Between 1825 and 1925, millions of Scandinavians immigrated to the United States. Many of them settled across North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Around the Midwest, Americans remember their ancestors making a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs potato dumpling called klub (also spelled klubb). Some know them as kumla, others call them ball (the names reflect the region from which their families hailed).
After a long and frigid day on the farm, households sat down to a meal of big, dense klub, often served with nothing but a generous helping of melted butter. Some swear by sweet syrup as a topping, while others opt for a ladleful of ham broth. Cooks all start by grating potatoes, and many simmer their dumplings in pork stock, but from there, the process becomes something of a choose-your-own adventure. They might tuck a bit of meat in the center, or use no filling at all. For most of history, cooks simply worked with what they had: salt pork, suet, and congealed blood were all fair game for stuffing. Regional and necessity-based variations aside, many chefs have taken the same approach to day-old leftovers, cutting them into chunks and frying them in butter.
When meat was plentiful, families enjoyed klub alongside cuts of ham or bacon. You can still find the hefty dumplings served this way in a couple of restaurants. Though klub is nowhere near as prevalent as it once was, cooks carry on the tradition at home, as well as at Scandinavian special events and fundraisers around the Midwest.
Where to Try It
Ham and kumla are served every Wednesday night, while supplies last.
Pantry Cafe & Catering217 6th Ave, Madison, Minnesota, 56256, United States
This eatery is known for homemade fare, including klub dumplings.