Monday, August 9, 2010

Biscuits and Cornbread

Last night on the Fun Mama Facebook page, I mentioned my little biscuit fiasco at dinner. I have been making biscuits since I was a teenager, if not earlier, and I still screwed up a simple recipe. That what happens when I'm distracted. Fortunately, the recipe is so simple that it seems to have not been a problem. The biscuits were pretty good anyway, and rose beautifully.

After a bit of conversation about my biscuits and cornbread, someone asked if I would mind sharing the recipe. As they aren't really mine, I don't mind a bit.

I got both of these recipes off the back of White Lily flour bags. I love White Lily and use it almost exclusively, unless I'm using whole wheat flour (or a recipe that specifically calls for something else). I guess you could use something else, but especially for the cornbread the brand is important. I would like to try to make some real, corny cornmeal cornbread sometime, but I love this recipe so much that I'm willing to wait a while.

Southern Cornbread

2 cups White Lily Self-Rising Buttermilk Enriched White Cornmeal Mix
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups buttermilk or milk1/4 cup Crisco Pure Vegetable Oil or 1/4 cup Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening, melted
1 large egg
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar (optional)

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place and 8 inch of 10 inch heavy skillet that has been coated with vegetable oil in oven to heat. Or, coat an 8x8x2 inch baking pan with no-stick cooking spray.

Combine all ingredients stirring just until moistened (batter will be lumpy). Pour batter into heated skillet or pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes for 10 inch skillet or 25 to 30 minutes for 8 inch skillet or pan. Remove from pan and serve.

 I nearly always use the larger amount of milk - and try to always use buttermilk. I use the oil, not shortening - not sure about using other kinds of oil. I've thought about trying coconut oil for other things - wonder if it will work here? As for the sugar: Sugar is very controversial when it comes to cornbread. Down South, where I'm from, you don't use sugar. Up "North," where I live, people make almost a corncake instead of cornbread. I like to use about a handful of sugar. The people in the south don't seem to notice and rave over it. The people in Kentucky don't mind that it's not as sweet as they expect. I don't actually measure the sugar, just eyeball it. I use a 10 inch cast iron skillet.

I like to cut it into wedges and split them down the middle and serve with butter coating all the cut sides. Yum. I wish I had some in front of me right now. (Cornbread came up because a friend of mine mentioned it, not because I made any.)

I most often make this to accompany my vegetable soup, although it's good with any fresh vegetable meal. 

White Lily Light Biscuits

2 cups White Lily Unbleached Self-Rising Flour
1/4 cup Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening, chilled
2/3 to 3/4 cups buttermilk or milk

Heat oven to 500 degrees. Measure flour into bowl.

Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until lumps are the size of peas.
Blend in just enough milk with fork until dough leaves sides of bowl.
Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead gently 2 to 3 times.
Roll out dough to 1/2 inch thick. Cut using floured 2 inch biscuit cutter.
Place on baking sheet 1 inch apart for crisp sides or almost touching for soft sides.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Makes 12 2 inch biscuits.

Where I screwed up was that I I forgot to cut in the shortening before adding the milk. So I was left kneading a ball of goo. I always do the cutting in and blending with my hands instead of a party cutter or fork. I like the texture better, and I can tell what's going on better. I think you could use butter instead of shortening, but I've never tried.

I like to eat the biscuits split with honey or jam. I always used blackberry jam as a kid but the blueberry-lime jam I made a few weeks ago is yummy too. Biscuits go great for breakfast or with fried chicken, sausage, or just about any other country cooked meal I can think of.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Blackberries - a love story

I love blackberries. I fell in love when I was very little. Daddy sometimes had blackberry patches when I was growing up and sometimes not (the garden is on the edge of a swamp which I think had something to do with it). When he did not have cultivated blackberries in our garden, we spent the summer seeking wild blackberries all over our neighborhood.

Wild blackberries are funny. Sometimes we had some on our propery, but more often than not those were on the pipeline and got cut down by the electric company (or whoever "owns" the pipeline - I was always a little fuzzy on that). Sometimes we would find them on the side of the road, and our whole family would go picking. Where I grew up, a lot of the land is either farm land or owned by a hunter in Atlanta. No one cared if we picked a few wild blackberries.

