Saturday, February 22, 2014

Buttermilk Biscuits

Ron's Buttermilk Biscuits


My Mother married a hillbilly.  Yep, dad was a hillbilly.  Straight from the mountains or western North Carolina.  His parents moved him and his eight brothers to Pennsylvania when Pop (that's we always called him) was ten years old.  That was in 1930.  Two more brothers were born in Pennsylvania bringing the total Tipton Boys to eleven.  

My Mom (pregnant with me), my grandmother Mrs. Tipton (sitting) and my Uncle Dude at the family mansion (not the washing machine on the porch - a hillbilly home decorating requirement) - 1941


My father met my Mother in 1940 on a double date (he was the other date, not hers) when she was 16 years old.  Several months later they eloped to Elkton Maryland on a Saturday, November 2nd.  That Monday my Mom went back to school. It didn't take too long before my granddad found out my Mom got married over the weekend.  He beat her and threw her out of the house.  Mom was the "Cinderella" of her home.  Her mother had died from complications of childbirth before my Mom was two years old.  Mom was the youngest of her two brothers and sisters. They had all left home and only Mom was left with her (wicked) step-mother and her two children.  Mom did all the cooking, cleaning and what not.  Pop told her "I'm going to get you out of this mess."  And he did.  

My grandfather with his third wife Margaret (oh, I remember her well, Gravel Gertie, she always scared me to death) and his stepson Bobby - 1934


My Mom with her two older brothers - she told me they tore the head off of her doll - an appropriate metaphor for her childhood -1928

So what does all this have to do with biscuits you ask?  Well, when Mom and Pop rented a house in a small house out in the country without running water or indoor plumbing, one of the first things her widowed mother-in-law told her was she was going to have to learn how to make biscuits.  My grandmother said all "her boys need their biscuits" and if she wanted to have a successful marriage she would have to learn how to make authentic southern biscuits.  

Mrs. Tipton with ten of her eleven boys after the burial of Mr. Tipton, my grandfather - 1939


My Mom would watch Mrs. Tipton (my grandmother) make biscuits and wonder "How would I ever make those crusty and cloud filled biscuits as effortlessly as Mrs. Tipton?"  My Mom said Mrs. Tipton would fill a bowl with self rising flour, make a well in the center or the flour, then cup her hand and get a scoop of shortening (lard is the best) and drop it in that well.  Then she would pour some buttermilk in the well and start to swirl the mixture around all the while squeezing the flour and shortening (lard) until a ball formed, all the while being careful to maintain a flour well.  

My grandmother - Hester Lewis Tipton - 1943 - she died in 1944 - I don't remember her

My Mother told me it wasn't easy to "get the feel" of the flour and shortening mixture at first.  There were many times when the dough mixture was too sticky or too dry.  And when she baked the biscuits they came out as hardtacks.  Good perhaps for a trans-Atlantic voyage on the Mayflower but not for Pop.  

Finally, after months of trying my Mother "got it."  She made perfect biscuits with effortlessly ease.  For the next sixty years of her marriage, almost every day she made biscuits for Pop (and her boys) for breakfast and dinner.  

Of course, being the proper Mama's Boy

Me, "Mama's Boy" - gay from birth - 1942


that I was, I wanted to learn how to make biscuits too!  Well folks, let me tell you it wasn't easy.  I have to be truthful and tell you I've never quite made them exactly the same quality as Mom's but I've come pretty close.  

Here's my recipe for buttermilk biscuits:

2 cups sifted enriched self-rising flour
4 tablespoons shortening (lard the best but use Crisco - don't go there)
1/2 to 2/3 cup sweet milk or buttermilk


Unbaked buttermilk biscuits


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (very hot)
Cut shortening into flour until consistency of coarse meal.  Add milk to make a soft dough, stirring with a fork until dough draws away from the sides of the bowl. Turn dough onto a lightly floured board or on wax paper and knead gently 8 to 10 strokes (don't go there). Flatten until desired thickness.  Pull off dough into size of biscuits you desire and shape by hand into a ball.  Place on non-stick cookie baking sheet.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes at 450 degrees F until brown.  Serve hot with butter.  Enjoy!



19 comments:

  1. those look great!

    I made cornbread for breakfast this morning, and there is a rye bread kneading in the breadmaker right now.

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    1. Anne Marie,
      Maybe I'll try making a batch of biscuits in the hospitality suite during Bloggerpalooza weekend. They have to be eaten hot out of the oven though. With lots of butter and jam.
      Ron

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  2. A baker's dozen, please!

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    1. Coming right up Bob!

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  3. Thanks, Ron, for the recipe AND the family history.

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    1. You're quite welcome David!

      Ron

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  4. I vote that Ron makes hot, fresh biscuits on Saturday morning, March 15th for all the bloggers!

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    1. Denise (aka "slugmama"),
      I'll try giving it a try, if we have enough time on Bloggerpalooza weekend.
      Ron

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  5. I don't hear the word 'hillbilly' any more; as a boy I remember eating 'Hillbilly bread". I need to read up if hillbilly has a exact definition or is it now called something else. where did all the hillbillies go? is my question.

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    1. Dr. Spo,
      Oh the hillbillies are still around Oh yes. Just go up in those North Carolina mountains where my Tipton ancestors come from. It's interesting, when I was growing up I was always so ashamed that my father was a hillbilly. Now I'm proud because "hillbilly" is pure American. There are the Mayflower descendants then there are the "hillbillies." You've just given me an idea for my blog post today. Thanks!
      Ron

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    2. DoI get a royalty of something ? How about a biscuit rather!

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    3. Dr. Spo,
      Remind me to give you one of my biscuits when you visit in a couple of week. :)
      Ron

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  6. The biscuits look great. Having married a Georgia boy, I had to learn how to make biscuits, too. I do mine essentially like this, with a few minor differences. I no longer measure my ingredients. I hate trying to measure shortening. It gets all over everything and is hard to clean out of the measuring cup/spoon. I scoop it with my hand and squeeze it into the flour.

    OK, now I have a craving for biscuits!

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    1. Jave,
      Guess what? I married a "Georgia boy" too. And my first "intimate contact" was with another Georgia boy. Small world! By the way, the real way to make the southern biscuits is the way you make them. That's the way my Mother always made them. I have made them many times that way too. Sometimes they came out all right and sometimes not. The recipe I stated in this blog post was successful every time and much neater. But I have to admit I prefer the biscuits the way you and my Mother make them, scoop the shortening out and blend them in the flour with your fingers. "Sqeeze it into the flour." Who taught you that recipe?
      Ron

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    2. I'm trying to remember who taught me how to make biscuits. I picked up the skill from numerous sources, I think. My mother-in-law gave me pointers, as did her mother (Grandma, my favorite in-law!) Superman may have had some input. He was a better cook than me when we first married. He may still be a better cook than me.

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  7. Anonymous9:16 PM

    Hi, Ron. I grew up with homemade biscuits, too. Buttermilk and regular, tea all the way to big enough for a big sausage patty and egg. I learned how to make them but I just don't anymore; I get the frozen ones from the grocery store and pop them in the toaster oven every other AM (trying not to eat so many carbs, but I make up for it with an extra biscuit that I load up with home canned preserves or jelly). My mother doesn't make them anymore, either (too much arthritis in her hands). We have adjusted to the store-bought and now can't really tell the difference. Please note these are NOT the canned atrocities. Those things can be fine for quick dough as long as you don't want it to taste like a proper biscuit. Mom and I still make rolls from scratch for special dinners.

    ~~~ NB

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    1. NB,
      Yes, I grew up with sausage, scrapple, eggs, bacon, gravy and homemade biscuits. Lots of grease. My dad ate all that grease almost up to the day he died at age 80, from lung cancer. Yes, lots of cigarette and pipe smoking in the Tipton household. I've had the store-bought biscuits and they are pretty close to the real thing. I try not to look at all the calories and fat per biscuit. And aren't the homemade biscuits so delicious with homemade preserves? Delicious!
      Ron

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  8. Ron,
    Yum yum yummy. Nothing like good ole Southern cooking. I was fortunate that my grandmother on dad's side was around when I was growing up and Sunday dinners were nothing short of "died and gone to heaven" cooking. Fried chicken was the house special along with the best apple pie I ever ate. Grandma was born in Maryland and got married at 17 but honed her cooking skills long before she married. My grandfather was a good cook also, mostly Sunday brunch (it gave him an excuse to stay home from church) which had anything from steak and eggs to home made scalloped potatoes and he could cook a pretty good apple pie also. Those were days that kids today will never experience because most family dynamics have changed so much in a generation and maybe even two generations. Now I'm hungry and nostalgic both at the same time.
    Interestingly enough cholesterol and nicotine were part of daily life and as you know Southern cooking was not short on grease, lard, Crisco, butter, eggs and everything fried. Most of my family members on both maternal and paternal lived into their late eighties , nineties and some past 100. I don't worry too much about those things although as you know I did give up smoking recently, not so much for health concerns, more for other reasons namely social, and I was just plain sick of smoking. The world smells very different to me now.
    Later,
    Jack.

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    1. Jack,
      Southern cooking is the best! When I was a kid my mom and dad used to take me and my brothers over to my Aunt and Uncle Ed and Mabel for an old fashioned Sunday dinner of fried chicken, gravy, corn on the cob, string beans and southern biscuits. So good! And yes, the men smoked. We all took that as "natural". And you're right, Southern cooking was not short on grease, lard, Crisco, butter and eggs. God, can you imagine eating all that cholesterol busting calories now? And the smoking, I noticed almost immediately when I stopped smoking my taste buds improved and I could smell better. Plus I didn't smell and feel like a dirty ashtray.
      Ron

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