When Europeans settled North America, they brought with them any number of useful and beloved things, particularly culinary habits, and when they couldn’t find quite what they needed, they adapted for their new home. From the pies, tarts, clafoutis, and steamed puddings of Europe came cobblers, crisps, slumps, grunts, buckles, pandowdys, bettys, and pot pies, all variations on a theme improvised with fresh, seasonal fruits and crusts, biscuits, and dumplings. Most of the variations with which we are familiar date to the nineteenth century, when they were family dishes, easily and quickly prepared in the kitchen or over a fire with primitive equipment.
The grunt and the slump are more closely related to the steamed pudding than pie, and involved a stewed fruit filling topped with dumplings and cooked stovetop. The two seem to be mostly interchangeable, though some sources assert that a slump is cooked stovetop, while a grunt is the same thing, but cooked in the oven. It is also said that the slump is named for the sloppy appearance it presents on one’s dish, while the grunt is named for the noises it makes when cooking. They are essentially steamed cobblers, whatever else they might be.
This was my first ever slump/grunt. I wanted to make it to use some of the Marionberries I have stored in my freezer, and because I was interested in the history of such dishes. (Also, Louisa May Alcott nicknamed her house ‘Apple Slump.’ And I do love her.) And since we were taking my enamel-coated cast iron Dutch oven camping, it seemed like an excellent dessert to make stovetop. In preparation, I packed pre-measured Marionberries (I measure them before freezing, so only had to grab a two pint bag and a one pint bag), then mixed the filling ingredients in a small glass jar, and the dry dumpling ingredients in another container. I didn’t bother with the cinnamon sugar topping, figuring there was enough sweetening in it already, and that there would be one less container to pack. All there was left to do was slap it together and cook.
We had our slump for dessert following Eli’s lentil stew, after a long day hiking in the Aldrich Mountains. I think it came out well, like a dumpling version of cobbler, and the berries were especially delicious after stewing with the sugar, lemon juice, and spice. However, we couldn’t taste the ginger in the dumplings at all, so you might increase the amount or leave it out altogether. My slump wasn’t pretty, but it tasted great, just as it is supposed to.
It was immensely satisfying to cuddle up in our tower, looking out at the Milky Way, a spot of bright, cozy comfort in all that darkness, and eat such a homey dish.
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon plus a couple pinches of ground cinnamon
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/3 cup milk
- 3 pints Marionberries
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon and set aside. Mix flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, a pinch of salt, and the ginger in a medium bowl. Stir milk and butter into the flour mixture; set batter aside.
- In a large Dutch oven, gently fold together the Marionberries, lemon juice, remaining 3/4 cup sugar, a pinch of salt, the remaining pinch of cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons water. Cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, giving it the occasional stir.
- Drop large dollops of batter on top of berry mixture using 2 spoons, evenly spacing them. Cover; reduce heat to medium. Cook until the dumplings are cooked through and filling bubbles, about 15 minutes. Serve warm, with cream of a whipped or iced variety.