Blackberry Slump

Have you ever heard of a dessert called a slump? The Joy of Cooking defines a slump as “steamed fruit topped with dumplings”. I first encountered the idea of a slump in a cookbook about the cooking of Newport, Rhode Island, in the first chapter on colonial cooking. Apparently, this dessert goes back to colonial days. It’s synonymous with a “grunt”, and which word you use, slump or grunt, depends on the locale. In Rhode Island, slump is used. In Massachusetts, grunt is more common.

Etymology aside, what’s cool about slumps is that they are like cobblers, except they’re made on the stove-top instead of the oven, and they have dumplings instead of biscuits. Yes, berries cooked with sugar, topped with dumplings. (You should have seen my dad’s face when I explained the dessert I made for him. The way he lit up when the word “dumpling” was mentioned was priceless.) Soft, fluffy dumplings, bathed in sweet, tart, ruby berries, and doused with cream.

Sigh.

Dad practically ate the whole batch!

This recipe uses blackberries because that’s what I happened to have, but you could use any berry. Traditionally in New England native blueberries are used. I do recommend serving this with cream or vanilla ice cream. Blackberries can be quite tart, which the cream can help cut.

Blackberry Slump Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

This recipe uses blackberries, but you could easily use any berry you would like, such as blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries.

Ingredients

Dumplings:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup whole milk

Berries:

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen (defrosted and drained) blackberries
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar (depending on how sweet your berries and how sweet you would like your slump to be)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Whipping cream or vanilla ice cream for topping

Method

1 In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the flour. Using a pastry cutter, two knives, or your clean hands, cut the butter into the flour until the flour resembles a coarse meal. Add the milk all at once and stir until the flour is just moistened. Handling the dough as little as possible, form into a ball. Set aside.

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2 In a 2-qt saucepan, add the berries, sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice, lemon zest, and water. Heat until boiling, stirring a few times so that the berries are well coated with the sauce. Once the berry mixture is boiling, tear off spoonful chunks from the dough ball and drop onto the fruit around the edges of the pot. You should have enough dough for 6 dumplings. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 25 minutes, without peeking at the dumplings.

Place dumplings in serving bowls and top with berries. Serve with cream or ice cream. Serve hot or chilled.

Links:

Bilberry Blueberry from the Old Foodie

38 Comments

  1. Jennifer Jo

    No trouble with burning?

    Hi Jennifer, no trouble with burning. The blackberries and the dumplings steam in their own moisture. The pot is covered so they don’t dry out. ~Elise

  2. Paula B.

    So funny, my initial response before I read the post any further was : “Yes, it’s like a grunt” (or a pandowdy or simply a cobbler). Guess I knew that from generations of living in a locale that straddles the Rhode Island/Mass. border.This looks delicious and so timely to capture the end of summer and on into the fall fruits. We do have some oddly named recipes in New England don’t we?

  3. Becki

    In North Carolina, where I grew up, we called it Blackberry Mush. Mornings in the summer were devoted to picking the berries and then the evenings were devoted to making jelly, cobbler, and mush.

  4. Mark

    When I first saw the title, I thought this was going to be about sale of the Research in Motion (RIM) smartphone. Luckily, it wasn’t. I love these kinds of deserts. I’ve never heard the term slump, but a blueberry grunt is my favourite.

  5. newlywed

    I love these old-fashioned New England fruit desserts. I am always curious to try a savory version with vegetables as vegetarian entree. Do you think that a combination of roasted tomatoes, onions, garlic, and zucchini would work with dumplings on top…or is that just plain crazy?

    I’m much more used to dumplings being in a savory dish, like beef goulash and dumplings, or chicken and dumplings. So, I think a savory vegetable stew with dumplings would be great. ~Elise

  6. Allen Wright

    I’ve never heard this called a slump, mom always just called it cobbler. In the summer in Arkansas it’s just way too hot to turn the oven on unless you have one on the back porch, which I have seen, or in the old plantation tradition have the kitchen in a different building, which I’ve only seen in actual plantations.
    We make them on the top of the stove with peaches, berries and just about any other fruit that shows up in the summer except melons.
    My mother’s other innovation was the use of canned biscuits for the dumplings. It cuts the hands on time quite a bit.

