Old-Fashioned Apple Dumplings


Georgia spent the afternoon and half the evening over here on Friday while my cousin and his wife, Sheryl, went out for dinner and a movie. After she was ensconced in my easy chair, she asked me what we were going to do. Georgia likes to be busy. Even if someone else is doing the busy part. No slouching, people! (This is why life in the old farmhouse was so rough. She always thought we needed to be doing something!) I whipped out her recipes and said, “We’re going to make apple dumplings!”

If we’re going to do something, it might as well end up in dessert.

I studied on the hand-written recipe for a time.

Georgia kept asking me what I was doing.

“I’m studying! I’m studying!”

Recipe for 15 Large Apple Dumplings is what it said at the top. And she’s not kidding, they’re BIG. (I’ll get to that later.) I noticed that to the side she had the quantities calculated out to triple the recipe.

“Georgia, that is 45 apple dumplings! Are you crazy?”

She said, “Yeah.”

I bet she tripled this recipe dozens of times. Apple dumplings was one of Georgia’s signature recipes, a frequent go-to when she had company. She had her own apple trees, and Georgia always canned her apples sliced and blanched, in quart jars, plain (in water, not syrup)–quarts and quarts and quarts of them, so she could make apple dumplings whenever she wanted without too much fuss. She didn’t can pie filling–just canned up the apple slices in quarts ready to pull out for whatever recipe she would need them for, whether it be apple dumplings, apple pie, fried apples, etc. I take after her that way, preferring to can apple slices plain rather than in fillings. You never know what you’re going to want to make, and the plain slices in quarts are a handy convenience product for whatever recipe you’re about to embark upon. I used up all my apples in apple butter this year, though, and have none in quarts, so I had to get to slicing.

Which led to my first conundrum. Let’s just take a look at the recipe, shall we?

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How to make Old-Fashioned Apple Dumplings:

3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups water
6 tablespoons butter

5 cups all-purpose flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 2/3 cup lard
1 1/4 cups sweet milk

You know it’s an old recipe when it calls for sweet milk. Sweet milk is the old-time way of saying regular milk, not soured or buttermilk. You can substitute margarine for the butter and shortening for the lard, but you’ll be sorry. Lard is the secret to a tender, flaky pastry, and butter is the secret to happiness.

One of the reasons I was studying the recipe for so long is that the apple dumplings ingredients list did not include any APPLES. How many apples? HOW MANY? Georgia? GEORGIA?!

The instructions said: “Put one cup apple slices in the center.”

One cup spread across the centers of all the dumplings? One cup in the center of the pan? One cup PER dumpling? How big ARE these dumplings? How big are apple dumplings SUPPOSED to be?

Georgia is sharp yet forgetful at the same time. She couldn’t tell me. Or else she was really enjoying herself and didn’t want to tell me. You can never tell. I whipped out my laptop and conducted an apple dumplings investigation. I looked for the recipes that sounded the oldest, so that I could be comparing instructions apple to apple (ha) not apple to orange. But, oh my, I found such horrors on the internet! Apple dumplings made with Pillsbury Crescent roll dough and Mountain Dew.

I know what is wrong with the world.


No wonder our society is falling apart!

Anyway, back to the how-many-apples question. The canned dough and Mountain Dew camp just tuck a few slices into the dough and roll it up (then pour the Mountain Dew over it). Other recipes use the entire apple, coring it out and leaving it sort of whole (sliced and cored, sort of like an onion blossom, if you know what I mean) while others just slice it up–but use pretty much a whole apple per dumpling. These were the recipes that had the most in common with Georgia’s recipe, and some even referred back to older recipes and old cookbooks, so I decided this was the way to go. When Georgia’s recipe said a cup of apple, it meant PER dumpling.

PLUS, studying ahead, the dumpling dough was to be rolled out, per dumpling, eight inches. Further evidence that a few slices wasn’t going to do.

I presented my findings and conclusion to Georgia and she agreed that it sounded correct. Which she knew all along, of course, and was just laughing at me. She was duly horrified when I told her about the canned dough and Mountain Dew.

I said, “You would never serve your guests apple dumplings made like that, would you?”

She said, “NO.”

By the way, I have eaten Georgia’s apple dumplings before. She made them quite frequently, but I never saw her recipe or watched her make them. She would just present me with a bowl with some apple dumplings covered up in whipped cream or ice cream. I’d eat it right up without giving a thought to how she made it. I didn’t have adequate foresight sometimes when I was living at the old farmhouse. And, in my defense, Georgia was teaching me things left and right and sharing other recipes with me, so sometimes I just took what she handed me and was happy if she wasn’t making me work for it.

