Liver Nips (Liver Dumplings)
Granny’s Liver Nips Were the Best
You could say I grew up with liver dumplings, which my family calls liver nips. My paternal grandmother made them from scratch, first cooking, then grinding lean stew beef and liver. I say grinding because this was long before food processors. She used a meat grinder c-clamped to a table, like the type you would use to grind lean meat into hamburger. The ground beef and liver would then be mixed into the flour mixture to make dumplings. This was a fairly big project, producing a large pot of liver dumplings.
Since my grandmother passed away, liver nips have been scarce in my family over the last several decades. Other family members have attempted to prepare this Southern classic—but only rarely, and usually with disastrous results. None even remotely measured up to Granny’s, except maybe the liver nips served at Shealy’s Barbecue restaurant in Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina.
The Key to Avoiding a Strong Liver Taste
I don’t eat liver of any kind—beef, pork, or chicken—except in liver nips. I remember once telling my grandmother that I had tried to eat liver dumplings at a dinner of my mother’s extended family. The liver taste was offensively strong to me, and although I felt badly about it I threw them in the garbage. Granny cautioned that the key is to cook the liver first. Grinding raw liver and adding it to the dumpling mixture produces nips with a really strong liver taste.
Easy Liver Pudding Liver Nips
My mom told me about a super simple recipe she had found in the newspaper for liver nips. The recipe uses liver pudding. I’m not sure if this product is widely available, but this too is something I grew up with in the South. Mom always had liver pudding in the fridge from a local business that made their own pork sausage, liver pudding, souse and the like. While I was on one of my visits home to South Carolina, Mom made this recipe for me. It makes a relatively small batch. Mom says the secret is to have a very stiff batter, otherwise you just get a very thick liver-flavored soup.
- 2 cans beef broth
- 1 lb pkg liver pudding, softened at room temperature 1-2 hrs
- 1 tsp basil
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1 egg
- 1 c plain flour
- Pour beef broth into a large pot and begin heating.
- In a bowl, place liver pudding. Add egg, salt, pepper, and basil. Mix together thoroughly. Mom used her hands. I will probably use the mixer with dough hook.
- Gradually add in 1 cup flour, combining as you go. Add flour if needed to make sure you have a stiff batter.
- Drop approximately 1 tablespoon dumpling batter at a time into boiling beef broth.
- Cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Do not stir.
Modifications I Would Make
These liver nips were pretty darned good, and very simple. The liver taste was a little strong for me. I will probably use 2 cups of flour for my dumplings, and add just 2-3 tablespoons beef broth as needed to moisten, but still keeping a stiff batter. I think I will also reserve the last ½ to 1 cup of dumpling batter, thin it down with about ½ cup or more broth, and pour into dumplings to have a thicker broth for my liver nips. Granny’s looked more like the picture of Shealy’s nips than the thin broth from Mom’s.
Traditional Liver Nips
Here is another liver nips recipe, slightly more ambitious, from a family friend. This sounds more like what Granny made, but on a smaller scale.
- 1 ½ lb liver
- ½ lb suet
- 1 lb beef roast
- 1 T basil
- 1 medium onion
- 2 eggs
- 4-5 cups plain flour
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- Cover liver, beef and suet with water and cook in crock pot about 8 hours.
- Cool liver, beef, and suet. Place in blender with eggs, onion, and enough cooking broth to puree.
- Mix flour and baking powder in a large bowl. Stir in contents of blender.
- Place crock pot cooking liquid in a large pot and bring to near boil. (Seems to me you will need additional broth, and a very large pot.)
- Drop dumpling mixture into hot stock, about 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Cook 15-20 minutes.
Questions & Answers
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