  7. The Intrepid Cook

    I realize it is probably hard to go wrong with this but do you think it would taste good if I mixed raspberries and blackberries for this one? I have about two cups of each sitting on my shelf right now.

    I think you could use any mix of berries you liked. Raspberries and blackberries sound great. ~Elise

  8. Rocky Mountain Woman

    My mother in law used to make something called “merbtique” with blackberries that looked sort of like this.

    I have searched high and low for a recipe for it because it was my favorite thing when I was a young woman.

    She’s gone now and I can’t get the recipe for it, but I will look until I can find it!!!

    xxoo,

    RMW

  9. Arundel

    When I was a kid my grandparents lived in the winter in Providence RI and in the summer in New Hampshire. One rainy summer day (much like today!) my grandmother showed me how to make her version of blueberry grunt. She admitted that it wasn’t quite the real thing, but it was easier to make than pie, and we had a lot of blueberries we had picked in the field down below her house.

    The recipe involved taking good sliced white bread with the crusts cut off, buttering the slices lavishly and sprinkling the slices with cinnamon sugar. The blueberries were cooked with a little sugar to make a sweet sauce, and then were layered with the bread slices in a deep baking dish. Since nobody was going to light the woodstove on a summer day, the concoction went into the toaster oven until it was heated through and the blue goo had soaked into the bread. I remember we ate it with ice cream, and it was wonderful!

    I have about a quart of blueberries in my freezer, complete with the leaves and stems that I didn’t pick off when my neighbor gave them to me about a month ago. I’m thinking that blueberries with dumplings might be a good dessert on a rainy August night in Maine.

    I’ve seen references to that version of a grunt/slump as well. Seems like there are lots of ways to make this! ~Elise

  10. A.A. Bruisee

    All my Mom’s cobblers were like this. She made dumplings by rolling out a pie crust and cutting the crust into strips maybe one inch by two inches. She cooked the fruit sauce and then tossed the pie crust strips into the sauce and put a plate over the pan and let the dumplings steam.

    She also made a dessert called butter roll. My favorite. It was dumplings in a sauce made with milk, butter, vanilla, sugar, and cinnamon or nutmeg. I’ve never made it. Think it might be great if a few tablespoons of rum were added.

  11. Chris

    Just made this tonight, in fact I am eating it right now! The family loves it! I assumed that I was to whisk in the salt in step 1 and the add the zest with the juice in step 2. Turned out great as always.

    So glad you liked it! Thanks for reminding me about the salt and zest. I had them in the ingredients but forgot to include them in the method. Have made the adjustment in the recipe. And yes, you guessed right. ~Elise

  12. Beth

    This is how we’ve always made cobblers in my family. Anything baked in the oven is a crisp, cooked on the stovetop with dumplings is a cobbler. I make this with either blackberries, blueberries, and peaches. To. Die. For. So good!

  13. The Intrepid Cook

    I tried making this recipe last night with a mix of blackberries and raspberries. It was so easy to make and turned out delicious; everyone really liked it.

    The only thing I would change next time, especially if the berries are not super sweet to begin with, would be to use the lemon zest for flavor, but skip the lemon juice to reduce the tartness.

    Thanks for the recipe. :)

  14. Amanda

    My grandmother used to make this over a fire every time we went camping. She would send us to pick Michigan huckleberries, and when we came back, she would start dessert!

  15. Schlane

    My mother used to do this recipe with rhubarb and it was soooooo good. I was a picky eater and i loved it and still to this day love rhubarb. YUM

  16. Sarah

    I guess this is a general dumpling question – if they don’t brown at all, and don’t seem to look very different cooked vs. raw, how can you tell when they’re done?

    Good question. They’ll be a bit firm to the touch. ~Elise

  17. Susan

    I just made a similar dish a couple of nights ago using the last of my fresh sour cherries. I was going to make a cobbler but decided to do it on the stove instead, using the same method as for dumpling in a stew; lid on to cook, lid off to firm up the exterior. It was wonderful. I think I like this method better for cherries than the typical cobbler.

  18. shorthand

    I’ve never heard of a slump or a grunt… or a slick (at least not in reference to berries). In bayou land, they’re called, of all things, blackberry dumplings. So very good!

  19. Barbara Hoefsmit

    After I printed the recipe for Blackberry Slump, I made it with blueberries. I halved the recipe, and used white whole wheat flour for the dumplings. My husband and I had it with vanilla ice cream, and it was absolutely wonderful. Can’t wait to try it with strawberries.

  20. Kitten

    Anyone see any reason why this couldn’t be done with rhubarb or a strawberry rhubarb mix? I’m always looking for new and different things to do with it as we have 5 LARGE! plants that we always get more than we know what to do with! Thanks guy :-)

    I think it would be great with strawberries or rhubarb or both together. My dad is making more today, but using plums instead. ~Elise

  21. Catherine

    I made this last night with peaches and strawberries, so delicious! I love the idea of making it savory, too.

  22. Kelly

    I’m going to make this later today. Do you think it will be alright if I substitute buttermilk for the whole milk? It’s what I have on hand.

    If you substitute buttermilk, add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda to the dry ingredients. ~Elise

  23. Sue

    Do you ever make these recipes with whole wheat flour? I’m trying to make healthier desserts, especially now that my husband is pre-diabetic?

    I personally do not, but many readers do. ~Elise

  24. Jean Marie

    When my boys were in Scouts, they used to make this when camping (using canned fruit) and called it cobbler which it certainly is not. I have a bunch of blueberries in the freezer and really must have a bowl of this deliciousness tonight.

  25. Jess

    My little girls loved this! We had to make lots of little “slump-lings” for them to have more than one in their bowl. The pot was scraped clean. Thank you for the recipe, Elise!

  26. cutlerqueen

    My grandmother, a wonderful cook, made slumps, grunts, cobblers (and no one has mentioned this yet) – buckles, with blueberries, raspberries, cherries, or rhubarb. Most of these New England recipes go back to the days of the early settlers. No matter what you call them, they’re a real taste of summer!

  27. Kelly

    I just made this with the buttermilk dumplings, and it was sooo good. Better than bread pudding. The only other change I made was to add 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon to the dry ingredients for the dumplings. :-)

  28. Irvin @ Eat the Love

    Yay! So good to see you do a slump. I’m a fan of them, especially when I don’t want to turn on my oven (especially in the summertime – you know, those two weeks of the year in San Francisco when it actually gets warm that is).

    I actually call them grunts though – which apparently comes from the sound that the fruit and dumplings make when they are cooking and not from the sounds of people eating them in primal pleasure. Go figure.

  29. Maurleen Owens

    I remember my grandmother making this with strawberries. I don’t remember the recipe actually having a name, but it was delicious and always wanted her to make more. It seems to me that she made it with strawberry preserves she had made the previous summer.

  30. elston

    My mother (who was English) used to make a dessert that she called a boiled pudding….she mixed up some sort of plain dough…put fruit or jam in the middle and wrapped it up in a cloth….and boiled in on top of the stove.

    When it was untied and served she put a warm lemon sauce over it. We happened to live in northern RI at that time….but she never made a slump (she may have called me a “slump” or accused me of “being in a slump” if I seemed lacking in ambition.

  31. Mona H

    I am so glad you posted this recipe. I grew up eating this, however my grandma used to call it Blackberry Mush. Doesn’t sound appetizing but this slump is exactly what it was. I loved it and can’t wait to try this recipe. Thanks again for posting!

  32. Macy

    I have everything for this, except whole milk. Can it be made with skim?

    Yes, but the dumplings benefit from the added fat of whole milk. So, if you use skim, I would add a little heavy whipping cream, or an additional Tbsp of butter. ~Elise

  33. Margaret

    Love this recipe. Second time I made it I made it with peaches and added a dash of nutmeg to the fruit and vanilla butternut flavoring to the dumplings. Just vanilla would work too.

    So easy to make.

    Love the idea of peaches and nutmeg! ~Elise

  34. erin

    This was so warm and delicious, and smelt amazing as it was cooking on the stove. I made it with frozen mixed berries (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries). Thanks for the recipe — a real keeper!

  35. Sudie

    My mom made this with GREEN concord grapes. It was delicious. Tasted sweet and tart like gooseberries. Wish I had some green grapes.

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