Recipe for Noodles From Scratch From the Great Depression
As I was growing up, the adults in the family all had a reputation for excellence doing one thing or the other. Women in the family, besides being recognized for a special talent such as peacemaker, plain speaker, or joker, were often acclaimed as the best maker of a particular dish. My larger-than-life Morgan grandmother was held in the highest regard for her “noodles.”
“Formidable.” If I had to choose a single word to describe her, that’s the one.
My father’s mother married at age 16 and raised five children through extremely tough economic circumstances. She was a strong woman who kept a household running while her husband was on the road for two years looking for work.
Altoona, Pennsylvania, during the Depression was not the worst of desolate, hardscrabble places, but it was pretty danged close. Even the Pennsylvania Railroad (which created Altoona as a company railroad shops town in 1849) could not keep all of its workforce employed, including my Grampa Morgan. Consequently, many of Gramma’s treasured recipes reflect her stringent stretching of a dime. This strategy allowed her to make enough food to fill the bellies of growing children.
The beauty lies in the simplicity. Just four ingredients:
(This amount serves one or two people.)
- 7/8 cup white flour (Yes, I kid you not. A few of us granddaughters asked Gramma to teach us how to make her noodles. She pulled out an old well-loved ceramic teacup that she used to measure her flour. We had to stop her in her tracks to determine the conventional American unit of measurement. It worked out to 7/8 of a cup, which can be measured as ½ cup plus ¼ cup plus 1/8 cup. If you must err on one side or the other, use slightly less flour.)
- 1 egg
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt (The white stuff; conventional sized grains. Not fancy sea salt.)
- Fatty chicken stock or chicken boullion or broth
Optional additional ingredient: Chicken meat to boil in the broth
- Medium bowl
- 2 tea or dish towels
- 2 large spoons, one slotted
- Rolling pin
- Large pot holding about 4 quarts (or 4 liters)
- Sharp knife, such as a steak knife
- Put the flour and salt in a medium bowl and mix with a spoon. Use the spoon to form a depression in this dry mixture.
- Break the egg into the center of the flour-salt mixture. Use a spoon and your clean hands to work the flour into the egg gradually. When it gets too stiff for a spoon to stir, switch to mooshing it together with your hands—as is done with meatloaf. Note: This makes a STIFF dough.
- In one or two parts, use the rolling pin to roll the dough as thin as possible. It should be as thin as cardboard. I need to put my entire body weight into the pushing of the rolling pin to achieve the desired thinness. Let these dough sheets stand to dry more (about 30 minutes) but not long enough that it becomes brittle.
- Roll the sheets into loose jellyrolls (not too tight.)
- Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into pinrolls about 1/8 of an inch (1/3 cm) thick.
- After cutting these pinwheels, toss them with the fingers to separate well and spread out to dry before using. Waiting a few hours up to 24 hours is fine.
- Then prepare the pot with chicken broth and pieces of chicken meat if desired. bring to a full boil. Drop the noodle strips into the boiling broth 10 minutes before serving time and reduce the heat to a simmer.
These are plain, old-fashioned Depression noodles. Personally, I would add carrots, onions, and spices to the broth. However, for a basic building block in the pasta realm, this is a solid recipe.
An occasional step back in culinary time may be useful. This recipe for homemade noodles is heavy on the white fiber-less flour, but empty on the BHA and preservatives (unless it is in the flour.) It may be a good thing to use for filling family meals. It certainly warms my heart to remember it.
Rolling Pin with Ball Bearings
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2011 Maren Elizabeth Morgan