Friday, March 29, 2013

Liver Nips (Liver Dumplings)

Liver Nips made with Liver Pudding

You could say I grew up with 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 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 over the last several decades.  Other family members attempted to prepare this Southern classic, but very rarely, and usually with disastrous results.  None even remotely measured up to Granny’s, except maybe the liver nips served at Shealy’sBarbecue restaurant in Batesurg-Leesville, S.C. 
I don’t eat liver of any kind, beef, pork, or chicken livers, except in liver nips.  I remember once telling my grandmother that I had tried to eat an aunt’s liver dumplings, and the liver taste was offensively strong to me.  She cautioned that it was key to use cooked liver, as grinding raw liver, and adding to the dumpling mixture would produce nips with a really strong liver taste. 
Last year my mom told me about a super simple recipe she had found for liver nips in the newspaper.  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 Count’s liver pudding in the frig.  While I was home in March, Mom made this recipe for me.  It makes a relatively small batch of liver nips.  Mom says the secret to liver dumplings is to have a very stiff batter, otherwise you just get a very thick liver-flavored soup. 
Liver Pudding Liver Nips
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
1.  Pour beef broth into a large pot and begin heating. 
2.  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. 
3.  Gradually add in 1 cup flour, combining as you go. 
Make sure your batter is very stiff
4.  Drop approximately 1 tablespoon dumpling batter at a time into boiling beef broth. 
5.  Cook uncovered for 10 minutes.  Do not stir. 
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 cup of dumpling batter, thin it down with about ½ cup broth, and pour into dumplings to have a thicker broth for my liver nips. 
Here is another Liver Nips recipe, slightly more ambitious, from a family friend: 
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
1.  Cover liver, beef and suet with water and cook in crock pot about 8 hours. 
2.  Cool liver, beef, and suet.  Place in blender with eggs, onion, and enough cooking broth to puree. 
3.  Mix flour and baking powder in a large bowl.  Stir in contents of blender. 
4.  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.)
5.  Drop dumpling mixture into hot stock about 1 tablespoon at a time. 
6.  Cook 15-20 minutes. 


  1. I too am from SC. My grandmother made liver nips similar to your family friend recipe. My mom made them occasionally. I heard that Shealy's BBQ had them but have never tried them there. Maybe one day I will be adventurous enough to try to make them.

  2. Looks like the one's my mother used to make . Trying this weekend can't wait