I guess everyone knows what a hankering is. It is defined in the dictionary as a yearning or desire. Well, I had a hankerin' (as they say in the country) for biscuits today. Not the kind that come in a tube, the kind made from scratch like Grandma used to make. The really flakey, fluffy, delicious kind of biscuits. Grandma used lard to make hers. I use butter, but I do bake them in a cast iron skillet like she did.
I grew up in Southern Indiana in the very southwest corner of the state. My dad's parents lived in Kentucky near Central City where the Everly Brothers are from. (Remember the song Wake Up Little Susie? Yeah, that's the Everly Brothers.) They didn't live IN Central City, they lived near there in the country....way out in the country. My grandparents didn't have a car. They walked everywhere. When they needed something they walked to the nearest little town to the store. This was not like walking to the corner grocery store. It was several miles to town. They thought nothing of it because they had always done it that way. I know there are those who long for the good old days, but I am not one of those people. I like modern conveniences and being able to get to the store in a few minutes if I need something. I don't want to haul water from the well to cook and wash dishes or fire up the cast iron stove with wood that I had to chop. Can you imagine cooking on a stove with no temperature gauge or timer? You just had to know how much wood to put in to bake those biscuits. That's the way Grandma did it. Give me my dishwasher and electric stove any day, thanks! But, I still like country cooking.
I was only 9 when my Grandpa passed and Grandma moved to the city to be near her kids. That was 53 years ago. Grandma is gone now too, but there are things indelibly marked on my memory. One is her kitchen with the big black cast iron stove, the big stack of fire wood and the Hoosier type cabinet where she made her biscuits. The cabinet had a wooden top, a couple of drawers and two big bins, one for flour and one for cornmeal. The kitchen table was in a room next to the kitchen. I am not sure you would call it a dining room, but it did have a corner cabinet. The table always had several preserve stands in the middle which held strawberry and blackberry preserves, there were a couple that held pickled peaches and pickled beets and spiced apples which Grandma had made and all of which I love to this day! After every meal when the dishes were done, Grandma reset the table and covered it with a large white tablecloth, ready for the next meal. They got up very early in the morning as there were always chores to do so setting the table was one less thing to worry about. The same routine was followed after lunch and dinner. There were always animals to be fed and gardens to be hoed, laundry, water to be hauled, so many things to be done on a farm and this was a big time saver.
All the rooms were heated by fireplaces, there was no central heat. Coal was the fuel burned for heat. I remember standing in front of the fireplace to get warm. Whichever side faced the fire was warm, not so much for the other side. Bedtime meant a fire stoked in the fireplace that burned only part of the night so it got cold toward morning. We slept in feather beds covered by a mound of quilts to stay warm. It was not easy turning over. I know it sounds like a John Denver song, but that's how it was.
Grandma got up when it was still very dark and started breakfast. I have always hated mornings, but when she called breakfast you had better be there. Nobody wants cold breakfast, especially biscuits and nobody wanted a mad Grandma because you stayed in bed. One of the ways they ate biscuits is still one of my favorites to this day. Do you know what Sorghum molasses are? They are not black molasses like you get in the grocery. Sorghum molasses are made from sorghum cane, not sugar cane. They are light brown in color and I love the taste of them. This is how we did it. You placed a big pat of butter in the middle of your plate, poured some sorghum over the butter, mashed the butter with your fork and stirred it up. Then, you broke off pieces of your hot, yummy biscuits, dipped the pieces in the sorghum mixture and popped the syrupy, buttery pieces in your mouth. Divine is all I can say.
I spent the day working on projects in our little yellow cottage because it is still cool and rainy outside, and I just got a real hankerin' for some hot, flakey homemade biscuits -- the kind Grandma used to make -- made in a cast iron skillet. So, I went to work and whipped up some delicious, delectable, flakey, fluffy biscuits which we enjoyed with the sorghum and blackberry preserves we got at the farmer's market the other day. Talk about hitting the spot! There is a restaurant here in Nashville called the Loveless Cafe that is famous for their biscuits. They have even been on the Food Network in a throwdown with Bobby Flay and we have eaten there. The biscuits are really good, but if you use this recipe you can have divine homemade biscuits of your own any time:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 TBSP baking powder
8 TBSP butter (or 1 stick)
3/4 cup milk
Make sure your butter is COLD. Cut the whole stick of butter into 4 strips, turn the stick and cut 4 more strips, then cut into little cubes, This makes it easier to distribute in the dough.
Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a deep mixing bowl. Sprinkle the little butter cubes all over the top of the flour mixture and cut it in with a pastry cutter until it resembles coarse corn meal. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the milk. Stir all the flour into the milk with a fork just until it forms a ball. Over mixing will make the biscuits tough. Lightly flour counter top. Knead dough in flour a few times until dough is not gooey. Roll out to about 1 inch thick. (One inch in the distance from the tip of your thumb to your knuckle) Dip cutter in flour and cut out biscuits. (I use my Tom and Jerry jelly glass that is about 2.5 inches in diameter). Put a couple tablespoons of butter in your cast iron skillet (or baking pan if you don't have a cast iron skillet) and put it in the oven to melt at 425 degrees. When the butter is melted, remove skillet (with a pot holder, pan will be hot!) and dip one side of each biscuit in the melted butter, then turn buttered side up. Put biscuits side by side around outer edge of skillet or pan, then fill the middle. This recipe makes about 12 biscuits of this size. Bake at 425 until golden brown, about 12 minutes or so. Remove from the oven, remove biscuits from baking pan, place in serving basket and place on the table piping hot. Serve with butter, jams, jellies, syrup and/or sorghum.
This recipe is easy to make and after doing so, you will NEVER want tube biscuits again. You know the kind you get at the grocery store that you whomp on the counter to open? I hope you will try Grandma's biscuits. They are such a treat for breakfast, lunch or dinner, especially if you are having company. Impress them with your country cooking skills. Believe me, they will ask you to make them again and again. Enjoy!
Things to remember:
"What you accumulate can be yours, but it can never, ever be you." ~ Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev