Monday, August 08, 2011

Working my way up to biscuits

That's my next cooking goal. I want biscuits like my grandmother baked -- heavy stout things that could be used as dwarven battle bread, baked in an iron skillet, not the fluffy tasteless things you get from a can. One of those biscuits, sliced open and butter and sausage put into it like a biscuit sandwich, was a meal all by itself, and you could use it to sop up the runny yoke of your egg too while you were at it. I think I'm on the right track if I add baking powder to the basic dough that I made for the hardtack, along with some bacon grease for flavoring. Hmm, reminds me that I need to buy bacon...

Update: looking at a few biscuit recipes calling for milk, I just remembered granny's secret ingredient: Buttermilk. Urk!

-- Badtux the Baking Penguin


  1. One VERY important hint for ya pal.
    Use COLD butter, use one of those pastry mixer thingies that look like a half circle of wires to chop the butter into small pea sized pellets.

    Makes 'em real nice.
    I learned that one from my Granny forty years ago.

    It doesn't matter if you are just using Bisquick, COLD butte. Then, whip ya up some sausage /milk gravy to ladle over them.
    Try it and see.
    Oh, and Bon Appetite !

  2. gobble, gobble very hungry

  3. Look, if you're going to go that far, get some good cream and make your own butter. What's left is buttermilk, and it is as far from what they sell in stores as you are from an aardvark.

    There's also a website you can get cultures for different types of "soured" dairy products. When I get home I can look it up and email it to you.

  4. The butter tip looks really good.

    Adding baking powder and buttermilk should make a big difference, too.


  5. Here is the deal.

  6. Hmm, Monk. My grannie used bacon fat, not lard. Almost the same, but not quite. She also used Clabber Girl baking powder. I remember that clearly. And definitely buttermilk. I don't think she put butter in her batter, it went into a well-seasoned iron skillet that had been used to cook bacon relatively recently, then into the oven. The butter went on afterwards. They were good with jam, with syrup and butter, with basically anything actually.

    She actually cooked three different kinds of bread: 1) Biscuits. 2) cornbread, which was made with a combination of wheat flour (for the gluten I guess), egg, buttermilk, corn meal, and baking powder 3) hot water cornbread. The latter is fried in bacon grease on top of the stove, and was typically cooked in the summer, when it was really too bloody hot to bake. She didn't cook white bread. I'm not sure why, other than the fact that corn grows in that part of the country and wheat doesn't, so stretching expensive purchased wheat with cornmeal and eggs to make cornbread was viewed as a far better use of wheat flour. That doesn't explain her biscuits though, which had no cornmeal in them.

    I tried to get her recipes from her near the end of her life, but, alas, she had never written them down, and I couldn't get her to actually measure anything -- it was always "a pinch" of this or "a bit" of that. Siiiiiiigh!

    - Badtux the Reminiscing Foodie Penguin

  7. Ahh, the crux of the buiscit, as they say.
    My Granny was the same way when it came to cooking and I have to tell ya, I haven't had a good "Down Home" meal except the time I went back to Tennessee to bury her husband, my Grandfather.

    I used to watch her cook supper and dinner, the woman would beat the pants off of Paula Dean.
    Cooked all damn day, did dishes and cooked some more.
    I am not kidding when I say five course meals, damn near every day.
    God, I miss that lady, she was awesome. I doubt if you could find anyone like her these days and I am of a mind yours was the same way.

    You mentioned bacon grease, she had a tin can on the back of the stove and used it constantly.

    Cornbread? Oh, hell yes.

    Buttermilk was used for marinating chicken for frying and damn straight it had a pinch of red pepper in it for a bit of zing.

    Good luck with your buiscit quest my man, she also used Crisco to make them.
    I kick myself in the ass on a regular basis for not paying attention to what she was doing.

    I found one recipe after she died, one.
    It was for sourkraut.

    I have tried to duplicate her Brown beans with out much success since she died.
    Even had some "expert" southern cooking authors get stumped.

    Something about a little part of Tennessee they haven't found yet.

  8. One more thing and I will let ya get back in the kitchen.
    When I was looking all over on how to duplicate Grannies Brown beans, I did hear from a lady about how her mom used to use "Mexine" Chili Powder on occasion.

    That rang a bell and for the life of me could not find it locally. I had to hunt it down on the internet and order it online.
    It is not straight chili powder but a mix of spices and I will bet you a dollar if you find some you will remember it.

  9. Buttermilk and lard were what was used for biscuits and cornbread and hoecake because that was what they had. Growing up we kids drank buttermilk because all of the sweet milk was used for making butter which was a money maker since the city folks would buy it along with fresh eggs. Lard was used since it was a by product of killing hogs in the fall and you didn't have to spend good money on Crisco or the like.
    My grandparents lived on just a couple of thousand dollars a year of actual cash income because they only bought what they couldn't produce themselves and earned their cash on selling butter, eggs, honey, moonshine and the occasional ham or side of bacon. Trips to the grocery were mainly for flour, sugar(for making whiskey) we used honey and sorghum for sweetening. You had to by your whiskey making sugar in small batches since the revenuers got suspicious of large sugar purchases. Also coffee and a few other things but very little other 'food'. Of course, there was always 'tradin' going on. My grandfather was a cooper and a blacksmith and a good butcher so he traded those for things he didn't or couldn't make himself.

  10. Tell you what, BT... if you have a good recipe for sausage gravy -- or if any of your readers do -- post it and the lovely yet talented Mrs618 and I will name our next Labrador after you (we're too old for kids). Got hooked on it when I lived in Memphis, and moving back to Maine meant the only source for biscuits and gravy is Denny's.

    You just cannot beat that low-calorie, low-fat, low-sodium, low-cholesterol Southern cooking.

  11. Monk, yeppers, that's why lard/bacon grease was used. My grandparents also had a smokehouse and smoked their own sausage and bacon, which was heavily salted too. The smokehouse was a small square building with a dirt floor, air was provided by a hole dug under one of the walls that was blocked or opened as needed, the smoke went out another hole at the peak of the building. By the time I came along it was used only for storage of canned goods (by "canned goods" I mean things in Mason jars, either pickles and preserves from their garden or jams and jellies from their plum trees, blackberries, or elderberries).

    Buttermilk was mostly because my grandmother liked the taste, they lived too far out in the country to sell the fresh milk, and everybody had a cow out there. Since there was no electricity nothing kept, but they had a big pottery jar with a handle and screw top that they could lower into the well on a rope to keep milk cool for the day.

    My grandfather worked at a sawmill, at the planer, he left his hearing on the sawmill floor because back in that day there was no OSHA (yet another one of those agencies the 'Baggers and Libertarians want to do with because how *dare* someone tell sawmills that they have to provide planer operators with earplugs!). He started for $5/day prior to the Great Depression, then lost his job during the Great Depression and sharecropped for whoever needed labor while working as day labor whenever the sawmill put out a call for men to cut and haul trees or to plant trees. They would pay him a penny per tree he planted, for example. The only good his loss of hearing did him was to keep him from being one of the body bags that came home from WW2, since it meant he was 4-F and besides the sawmill called him back to work the peeler since plywood was a critical war industry, used to make PT-boats and other such things. After the war he worked the planer again, but most of the food my mother (born during WW2) ate was grown right there, because the meager wages that were paid by the sawmill barely sufficed to buy the few things they couldn't grow on the farm, such as flour and sugar and canning supplies. Electricity and the telephone didn't arrive until the late 1950's, and that made a *huge* difference in their life, since it meant they could have indoor plumbing and refrigeration and no longer had to spend so much time hauling water out of the well since they could have an electric pump. Refrigeration, BTW, is way underrated. Being able to store fresh milk in the refrigerator meant no longer having to churn butter every day (butter lasted at the bottom of the well longer than milk) and meant no longer having to throw most of the milk out onto the hog slops, for example. Being able to freeze fresh vegetables rather than the problematic and spoilage-prone process of canning them in a pressure steamer meant much better tasting and more nutritious food during the fall and winter months. And so forth. They could *see* their lives getting better. Sad to say, nobody today has that same feeling, because it seems today that life just gets harder every year...

    So anyhow. Mr. 618. I don't have a sausage gravy recipe. My grandmother didn't make it. The only gravy she made was a giblet gravy w/chicken parts, which was very tasty on dressing or mash potatoes but not used with biscuits. I guess that there's regional differences even in the south. Huh. Who coulda thunk it.

    - Badtux the Reminiscing Penguin

  12. I'm not saying this to be a spelling Nazi, but you're a smart guy and I know you like to do things correctly, so let me tell you that the yellow part of an egg is spelled "yolk." What you wrote is what's put on the neck of a horse, or in monetary terms, on the back of a debtslave.

    As far as Southern grannies cooking, add mine to that lot, tidewater Maryland style. Excellent crabcakes, made-from-scratch white flour yeast rolls of the kind you eat at Thanksgiving, all sorts of simple vegetable dishes from what she grew in the side garden, Maryland friend chicken... The can for bacon drippings was an indispensable back-of-the-stove feature at her house and my mom's, too. Ma cooked just as well, with more store-bought ingredients because we were a suburban family.

    One of the sad things about her growing old and senile and Republican is that she got too crochety to cook from scratch. The current Mrs. Bukko and my daughter never got to taste the great pies and other things she made because by the 2000s when we'd visit and ask her to cook some of her best dishes so people could see how good they were, she acted like we were trying to take advantage of her. "You have enough money to go out to a restaurant. You can't come to my house and expect me to work in the kitchen for you" was her response. In her less conservative days, she was happy to do that to show hospitality.

    I can't decide whether a niggardly, pinched-off soul is a cause or a symptom of being a Repug.

  13. Tux, here's a modern secret to baking: buttermilk powder. You can't reconstitute it and get good buttermilk, but it solves the problem of buying more buttermilk than you'll use for cooking and then having it go to waste.n Plus, a can of it keeps in the freezer for a long time.

    Granny may not have used it, but I've made some lovely breads with it.

  14. Yes, I bought some of that last night, Karen, in preparation for my first attempt at biscuits. But I'm going to have to do some hardtack/hardbiscuit first, because I'm going on a camping trip, so next week will have to be my first biscuit try...

    - Badtux the Cooking Penguin


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