Growing up, one of my favorite and fondest memories is my mom’s homemade “everything in the refrigerator vegetable soup” and homemade biscuits. Florida doesn’t get very cold, very often, but when it does, without a lot of internal heating systems, you need something to make you warm inside. Homemade soup fits the bill. But, when I think back on those wonderful soups, I can’t remember a single one without the biscuits. That’s when it hit me that it was the biscuits that was the grounding factor.
This weekend is a cold rainy dreary day in Tennessee. It’s a much colder environment than Miami ever was, so soup is a mainstay. I had bought a rotisserie chicken and after two meals, had bones and fat to make a great chicken soup. As I finished adding all the other ingredients to make it a one dish meal, I realized it needed something. It needed biscuits.
Biscuits are truly a southern dish and tradition. And to make them truly southern, they need buttermilk. Buttermilk is not something I keep in my refrigerator all the time anymore. But that’s not a problem. I have two solutions. One is an oldtime substitution trick – add a tablespoon of white vinegar to a cup of milk. Even better is the powered buttermilk you can buy in most grocery stores anymore. It’s really good and you can’t tell you aren’t using real buttermilk. I guess the only reason you would really want to have real buttermilk was if you wanted to make yet another southern tradition – biscuits and buttermilk. You take a glass of buttermilk and you break apart a biscuit into the glass (or substitute southern corn bread as well). Now that’s southern.
When we were growing up my mom had a lady helping her watch us and also do ironing and light housework. Her name was Josie and she made the best biscuits on earth. I have spent many years trying to replicate my mixtures to match her heavenly creations without success. Oh, mine are good, but nothing can compare to her creations. My mom swore she must have spit in them or uttered some kind of incantation to make them so light, fluffy and high enough to support a house. I’m sure Josie is long gone, but I would give anything to know her secret. I believe, and this is my gut telling me so, it’s all in the handling. Biscuits are not like bread – you don’t take out your frustrations kneading them to death. You basically have to make the dough combined and firm enough to make the biscuits (always either a glass or empty tin can as a mold). You pat them down and that’s it. The less you handle them the better.
And you put them in a dish butt up against each other. The closer the biscuits are together, the higher they rise. Interesting how that works, but it does.
When they are done, what you put on them also defines where you come from. Honey is popular in the south. Of course butter is a key ingredient, but for many, it’s the honey. For us, growing up in Florida, it was Guava jelly. To me, it’s not vegetable soup unless it is accompanied with biscuits, butter and guava jelly. So, that’s what we had with our soup. It’s amazing how much a taste can take you back to another time. As I ate that soup with those biscuits, I was transported back to my home, Miami, 40 years ago, sitting in a small kitchen, relishing the flavors and comfort of that dinner. Amazing indeed.
There a bunch of other things you can do with those biscuits. Like pouring gravy over them for breakfast – and it’s gotta be sausage gravy. Or combining one with a sausage patty like they do at Hardy’s. You can put them on top of casseroles to act as a crust. In the south, the sky is the limit to what you can do with a great biscuit. To me, though, the guava jelly and butter will forever be my favorite way to eat a warm, right out of the oven, biscuit. Yum.
So, friends, what do you put on your biscuits? And do you have favorites that you eat with your soups? Crackers? Bread? Would be cool to know.