Reviving a Summer Tradition

When I was much younger, I could always count on one family tradition as summer came to a close – my grandmother would always make a dinner of fresh corn on the cob and apple dumplings. The corn was sweet and juicy and the apples were always Summer Rambos. Not understanding (or caring) about seasonality or “buy local, buy fresh,” as I was too young to understand the importance of such things. I just knew that at some point in August, grandmother would declare some dinner to be the annual corn and apple dumpling dinner night and we all knew not to eat lunch that day!!!

Now, of course, I have learned that the Summer Rambo becomes available in mid August. It’s hard to find, but worth the adventure to do so. Sadly, our heritage apples are being displaced by the Granny Smith, Gala and other apples. Not that anything’s wrong with them, but what I want for my apple dumplings is a good Summer Rambo or in wintertime a perfectly wonderful Stayman apple.

Gran went against all modern ideas about pie crust making. I doubt that she ever let her pie crust “rest” for an hour in the fridge before rolling it out. She always used a pastry cloth to roll out her pie dough. I don’t know if the thing ever got washed. I always saw it get carefully folded up and put back in the drawer – and this was before Ziplock bags, folks!!! Nowadays, we shake our heads and wonder why and how we never got sick, remembering the sometimes poor sanitation practices of our elders. I sure wonder about that pastry cloth!!! Anyway, she’d roll out her dough; place the peeled and cored apple in it with some cinnamon and nutmeg; fold the dough up around the apple; and into the oven it would go.

The apple dumplings were always served at room temperature with what she called “clabber milk.” Basically, it was half and half with sugar and nutmeg in it. Perhaps her pie crust surrounding those apples was not as tender as it might have been had it rested for an hour in the fridge. But those of us feasting on the dumplings never gave it a thought – we were most concentrated on who was going to be the last one standing in the great corn and apple dumpling feast !! And who would be the one to eat the last of the dumplings – leftovers were not an issue.

So today, I’m making my pie crust and letting it rest as it should in the fridge for an hour or so before making my dumplings. I’ll not use a pastry cloth, but rather my cleaned and sanitized kitchen counter. But I’ll be thinking back to my grandmother’s kitchen and all the good times and good eats that came from there. Tonight, I’ll make her “clabber milk” and call out that dumplings are ready and see who comes running !!!


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