' generation was such a novelty. I recall wanting to be close to her, to get to know her and spend time with her, to explore her home. I like to think that she enjoyed getting to know me, too, as I was one of the oldest great-grandkids. Age has a way of sneaking up on each of us and I bet that being a great-grandmother may have posed itself as somewhat of a novelty to her as well.
One day my brother and I went over for lunch. Great-Grammie had made blueberry dumplings for dessert. I remember them bubbling away on her stove top, a forbidden thing nobody could touch until they were done. When it came time for dessert on that muggy afternoon, she spooned the thick, sticky, sweet syrup over fluffy dumplings. The dumplings were white in the middle but stained purple and green along the edges. I loved them instantly.
Great-Grammie died some years later, before I was able to return for another visit. That afternoon is my most vivid memory of her.
Now, nearly 30 years later, blueberry dumplings bring back sharp memories of sitting at a kitchen table with a feisty little woman who was my Great-Grammie. They're my New England/Nova Scotia version of madeleines in tea.
Here's her recipe as written in her daughter's - my gram's - hand. I've had a lifetime of deciphering her handwriting so will type it out for you under the picture.
Because I can't resist tinkering with recipes, I did the unthinkable and added some lemon zest and a little cinnamon. I'd like to think that Great-Grammie would have approved. But maybe not.
1 quart blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
Zest of 1 small lemon
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Bring blueberries, water, sugar, lemon, and cinnamon to a boil in a medium-sized pot with a tight-fitting lid. Prepare dumpling dough while the sauce is heating.
Dumplings: (from NPR.org, or use Bisquick per my gram's recipe)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter
6-8 tablespoons milk
Mix together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking power in a food processer. Cut in the cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Gently mix in milk by hand until it becomes a very soft dough.
Divide the dough into 5 portions and gently drop into the bubbling blueberries. Place lid on the pot and allow to steam for 12 minutes. Do not open!
Top the dumplings and sauce with heavy cream or vanilla ice cream.