Choctaw woman shares grape dumpling recipe

BY TESINA JACKSON
Former Reporter
06/15/2015 08:45 AM
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Main Cherokee Phoenix
After using a rolling pen and flour to roll out the dough, Davis uses a pizza cutter to cut dumplings that are to be placed in boiling grape juice. The Choctaw Nation citizen uses grape juice instead of the traditional possum grapes to maker her dumplings. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
While the grape juice and sugar come to a boil on the stove, Choctaw Nation citizen Joanne Davis mixes all-purpose flour and grape into a dough grape dumplings, a dessert for many Native Americans. After learning how to make them from her sister, Davis has been making grape dumplings for 10 years. Davis uses grape juice instead of the traditional possum grapes. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Davis and her sister usually make grape dumplings for large events such as the Free Feed during the Cherokee National Holiday over Labor Day weekend. They also make fry bread to go along with the dumplings. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Growing up Choctaw Nation citizen Joanne Davis spent a lot of time in the kitchen learning how to cook with her mother, grandmother and sister. But for the past 10 years, she has been making a Cherokee and Choctaw favorite, grape dumplings.

“I’d have to get in there and learn how to do stuff, so I just grew up cooking and helping in the kitchen, learning how to make beans and gravy and stuff like that,” she said.

On days when her mother didn’t feel like cooking, Davis and her sister would take over in the kitchen.

“I’ve always liked to learn new recipes,” Davis said. “I watch a lot of cooking shows too, try out new recipes and stuff. I just enjoy cooking.”

Without following a written recipe, Davis’ sister taught her how to make grape dumplings.

“I don’t really measure, so I can’t say how much flour I use, but we use all-purpose flour and we use grape juice,” Davis said. “We put some grape juice on the stove to boil and add sugar to that and then I just mix up the dough, which is the flour and grape juice. Then I roll it out and cut it up for the dumplings and throw them in there. That’s the way I was taught to make them.”

While tribes make grape dumplings different ways, nowadays they are commonly made with grape juice instead of traditional possum grapes.

According to “Culture and Customs of the Choctaw Indians” by Donna L. Akers, a traditional way to make grape dumplings is to gather the wild grapes in the fall and dry them on the stem. To cook, boil the grapes and then strain them through cheesecloth and set the juice aside. Then mix cornmeal, baking soda and salt until doughy and roll into shape and drop into the grape juice and cook until done. The dumplings absorb the grape juice and the remainder of the juice is thickened.

Davis said with her way of making the dumplings for a small group of people usually takes about 30 minutes. However, she and her sister usually make them for large events, if asked, such as the Free Feed during the Cherokee National Holiday over Labor Day weekend. They also make fry bread to go along with the dumplings.

“I enjoy making them and I feel like I’m contributing to the dinners,” she said. “I just enjoy cooking in general. I’m making stuff that people like. It makes me feel proud of myself.”


Cherokee Nation recipe for grape dumplings

1 cup flour
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon shortening
1/2 cup grape juice
Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and shortening. Add juice and mix into stiff dough. Roll dough thin on floured board and cut into strips 1/2-inch wide, or roll dough in hands and break off pea-sized bits. Drop into boiling grape juice and cook for 10 to 12 minutes. – www.cherokee.org

Choctaw Nation recipe for grape dumplings

1/2 gallon unsweetened grape juice
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons shortening, melted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup water
flour
Bring grape juice to a boil with the sugar. Mix water, shortening and baking powder. Add enough flour to make stiff dough. Roll out thin on a floured board and cut into pieces. Drop each of these one at a time into the boiling juice. Cook over high heat about 5 minutes. Then simmer for about 10 minutes with cover on before serving. May be served with cream or plain. – www.choctawnation.com

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