I had started out just slicing a few apples, before conducting my investigation.

See that look on her face? She’s waiting for me to figure out for myself that I’m not cutting up enough apples. Eventually, I ended up with this big bowl of apples. I sliced up 12 average size apples.

I was making the apple dumplings on my dining room table because you can’t hardly cook in my tiny kitchen in the house.

As soon as you set a couple things down on the counter in there, you’re out of room because there’s close to zero counter space. I would ordinarily make a recipe like this in the studio, where I have plenty of room to spread out and work comfortably, but the steps to the studio would be too hard on Georgia, so I worked at the dining room table.

Georgia thought I was taking a really long time to get the apples ready, but then all she had to do when she made them was go to her cellar and get some quart jars of prepared apple slices, so she didn’t understand my problem. While I was getting the rest of the apples sliced, she went back to watching Judge Judy.

Georgia and I love Judge Judy. She’s our hero.

After I got the apples sliced, I put some fruit protector on them (to prevent browning–I use Fruit Fresh) and stashed them away till I was ready for them. On to my next conundrum (or sort of conundrum, really just a laziness issue).

I started working on the syrup and realized I was out of nutmeg! Or, I was out of store-bought ground nutmeg. I buy ground nutmeg sometimes, which I shouldn’t, because I have a big mound of whole nutmeg. I have a handy special nutmeg grater that you can see here. I used to buy whole nutmeg in smaller quantities at the grocery store. Then I got smart and bought a bulk bag of it online.

MUCH cheaper, and it keeps a long time stored in a dry, cool place. This bag is a pound of whole organic nutmeg. Whenever I open it, it smells so good, I want to climb in and live there.

Nutmeg loses much of its flavor after it’s ground, so if you store it whole and just grind it as you need it, you’ll always have fresh full-flavor nutmeg. Any recipe calling for nutmeg will taste ten thousand times better if you use freshly ground nutmeg, but due to a certain laziness, I’ll sometimes use the pre-ground store nutmeg if I have it. I didn’t have it, so that meant I had to be industrious.

Trust me, this recipe is so delicious, it is worth the trouble of making it even more amazing by using freshly ground nutmeg. I measured everything out into a pot before adding the water.

I went on to boil the syrup. I forgot to take a picture of that part. It looked syrupy.

The recipe doesn’t instruct how long to boil the syrup because, of course, women of Georgia’s era assume you know how to make a simple syrup. And that’s all it is, a spiced simple syrup, with some butter added at the end because why not? Bring the mixture to a boil, turn to low and simmer about three minutes. Turn off the heat, dump in the butter to melt, and let the syrup cool while you continue with the recipe. Time for the dough!

I noticed when perusing apple dumpling recipes that some used more of a real pie crust pastry, and that would work perfectly fine, but I loved this dough. With the addition of baking powder, it is a delectable cross between a pie pastry and a biscuit–yet not overwhelmingly biscuit-y in the result. Yet not pie crust-y either. Before substituting your own favorite pie pastry, try this dough.

With all the ingredients in the bowl, I cut in the lard then stirred in the milk and kneaded lightly.

Parchment paper spread out, rolling pin at the ready, a little flour for rolling, cinnamon, and a bowl of sugar with a 1/8 cup measuring cup. And the big bowl of apples! The instructions said to divide the dough into three balls.

From here, you’re supposed to divide each ball into five smaller balls for 15 dumplings, which are then to be placed in two 9 x 13 baking pans.

After doing this according to the instructions, I’m going to recommend dividing the dough into four balls, then each ball into four more, to end up with 16 dumplings instead of 15–so you can evenly divide the dumplings in the two pans. This will also result in just slightly smaller dumplings, and that’s okay because these dumplings are BIG. That is how I will do it next time and from now on, but this time, I followed the directions and made 15. After all, Georgia was watching. Who am I to tell her how her favorite recipe should be rewritten before I’ve even finished making it for the first time? Shhh.

Roll each ball out to about 8 inches. Place a cup of apple slices on each center.

I didn’t really use a cup, and didn’t actually even measure. I just put the amount of apples that seemed reasonable, which might have been more like 2/3 cup. As I noted above, I cut up 12 average size apples, and I had about a cup of apples leftover when I finished. Dump 1/8 cup sugar on top of the apples and a dash of cinnamon.

Fold the dough up around the apples to make a sort of pouch.

Divide the dumplings between two greased 9 x 13 pans.

Pour the syrup over the dumplings.

