Monday, September 25, 2017

MA'S BISCUITS



Our cans were all silver in colour, but Bryan has been a popular brand all my life.
We’ve been mentioning biscuits-for-breakfast as the weather cools once more into the Cozy-up, Gathering-in season of Fall. 
I do think I must have been born under the sign of the lard can, for we had one in both of the houses of my childhood, and their twin resided under the kitchen cabinet of Ma, who was my first Mother-In-Law, and Grandmother of my three children.   They were called Maw and Paw by the GRANDS, then all of us, but signed cards and letters "Ma and Pa."  That woman was just an angel on this Earth.   
We lived right there on the yard with  them on the farm home-place, and she had the exact silver can under her own kitchen counter, right down to the big circled “HF” imprinted in the lid. She had a bowl and sifter in hers, as well, and contrary to my Mother’s fastidious spooning and measuring and stirring, Ma made biscuits BY hand and WITH her hand. She, too, put twice-too-much flour into the bowl, made the crater by banking it against the sides with her fingers, and then three-fingered a clop of Crisco out of the three-pound can.






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Her busy little soft hands were quick as lightning, working that flour into the handful, fingertips busily rubbing, til the “peas” stage. I don’t think she measured the buttermilk, either, but just poured from the BIG crockery pitcher, lifting it with a big sigh, and then I’d clean the white clotty handprint off the handle with a wet dishrag before replacing it in the refrigerator. She also made the buttermilk in a big crock, which somehow took up most of the left side of the refrigerator, possibly a gallon’s worth. Dried milk, water, a cup of last week’s making, overnight on the kitchen counter with a neat tea-towel cover, and voila!! Good as a fresh-churned batch.

I loved to watch her hand squish that biscuit dough; at first the buttermilk shot through her quick fingers like soapsuds, then as the flour absorbed some of it, the dough became a heavy, pliable mass, with the flour worked in from the sides til it was to her liking---a quite wet dough which would seek to escape from her two hands when she lifted it from the bed of flour like a limp cat.







Onto a flourcloth it went, the cloth homemade from newbought Curity diapers, each sewn double for strength, and covered in a thick layer of flour. Several lifts of the four cloth edges in turn, to even up the dough and give it a thorough coating, then pinches quickly rolled through floury palms, placed gently into a Crisco-rubbed skillet, with a final two-knuckled salute to the top, making twin dimples to hold the pools of brushed-on melted butter. The cloth also went back into the bin after use, its dusty weight settling into the dark to await its next needing.





All our biscuits were different, all good, all crusty and golden and steamy-soft within. Ma’s had a crispy bottom crust, beloved by Pa, who would separate several biscuits with a quick twist, butter them BEFORE we said the blessing, then sometimes distribute the dripping top halves to the little ones, while he applied a liberal dousing of sorghum or pear preserves to the cookie-crisp, butter-saturated bottoms. For Pa, life was simple: gravy went on the soft, spongy top halves, syrup on the bottoms.   

 Ohhhh, that all our paths could be so easily chosen.






13 comments:

donna baker said...

Could live on biscuits, but try as I have, I've never gotten that break halfway up. My biscuits have to be almost white, don't like crisp or browned bottoms or tops. I've never tried lard either, but I'd like to. I like mine with butter and honey.

Susie said...

My aunt Helen made biscuits the exact same way. The best ever. Then she would make chocolate gravy to have with them for breakfast. OMG...the best eating in my childhood. Blessings to you, xoxo, Susie

Latane Barton said...

While I read, I saw in my mind's eye, my mother making biscuits in our kitchen when I was a child. Thanks for the memory.

Chesapeake said...

All the PAN DULCE sweets in south Texas are made with lard, plus I would bet about all the refried beans & I suspect most of the tortillas in restaurants are cooked in it. One sees big ol' 5 gallon tins of it in stores!

When Mother made her fried okra & potatoes she said it was better with lard, but settled for shortening, & I can attest to the fact that you just cain't cook that dish with oil, noway, nohow.

Don't do homemade biscuits, but do roll out my Bisquick ones on my 1907 handmade breadboard.

Ah, memories. Thank you!

Kathy said...

I make biscuits now and then but nothing like that. Our biscuits in the north are completely different and we would never dream of using lard. Ours are pale, white and fluffy. Never any brown on it, just a pale tan. I do like my baking powder biscuits. Thanks for showing how another part of the country lives.

Ang Specht said...

You're making me hungry! I haven't made biscuits for quite some time...in fact, my two oldest sons love to cook now and they make them more than I do! I always liked venison and biscuits. I also really love corn bread. Which, like biscuits, it seems everyone makes just a little differently.

Chronica Domus said...

I never think of "biscuits" for breakfast because, as you know, in England biscuits are the equivalent of American cookies. However, those that I've had the privilege of eating have been yummy.

Somewhere at home, I have an old jadite jar with the word "DRIPPINGS" printed upon it. Perhaps whoever owned it made biscuits with its contents.

Regine Karpel said...

Love.

Sandi said...

Lard makes the best biscuits!

April Dawn said...

As the Grand daughter of " Maw " I am so thankful to have read this. I miss her so much, and her biscuits among many other home made treats. Her son, my father, can make some pretty good biscuits also! He learned from the best I suppose! My daughter will not eat toast at home, but when she goes to her Poppie's house she makes her request known! She wants " Poppie's toast". Goes to show that everything is better when a grand parent makes it. I have come to appreciate the smaller things in life as I get older. Something as simple as a biscuit made by loving hands can soothe the soul and warm the heart. Happiness can come from even the smallest things. So thank you ,my precious Aunt, for writing so beautifully the story of a loving grand mother making biscuits. It made my day. Luv you dearly.
April Dawn

Anonymous said...

Love this memory! I wish I had learned to make those biscuits with Maw and the same with Aunt Bo. I don't think Maw was able to cook much by the time I moved up here. I do remember visiting Aunt Bo when I was a child and I clearly remember her making biscuits in her wooden bowl on the little kitchen table in that little shotgun house - her beehive hairdo and her gingham house dress. I miss those simple days. I also regret not learning to make pie crust with Ashie. She made the flakiest, most tender crusts I'd ever seen. They should have been the models for the Crisco adverts. As I read about Paw, I could see him in his truck rambling down the blacktop with his left elbow resting on the door ledge in the open window. It was if it were just this morning. His khakis. The xxx in the back window of that old truck. He would always wink and throw a hand up as I flew by. I also thought of the wonderful garden vegetables that Pappa would leave on my carport - except for the butter beans! He always told me that if I wanted those beans, I'd have to pick the damn things myself!! And I did! I miss so much about those days and all those precious people. They didn't know it, but their character helped to form much of my own. Their examples of hard work and community responsibility, of love and generosity, of commitment to family...fine examples all. This is a special community here and it misses you, as do I. So happy I saw the link to this blog. I feel closer to you again - even though the miles are many. Love you much!! N

roth phallyka said...

it seems everyone makes just a little differently.


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Kim S. said...

Oh, the memories you have evoked here, Miss Rachel! My (working) grandmother made biscuits every single morning for breakfast. They were the best things I've ever eaten. Unfortunately, she succumbed to the lure of whomp biscuits before I grew up enough to want her to teach me to make them and when I finally asked, she had lost the knack. Sigh.