I particularly remember going with my Daddy when I was about eight or nine. My memory is a little fuzzy, but I feel pretty sure that my hair was in a French braid and I was telling him all about the Little House on the Prairie book that I was currently reading. The memory is all wrapped up with me feeling like Laura.

I also remember picking blackberries with my sweet Grandma Bozeman. She loved blackberries (although she didn't love the seeds), and made sure to come pick berries at our house during the summer. I wish she was here to pick blackberries with me now, and complain about the seeds getting in her dentures.

Regardless of where we got the berries, we always had enough for a lot of blackberry cobbler and a lot of blackberry jam. And there were bags and bags of blackberries in our freezer. Our motto when preserving the harvest was to preserve enough in case the next year's crop was not good. That explains how both our freezer and my grandparents' freezers were full of blackberries (and how we always canned over 200 quarts of green beans, but that's another story, really).

My article in this week's Spencer Magnet is about blackberries and the way people in the county use them. I hope you enjoy the article. (Read Blackberries Abundant and Delicious.)

While I was working on the article Monday, I decided to run over to the farm where I've been picking this summer, and see if they had any berries left. There weren't many, but I was able to get three pounds. That night, I finally tried the recipe that I've been mulling over all summer. I wanted to make a blackberry crisp.

I've never had blackberry crisp, nor had I heard of it. I grew up eating blackberry cobbler (really, it's a deep dish pie because we use a bottom crust, but I won't tell if you won't). I love it, but rolling out pie crust is one of my least favorite kitchen tasks. Well, it's way behind washing dishes, but it's still not my favorite thing to do. I looked online and couldn't find a blackberry crisp recipe that I liked, so I adapted an appple crisp recipe instead. I hope you enjoy it.

Deanna's Blackberry Crisp

3 -4 cups blackberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons plain flour

1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, cold
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, combine blackberries, sugar, cinnamon and flour until blackberries are coated. Pour into the baking dish. (I used a glass casserole dish. We always used corningware dishes when I was growing up, and this is similar.)
For topping, combine all ingredients into mixing bowl. With your hands, combine the ingredients until the butter is well mixed.
Put topping over the blackberries. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until berries are bubbling and topping is the level of doneness that you prefer (we don't like ours crunchy).

Here is where I confess that I didn't measure at all. I put the blackberries in my baking dish until it looked like enough, then transferred them to the mixing bowl. The rest of the ingredients are to taste. Only add more sugar than you think you'll need if you don't want it to be too tart and the flour is a thickener, so that's personal preference too. Also, I suppose you can use ground nutmeg, but I haven't bought it in years. I keep whole nutmeg in the house and grate it when I need some.

If you're in the mood for some other blackberry recipes, here are some sources to check out:
  • The Ultimate Ice Cream Book by Bruce Weinstein - Contains recipes for blackberry jam ice cream and blackberry sorbet. I have this book and use it a lot. Great ice cream recipes.
  • Ball Blue Book of Preserving - The edition on Amazon shows that it is out of print, but I know I've seen it in stores recently. This has so many interesting blackberry recipes. In addition to the usual jam and jelly, there's a liqueur sauce, and mulled vinegar.
  • Southern Living 2009 Annual - Southern Living Annuals are always fun. I've been collecting them for about ten years. The 2009 annual has a blackberry buttercream that is tasty on pound cake - I used it at a 4th of July picnic. There's a recipe for blackberry cornbread that is intriguing too.
  • In a Pickle, In a Jam by Vicki Wilder - This book is by the Creative Home Library and was published in 1971. If you find it, grab it. If you find two, let me know. I saw this book at my local library and picked it up on a whim. I thumb through it constantly. I'll go more in-depth on it in another post, but among other things, it has a recipe for blackberry cheese. Blackberry cheese! This is a non-dairy product, and I am eager to give it a shot. Yum.
  • What's Cooking America website - Lots of blackberry recipes, hints and tips.
  • Pick Your Own website - This site is a great resource not just for u-pick locations, but recipes, canning suggestions, and all kinds of information on produce. This is a link to the blackberry page.

What do you like to do with the blackberry harvest?