Recipe for Noodles from Scratch from The Great Depression

My Gramma Anna Morgan's wooden rolling pin.  It is an heirloom.
My Gramma Anna Morgan's wooden rolling pin. It is an heirloom. | Source

Gramma's Noodles

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 joke-meister, were often acclaimed as the best maker of certain foods. My larger-than-life Morgan grandmother was held in the highest regard for her “noodles.”

Gramma Morgan

“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 apex of desolate, utterly 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.

Anna Morgan

On the left with the letter A is Anna Worthington Sealy Richard, later to become a Morgan.  On the right is her older sister, Lillian.  I think this photo is circa 1918-1922.  Gramma Anna Morgan was born in 1903.
On the left with the letter A is Anna Worthington Sealy Richard, later to become a Morgan. On the right is her older sister, Lillian. I think this photo is circa 1918-1922. Gramma Anna Morgan was born in 1903. | Source

Ingredients and utensils

The beauty lies in the simplicity. Just 4 ingredients:

Ingredients:

(This amount serves one or two people.)

7/8 cup of white flour

Yes – I kid you not. A few of us girl grandkids 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

¼ teaspoon of table salt -> the white stuff, conventional sized grains. Not fancy sea salt.

Fatty chicken stock or chicken boullion or broth

(Optional: Chicken meat to boil in the broth)

Noodle Ingredients and Cooking Utensils

Source


Utensils:

Medium bowl

2 tea or dish towels

2 large spoons, one slotted

Rolling pin

Large pot -> about 4 quarts (or 4 liters)

Sharp knife, such as a steak knife

Procedure:

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.

Mixed Flour and Salt

Source

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.

Egg in the hole.
Egg in the hole. | Source
When it gets too stiff for a spoon to stir, switch to mooshing it together with your hands - as is done with meatloaf.
When it gets too stiff for a spoon to stir, switch to mooshing it together with your hands - as is done with meatloaf. | Source

It makes a STIFF dough.

A ball of extremely stiff dough

Stiff wheat dough for hand-made noodles.
Stiff wheat dough for hand-made noodles. | Source

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.)

My rolling and jelly-rolling aren't as expert as Gramma's.
My rolling and jelly-rolling aren't as expert as Gramma's. | Source


Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into pinrolls about 1/8 of an inch thick. (1/3 cm)

These noodles can be cut even more thinly.
These noodles can be cut even more thinly. | Source

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.

Steaming, boiling chicken broth.
Steaming, boiling chicken broth. | Source
Adding the noodles to the broth.
Adding the noodles to the broth. | Source

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.

Gramma Morgan's Noodles
Gramma Morgan's Noodles | Source


Economies and fortunes rise and fall like the oscillations of a cosine wave. I propose let the good times roll during the high moments and act prudently during the lean spells. Times are tough right now. Although we believe we know more about nutrition in the year 2011 than we did in 1911, 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.

Photos and text copyright 2011 Maren E. Morgan

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Comments 2 comments

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

Love it--both the hub and the recipe. :) Never knew it could be this simple. I want to try this very one sometime, but I also want to experiment with other flours in this recipe. Thanks much! Voted up and bookmarked.


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 5 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Thanks, RTalloni. My experience in substituting whole wheat and other flours in cookie and bread recipes is that the dish is drier. I don't know if the whole grains soak up more moisture or what is happening. Therefore, I'd suggest that you reduce the flour amount or add a few drops of water to get the dough to behave. The dough gets VERY, VERY stiff.

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