The Dumpling Project: Kumla
Wikipedia says “Kumla” is a city in central Sweden, but our Sons of Norway Elveby Lodge book club insists it is also a Norwegian dumpling.
The Kumla Project began in September 2017, when our Nordic Book Club read Skipping Stones, a novel by Gloria Koll with a common theme of finding home, which was variously described as “being with your own people” and enjoying familiar sights and sounds, especially foods, and notably, kumla. This began a discussion about kumla, but it was quickly apparent that our memories of the treat were very different.
The Nordic Book Club first started meeting in 2015. We select a book written by a Scandinavian author, and our group averages six to eight attendees to discuss the month’s book, accompanied by dessert and coffee.
We decided to research recipes gathered by our club members. We received recipes from Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, and all over Iowa. We found many different names, including potet klubb, komle, krub, kompe, and raspeballer. The dumpling is known as “kumla” in Pierpont and Roslyn, S.D., but a Bergen-born Norwegian friend tells me that raspeballer is the name used in his hometown. A search on the internet indicates raspeball, komle, and potet ball are the more common names in western Norway, klubb in the middle of Norway, and kompe in the southern areas.
There are also variations for ingredients. Most recipes involve either grinding or shredding potatoes (red or white), mixing them with flour (white, whole wheat, graham), and forming balls of the mixture. The balls may be golf-ball size or as large as tennis balls. Some insert small bits of meat into the balls, which are then cooked in a broth previously flavored by cooking ham, salt pork, spare ribs, or in one example, beef, in the water. There is also a variation that uses milk for simmering the kumla. All agree that leftovers should be sliced and sautéed in lots of butter for breakfast the next morning.
Here are just a few of the recipes we received from members of Sons of Norway Elveby Lodge. Tusen takk to all who contributed, including Linda Iske, Anita Larson Andres, Ava Sigdestad, Susan Howe, and Erle and Candie Carter.
Mabel Opheim Carter’s Kumla
Erle and Candie Carter have shared their recipes from Erle’s mother, Mabel Opheim Carter, who was born in Thor, Iowa, in 1914, to Ole and Gunda (Dahlen) Opheim. She graduated from Decorah High School in Decorah, Iowa, and died in 2015 at the age of 100. Mabel and her sisters, Sally and Edna, knew about kumla, you betcha.
3 cups ground raw potatoes
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
2 cups flour
1. Grate potatoes or use a food grinder.
2. Mix salt and flour, add to potatoes.
3. Make small balls or drop by spoon into the boiling meat broth.
4. Cook for about 40 minutes.
(I boil a ham bone to get the broth.)
Kumla, version two
4 cups raw potatoes
2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
1. Grind potatoes.
2. Add rest of ingredients and mix.
3. Wet hands in cold water and form the potato mixture into balls.
4. Drop the balls into boiling ham broth. Takes 45 minutes to 1 hour to boil. Don’t overcook or let stand too long.
Note: I take some of the broth and mix some butter or oleo with it and use it for gravy. Cook slowly and also watch carefully, as the dumplings stick easily.
Milk Dumpling Soup
This recipe was found in a cookbook produced by The Ladies Aid of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Aberdeen, S.D., published in 1948. The recipe was sent to the cookbook by Mrs. Mathilda Hansen.
1½ quarts milk
½ cup cream
2 slices bread moistened with milk
½ cup milk
2 cups flour (approximately)
¼ tsp. salt
1. Bring milk to boiling point.
2. Make dumplings with the rest of the ingredients.
3. Drop by spoonfuls into hot milk.
4. Let come to a boil.
5. Serve in soup bowls. Sprinkle top with sugar mixed with a little cinnamon.
This potato-free recipe was featured in the Notably Norwegian cookbook by Louise Roalson, dedicated to the development of Vesterheim, the Norwegian-American museum in Decorah, Iowa. Helen A. Falskerud Pilgrim of Decorah, Iowa, is quoted: “This recipe was brought over from Norway by my mother.”
1 quart milk
1 tbsp. salt
1 ½ cups graham or
whole wheat flour
3 cups white flour
1. In a large bowl, put milk, salt, and graham or whole wheat flour.
2. Stir well and add white flour until the mixture forms a large ball like bread dough.
3. Cut or pull off a piece of dough baseball size or larger and shape into a small loaf of bread.
4. Heat a large kettle of water to boiling.
5. Drop the loaves into boiling water and boil for 1½ hours or until done when tested with a fork. An aluminum pie pan can be placed in the bottom of the kettle to keep the klubb from sticking.
6. When done, take the klubb out of the kettle and cool.
7. Slice the klubb into thin slices and fry in butter.
8. Top with syrup.
Note: Instead of frying slices of klubb, half-and-half can be poured over slices. “Good with fried bacon, ham, sausages, or most any kind of meat. Makes about four loaves. They freeze well and can be reheated.”
Mary Fromdahl Holoun is a retired registered nurse and lives in Bellevue, Neb., with her husband, Hal. She was born in South Dakota, where her maternal ancestors were Norwegian homesteaders and her father, who emigrated from Tønsberg, Norway, was a farmer.
Is kumla part of your Norwegian food tradition? The Taste of Norway Editor Christy Olsen Field would love to hear from you! Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the November 1, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.