The instructions say to bake at 350-degrees for 35-40 minutes or until done. Until done for me took 50 minutes. I baked them for the first half of the time on the lower baking rack in the oven to make sure they got done on bottom then moved them to the top rack to let them brown nicely on top.

See how big these dumplings are?

The syrup bakes right into the dough, infusing every bite with freshly ground nutmeg (if you’ve used it, and I highly recommend it).

While the dumplings were baking, I made a quick leftovers dinner plate for Georgia with roast beef, mashed potatoes, peas, and a buttered slice of toasted homemade bread. By the time the dumplings had cooled a little bit, she was ready for dessert.

She and I split a dumpling, so that’s half a dumpling in her bowl. And she said it was good! She ate every bite. I sent her home with one of the pans of dumplings and kept the other one to feed my big boys when they got home.

I am an apple pie lover, but I love these apple dumplings MORE than apple pie. If you have apple slices stashed in quart jars, they’re actually pretty easy to make and wouldn’t take so much time. I’m more committed than ever to increasing my efforts to get apples put away, not just in apple butter, but in slices. This recipe has comfort food written all over it, but is also so stunningly delicious that no wonder it was Georgia’s most frequent offering to guests, often served at parties (explaining her triple quantity notes), and is even worthy of showing up on a holiday table (in case you’re looking for something different this year).

Note: You could easily add some raisins and/or chopped nuts to the apple filling if you like for an even more festive dumpling, although the simplicity of the recipe is pretty darn perfect as is.

You can find this recipe, simplified, without all this chatter and nonsense, and with a handy print page, here on Farm Bell Recipes:
Old-Fashioned Apple Dumplings

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  1. Pete says:

    This sounds exactly like my grandmother’s method for apple dumplings! Except that she used whole unpeeled cored apple instead of using the slices. The slices make perfect sense, especially for Georgia, with all those quarts of apple slices! But those “packets” of apple with the syrup. And the dough made with lard. Oh, my – such wonderful memories!

    Hmmmm. Am thinking that using the slices would be just as good for pears and peaches and, and, and!

  2. wvhomecanner says:

    I LOVE apple dumplings! Especially the ‘old fashioned’ way and these with slices is perfect!

  3. rurification says:

    OMG – heaven in a pan. I love apple dumplings. I’m definitely doing these this week. Maybe today. They look soo good. And I’m with you on the nutmeg. That’s the way I do it, too and it makes a big difference.

  4. CATRAY44 says:

    What a treat to have not one, but two “Georgia” posts this week! she has been missed! Thank youbfor sharing her again ( and her recipe!)

  5. ramseybergstrom says:

    Love this! So many memories. My Oklahoma grandma’s recipes don’t even have all the measurements, she would just take the flour canister, hollow out a spot int he center and slowly pour in her wet ingredients while working it in with her fingers. It was like magic to me. In my teens we moved to Nebraska and I knew some lovely German ladies who all used their dining room tables to roll out the pastry for their dumplings, etc. Beautiful Suzanne, you are a great cook!

  6. MousE says:

    Thank you for this post! And thank you for sharing Georgia with us.

  7. lesliedgray says:

    I am thinking about trying this for Thanksgiving. We are going to a family member’s ranch about 6-7 hours from home. Will these do alright if eaten a day or two later?.. Or are they best eaten fresh from the oven? I am also making a couple loaves of grandmother bread as well. I love your site! I copy and paste many of your recipes and tips and keep them in a file on my computer… Someday I’ll construct a personal recipe book to print and keep in my kitchen….. that way I don’t have to worry about my screensaver going black during the middle of using a recipe..LOL!

  8. PattiLynn says:

    Yum, yummy. I’ll take a whole one please.

    Thx for the visit with Georgia. Hope you didn’t overwork her. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. knititblack says:

    I’m SO, SO glad you posted this! Apple dumplings are one of my favorite things, but our family recipe for them has been lost. This looks exactly right! I will be making them very, very soon. ๐Ÿ™‚ With fresh nutmeg! I have some, too!

  10. dmcfarland says:

    Looks wonderful! Which grater do you recommend for the whole nutmeg? There are a number of choices and I’m sure you have a preference or good advice.

  11. mommafox says:

    This is my Mom’s recipe–to a “T”. Made them at work and one of the young guys I worked with ate 3 of them–after eating 3 Biig bowls of chili!! He said they were just like his German grandmother used to make. Made my day. Re your comment about Georgia’s recipe, simplified, without all the chatter and nonsense, maybe, but the chatter and nonsense was sure fun to read.

