As much as I love apples in desserts or as a snack, it feels especially rewarding when you can make a whole main dish revolve around apples. That’s the case in this classic Pennsylvania Dutch dish, Schnitz-un-Gnepp, also known as Schnitz-Un-Knepp, or apples and dumplings. Dried apples (or schnitz, pronounced snitz) are one of the main ingredients.
However, as William Woys Weaver points out in As American as Shoofly Pie, this dish “is as varied as the imagination,” and there is both a savory version and a sweet dessert version that leaves out the meat. In my version, wanting something I could serve for dinner, I did opt for the meat.
For this recipe, I dried the apples at home, in my oven, but you can also pick up a bag of sweet dried apples in the farm market at Weaver’s Orchard. I enjoy drying apples because I also love the smell of dried fruit filling my home. I also love it because cutting the apples into circles and seeing the star patterns appear in the center of the apple ring reminds me of childhood, when we would turn dried apples into Christmas ornaments. (Just be sure to cut away the star pattern in the middle because the part that encloses the seeds can be a little “sharp” even when dried and simmered – not a pleasant texture!)
If you happen to make a lot of schnitz at home, you might enjoy another classic Pennsylvania recipe that uses it: Amish half-moon pies.
New to making schnitz un knepp? Watch as it’s being made here and you’ll pick up some pointers:
- 2 cups dried apples (schnitz)
- 2 lbs. ham on the bone
- 1 onion, sliced
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 2 cups flour
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground pepper
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 cup milk
- Soak the apples in water overnight the night before so that they expand.
- The next day, simmer the ham, covered, for one hour. Add the dried apples along with their soaking water and onion slices. Simmer, covered, one more hour.
- Meanwhile, prepare the dumpling dough: Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the egg, melted butter and milk. Mix this into the flour mixture. Stir until blended (don't overwork the dough). Let dough rest for 30 minutes.
- Remove ham, onions and apples from pot and place them on a plate or in a bowl. Remove ham bones and discard. Add brown sugar and cinnamon to the cooking liquid.
- Rip spoonful-sized bits of dough and drop them into the simmering liquid in the pot. The dumplings are ready when they expand and soak up broth. Add the apples and ham back into the pot and serve.