Launch week is finally here for Jeannie Mobley’s gorgeous debut novel, Katerina’s Wish, and all of us at EMU’s Debuts couldn’t be happier to be celebrating it! We have a variety of fun festivities planned for every day this week, so we hope that you’ll join us back here as the week goes on. But there’s no need to stop there! You can also take the party home with you by winning a signed copy of Katerina’s Wish (scroll down to the end of this post to find out how to enter) and by cooking up a batch of homemade plum dumplings to munch on while you read.
Plum what? you ask. Plum dumplings (known as svestkove knedliky in Czech) are the official companion snack for Katerina’s Wish, thanks to their presence in a key early scene in the book. As a favorite meal from Katerina’s native Bohemia—which her family has left behind to come to America, where they struggle to make ends meet in a Colorado coal camp—the dumplings loom large psychologically as a reminder both of the sweetness of home and the luxuries they can no longer afford.
But when a series of lucky coincidences—or is it a wish granted by a magic fish?—bring the family into possession of some plums, a very special meal results. Here’s the author herself reading from the scene in the book:
If, after reading this scene, you find yourself with a hankering to try this Bohemian treat, you’re in luck! With the help of Jeannie and our fellow Colorado-dwelling debut author Melanie Crowder, I am going to take you through the steps for making your very own plum dumplings at home.
Step 1: Find an affordable source of plums.
In Katerina’s Wish, Katerina is able to buy plums for the bargain price of 1 cent per can. Pretty good, but not quite as cheap as free plums from Melanie’s tree!
Gather up as many debut authors as you can find, and start picking.
Step 2: Find a good plum dumpling recipe.
Oh, how convenient—author Jeannie Mobley already has one up on her website.
Step 3: Remove plum pits.
The easiest way I managed to do this was to cut each plum in half…
…then put the two halves back together before wrapping them up in dough.
Step 4: Make dumpling dough.
You will need flour, milk, eggs, salt, melted butter, and a big bowl to mix them in.
Using the proportions from Jeannie’s recipe, combine and mix. You may start off using a fork…
…but will probably end up with your hands in there sooner or later!
Step 5: Press or roll out the dough.
Grab a small ball of dough and press it out until you have a flat piece that’s large enough to wrap around a whole plum.
This method is a bit laborious, so if you have a rolling pin and a husband handy, you may want to press (haha) the two into service preparing flattened dough pieces for you. (No picture, alas, but trust me that it’s an excellent method.)
Step 6: Assemble the dumplings.
Place your two plum halves inside the dough pancake and wrap’em up!
Bonus step 6.5: Strongarm the author herself into wrapping some up for you!
Step 7: Boil in salted water for 8 minutes.
Keeping the dumplings in one layer is smart.
Step 8: Garnish, and enjoy!
With a bit of melted butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon on top, these dumplings are divine.
The dumplings are a treat on their own, or you could serve them as part of a larger Bohemian-style dinner like Katerina’s family does (though the “grisly meat” and “bread spread with salted lard” that they eat may not be to everyone’s taste). And to make the meal even more festive, you can bestow an “Aneshka Award” on the person in your party who eats the most plum dumplings—named for Trina’s sister, who “ate so many we all thought she would be sick, and Momma made her stop.” (At our gathering, Jeannie’s son and my husband vied mightily for this award.)
No matter how you enjoy them, you’ll probably agree with Trina that “they were the best things I ate since we had left Bohemia”—almost as good as the delicious book that inspired them.
Would you like to enter to win a signed copy of Katerina’s Wish by Jeannie Mobley? All you have to do is leave a comment below telling us about your favorite childhood food, or a food that takes you back to your childhood when you eat it now. We’ll draw a winner next Tuesday, August 28—which is also the official release date for Katerina’s Wish!