  12. Peggy in KY says:

    I had pulled out our recipe for apple dumplings last week, but did not have time to make it. Your recipe is similar to the one we use, but I use part brown sugar and don’t use the nutmeg. I am not a fan of nutmeg except with pumpkin.

    My Grandmother made the same dumpling dough, but served them with a separate sauce that was sweet sour. I love both styles. Thanks for bringing back memories.

  13. Mo olelo says:

    Just as soon as we’re settled somewhere again for a while, I’m going to take a day off from my low GL eating plan and make a half recipe of these. They look absolutely delicious and I love nutmeg.

    Thanks so much for sharing. I too have missed your stories that feature Georgia.

  14. Dumbcatluvr says:

    Georgia has the most beautiful handwriting.

  15. Leah's Mom says:

    I’m thinking you could use dehydrated apple slices re-hydrated too!

  16. growingafamily says:

    When I was a very little girl, my mom made homemade apple dumplings for the only time ever. My dad said they were almost as sweet as his apple dumpling (me ๐Ÿ™‚ ) and that was my nickname ever after. My parents still call me that. My dad even addressed letters to me in college that way (my roommates loved that!). I’ve never actually eaten one. Isn’t that sad? Two years ago my husband and I moved 2000 miles away from my parents (we were 3 hours away). We miss each other dearly. My dad is coming to visit for Christmas and I’m going to make him these apple dumplings. My mom feels too poorly to come, but I’m hoping she changes her mind. This is what he’s getting for Christmas, and I’m so excited! I love this post. It brought me so many memories and a special idea. Thank you.

  17. growingafamily says:

    I forgot to add my questions. I’ve never bottled apples. I store them fresh in an extra fridge and in the garage. I do can pears. You wrote that Georgia did hers in water instead of syrup. Why? I’m always for cutting out any sugar I can, but doesn’t it affect the quality? Does she do hot pack or raw pack? I love having my peaches ready for an impromptu cobbler.

    I love what you wrote about butter. “butter is the secret to happiness.” It’s true.

  18. nursemary says:

    I’ve been waiting for this! I am going to have to give it a try. Thanks for sharing. Sounds like you had a wonderful day you will remember for a long time.

  19. fatcatx says:

    I’m jumping on board with the previous poster. Can you PRETTY PLEASE post Georgia’s method for preserving her apples? It just never occured to me to do this and now that I have this fab recipe, I will want apples all year long!

  20. farmkat says:

    Tell Georgia THANK YOU very much for sharing her recipes…. I’m lovin’ them. More, please. ๐Ÿ™‚

    My mom used to make apple dumplings using a whole apple, but no one could find the recipe after she died… I will have to try these.


  21. Calico says:

    Such a lovely visual documentary. I love your first picture with Georgia in the background.

    I’ll expect to be making these this week.

  22. Granma2girls says:

    I made these last night for our small group. They were awesome! They reminded me of apple blossoms but better! I filled some with apple,cranberries and pecans. I agree about the pastry. There’s something about adding the baking powder that makes the pastry flakier and lighter. Georgia is a wonderful cook. I’ve made her lunch rolls as sliders for our church coffee time and gotten rave reviews. Thank you, Suzanne, for sharing her recipes!

  23. Granma2girls says:

    Oh, yeah, I was going to add that I served them warm from the oven with a home made Devonshire cream. 3 oz. softened cream cheese, 1 c. Whipping cream, 1 Tbsp. sugar and pinch of salt. Just mix in bowl and whip up till fluffy.

  24. Cousin Mark says:

    A Historical Note— the apple dumplings are the creation of Georgia’s mother in law Granny Ruby Sergent who lived 70 so years in the Slanted House. She made them forever and had no written recepie untill we demanded that she make them and write down the portions. She got flustered believing that everyone should know how to make these. The dumplings are good hot out of the oven or several days later from the refrigerator, hot or cold with milk or ice cream on top.These are just one of Granny Ruby’s farm table eats. Good Eats Cousin Mark

  25. Nicola Cunha says:

    They are on my list! Simple and delicious! I do have a question. I’m really curious why Georgia is using a styrofoam bowl and plastic spoon. Please take no offence, I’m really just curious. Happy Thanksgiving!

  26. zteagirl71 says:

    Wow, Georgia had such beautiful hand writing. Sadly, in a few more decades, that lovely and personal mode of communication may go extinct. The dumpling recipe you found using canned biscuit dough and …Lord give me strength… Mountain Dew, is terrifying! What is so difficult about making a simple syrup, or pastry dough? This is not rocket science. Thank you ladies for not letting this wonderful recipe go extinct, and long live saturated animal fats! :chef:

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