Thursday, January 12, 2012

Bread Dumplings (Knedliky) and Cabbage (Zeli) from My Bohemian Mother-in-Law


I am turning to heavier foods right now, food that warms and comforts us and helps the outside chill feel further away. A festive winter meal that my husband, Bob, grew up with is his mother’s Bohemian Czech Bread Dumplings (Knedliky) and Cabbage (Zeli) served with a pork roast. Bob’s grandfather immigrated from Czechoslovakia in 1920 when he was 16 years old and Bob’s mother, Ann, was always very proud of her Bohemian identity. She kept her heritage alive in some of the foods she prepared (our family favorite is her peach dumplings – a summer staple) and knedliky and zeli were part of their holiday dinners.


The bread dumplings are tender and rustic looking, a perfect sponge to soak up the meat and cabbage juices. They are paired with shredded cabbage that is seasoned with caraway seeds and vinegar for an earthy, sweet tanginess. Bob’s love of caraway and vinegar flavors is firmly rooted in this meal!


These recipes are from my mother-in-law’s collection. Ann passed away almost 14 years ago and her recipe binder is something I treasure. Turning the pages filled with her handwriting evokes warm memories and the sound of her voice. Even though she is no longer here, she is still sharing with us and making it possible for her heritage to be passed on to a new generation.


This was part of the inspiration for me to begin this blog. It’s a place for me to gather our family favorites, new discoveries and my thoughts on food, a place for my voice to be heard for my sons and future generations.


Eating the knedliky and zeli with roast beef around our table and telling our sons stories about their grandmother warms my heart. It allows us to carry on family traditions and keep part of our heritage alive in a delicious manner.

Bread Dumplings (Knedliky)
From my mother-in-law, Ann Cordes
Serves 6

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup warm water
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon kosher salt
4 slices of dry or stale white bread, cut into small cubes (about 2 cups)

In a large mixing bowl, blend together the flour, baking powder, water, eggs and salt. Add the cubed bread and blend thoroughly (a flexible plastic scraper is helpful for mixing the dough). Using floured hands, form the dough into 2 logs about 6 inches long (the dough will be a little sticky – do the best you can and remember these are rustic dumplings).

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop the logs into the rapidly boiling water (not the whistling teapot – Ann’s note!) and boil for 20 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to gently turn the dumplings over a few times so they cook evenly.

Remove the dumplings with a slotted spoon to a plate. You can eat the dumplings right away, or chill overnight. The texture improves if made ahead and chilled so I recommend this method. When the dumplings are cool, wrap in plastic tightly and chill overnight.

When ready to serve, use a serrated knife to slice into 3/4 inch slices. Warm the dumplings in a steamer. I also warm by wrapping the sliced logs in foil and placing them in the same pot with the roast beef I am reheating.

Serve with cabbage (recipe follows) and a roast with lots of meat juices.

Bohemian Cabbage (Zeli)
From my mother-in-law, Ann Cordes
Serves 6-8

1 medium onion, chopped
Vegetable oil for sautéing onion (Ann used duck fat)
1 1/2 pounds green cabbage, shredded
1 cup water
1 teaspoon caraway seeds (or more to taste)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
Salt to taste

In a large pot, heat the oil and add the onion. Saute onion over medium heat until soft and beginning to brown. Add the cabbage, water, caraway seeds, sugar and vinegar. Simmer and stir for about 20 minutes, adding some salt and tasting along the way.

Spoon into a serving bowl and serve with the dumplings.

12 comments:

  1. I love your mother in law's recipe, especially the brad dumpling, I like to cook it with saucy dishes, it soaks itself full of this delicious sauce. Great blog!

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    1. Thank you so much! My mother-in-law would be thrilled to hear your kind comment. Dumplings pair so well with various gravies and sauces - pure comfort food!

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  2. Hannah, this is super exciting. My maternal grandmother and my paternal great-grandmother are 100% Bohemian, so that's what I always tell people my heritage is. I've always been curious about traditional Czech cuisine, so thank you for giving me an introduction! I will have to try these dishes.

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    1. My pleasure, Brianne! I love hearing you have Bohemian heritage, too. I've enjoyed learning about (and eating) the traditional dishes my mother-in-law shared with us. I hope you like the knedliky and zeli! When peaches are in season, please make the peach dumplings - heavenly is all I can say. :)

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  3. Oooh I love Czech food (and other central European cuisines). I'm definitely a fan of dumplings and cabbage. They really are perfect for this time of year! Pork roast was always a staple of my paternal grandmother's kitchen (although she's Scots-Irish, not Bohemian). I can't make a pork roast without comparing it to hers.

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    1. Lauren, it sounds like your grandmother made a wonderful roast! I love how cultures and cuisines overlap and share. Eating is such a fun way to learn about different heritages!

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  4. Thank you for sharing your mom's recipes. I was thinking about some dumplings and kraut today!

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    1. My pleasure! I hope you enjoy the dumplings and cabbage - it's such good comfort food, too.

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  5. My mom was from Mejava, Slovakia and came over to US in 1927--I grew up here in the US with many many warm memories of her knedliky and zeli--kolatchky--peach dumplings--Christmas soup--Christmas bread--etc --thanks so much for your recipes here--this is almost exactly how I make knedliky after how my mom taught me how. Only we (I) use a nice pork loin roast.

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    1. I'm so happy to hear from you! It sounds like you grew up with a delicious array of dishes. My grandma made kolaches and they were always such a treat. Peach dumplings are our family's favorite and evoke such sweet memories of my mother-in-law. I need to make some more while peaches are still in season! I appreciate you stopping by. :)

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  6. Thank you so much for publishing this!!!It is exactly my mother's recipe. I keep forgetting the amounts of ingredients, and you have them. My mother's family is also from Bohemia - Strunkovice. Thanks again for posting this.

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    1. Hi Carole! This makes me so happy and I'm delighted to share the recipe with you. I hope you enjoy!

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