Monday, March 14, 2016

Middle March mashup...

There was a good BBC show of the name Middlemarch.

However my own title is merely a marking of the calendar here, not a George Eliot novel reference. The old saying about March, in like a lion, out like a lamb, might be debatable this year around here.
If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb.
Is there any truth to this saying? Weather sayings are as colorful as our imagination. While many sayings are based on careful observations and turn out to be accurate, others are merely rhymes or beliefs of the people who came before us.
Those people often believed that bad spirits could affect the weather adversely, so they were cautious as to what they did or did not do in certain situations. Those beliefs often included ideas that there should be a balance in weather and life. So, if a month came in bad (like a lion), it should go out good and calm (like a lamb).
With March being such a changeable month, in which we can see warm spring-like temperatures or late-season snowstorms, you can understand how this saying might hold true in some instances. We can only hope that if March starts off cold and stormy it will end warm and sunny, but the key word is hope. However, this saying seems be to more of a rhyme rather than a true weather predictor.
Some other March-related lore includes:
A dry March and a wet May? Fill barns and bays with corn and hay.
 It hasn't been that much of a lion really, although we have seen a lot of rain this past couple of weeks. Storms to the point of record rainfalls and flooding just north into the Memphis area, which brought landslides on some manicured hillsides. Still, is a run of rain showers really coming in like a lion? Maybe. We'll see how the rest of the month plays out I guess.

The giveaway I hosted for my daughter's book went well. I feel a bit guilty only sharing 5 copies of her ebook, Blakefields Mansion. but I plan to host another giveaway near the end of the month. If you are of a mind to read a tale of Victorian England written by our oldest daughter Jen before then, head over to Amazon, or the publisher site, AnySubject Books and grab a copy.

Around the Homestead...we have mud. A lot of mud. It's spring time here in the Deep South, so mud is a given. I should probably apologize for you having to hear we are mud-bound yet again. 
Perhaps even more apologies that it is highly unlikely you'll never hear it again. 
Tis life around this homestead. Despite being on a mountainside, the collective rains do not know anything of the principles of gravity and definitely don't flow off anywhere. The clay does a great job of holding it all in place. The chickens are knee-deep in mud...that is to say, if chickens had knees, they would be knee-deep in mud. The goats are none too pleased with the outcome of the last few rains either. Seems we will be dealing a lot with hoof issues this week as the land (hopefully) dries out with some warm weather and sunshine. The dogs are most certainly of a like mind, being trapped more indoors than they prefer, and being subjected to baths when they dare to make their escape past someone coming in the door.

Rebellion the likes of Orwell's Animal Farm will be our fate here if the weather doesn't lay out in a better direction soon. 

In the Kitchen...I have committed biscuit blasphemy in my kitchen. Biscuits are a thing of deep tradition here in The South. From small rounds to Cat Head Biscuits, light as a cloud, traditionally made with lard and fresh-churned buttermilk, served with butter and sorghum, jelly, or better yet, sawmill gravy. Every Southern cook worth their salt learned how to make perfect biscuits while still a child, standing on a stool in mawmaw's kitchen.
 While some families grew their own wheat on the farm and had it ground at the local grist mill, most women bought plain flour at the general store. White Lily and Martha White, both produced in the South, continue to rank among the most popular flours. On the farm, cooks used lard (from hogs), which produces a flakier texture. In more recent times, Crisco shortening has functioned as a more readily available substitute for lard. Women have traditionally used buttermilk for biscuits, which they churned at home or purchased from the store. Before self-rising flour gained popularity, baking soda served as a primary leavening agent.
And I went and tossed tradition off that beloved kitchen stool this weekend and made biscuits using coconut oil. 
I can hear the gasps and hushed whispers from the gentile Southern ladies now.
Mawmaw would be rolling in her grave no doubt were I Southern. I expect though, my culinary indiscretion and ignorance of long steeped history will be glossed over with a series of bless her heart because I am alas, a Yankee and obviously know little of those traditions that built The South.

Still, the results of this blasphemous kitchen event were some of THE BEST BISCUITS I've made in a while. Ohmylordhavemercy those were some delicious biscuits. And light! Clouds have nothing on these babies. And did they rise to the history of true biscuit perfection? Yes ma'am, they sure 'nuf did. Bless my heart.

The recipe is just as basic as those traditional lard and buttermilk rounds...flour, baking powder, buttermilk, and coconut oil. Easy peasy prep work. I imagine you could use your favorite biscuit recipe and just sub out that lard for the coconut oil, but I'll share what I did:
4 cups flour
6 tsp (1/8 cup) baking powder
1/2 cup coconut oil in its solid form 
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Whisk your flour and baking powder together then add your coconut oil in, using your fingers, 2 forks, a pastry cutter...whatever your mix the coconut oil in well. The mix should resemble small crumbs almost once fully incorporated. Then add in your milk and use that fork to mix it in. There are a few keys to making great biscuits, the main one being do not over mix the dough when you add that milk in. Just mix it enough to get the slop out of the dough, and never, ever knead the dough with your hands. Trust me on this. Light and fluffy biscuits require a more gentle hand.
Another key is to be just as gentle when patting out the dough for cutting. Some will tell you to roll the dough out using a rolling pin. You can try, I don't suggest it. This isn't cookie dough. It isn't yeast dough. It's a delicate hand that produces the best biscuits rather than hockey pucks. Just flour your surface, flop that dough out of the bowl, and pat it into a circle with your hands, as wide as you need to keep the dough about 1/2 inch thick.
Another key concerns the cutter. You can take a nice sharp knife and slice out squares if you're so inclined. I use a 2 or 3 inch cookie cutter, with our without pretty little fluted edges. The cutting itself is the key, not the implement. When you make those rounds, do not under any circumstances twist that cutter. Straight down into the dough, straight back up out of the dough. Twisting the cutter will "seal" the edges of the biscuit and prevent it from rising as well. They will also do a bit better if they are on that baking sheet just barely touching each other. Don't crowd them in too closely, but they aren't cookies...they aren't going to spread don't leave them scattered miles apart either.
The final key for truly great biscuits is the oven temperature. If you ever find a recipe that says heat to 375, forget it. Biscuits rise with some serious heat. The reaction of the baking powder and milk in your dough is great, but the heat is what really kicks it into high gear as it were. I'd never bake a pan of biscuits under 425. Most of my own recipes call for the 450-475 range honestly.
Bake these particular biscuits for about 10-12 minutes. Just as the tops start to brown up, they are ready for the table. Delicious stuff here. I can fully understand biscuits being a staple of the table. They make ANY meal better.

Walk Thru Scripture...This has again been a week of issues here on the homestead. Issues enough that Dewey was called home Monday and spent the week here dealing with said issues. I won't discount spiritual attack here at all. There has been a lot of issues coming into full bloom around here since the undertaking of a chronological Bible study. I'm not all that confident that the attack comes because we are doing something right here, but it has been one attack after another here on the homestead. Attitudes are nowhere near where they should be, and things are simply falling apart in terms of family relations.

So here is the weekly reading notes, such as they are this week. Keep up the reading despite my lack folks. You can find the post that started Deuteronomy and shares the links to some commentary and study notes HERE.
Deuteronomy 11-13
Deuteronomy 14-16
Deuteronomy 17-20
Deuteronomy 21-23
Deuteronomy 24-27
Deuteronomy 28-29
Deuteronomy 30-31



Sharmayne said...

Thanks to your post, after all these years of reading about "biscuits"that were not biscuits (cookies), I've finally realised they are indeed exactly what we refer to here as "Scones"!!! And I totally agree with you that they like a delicate touch and a hot oven!! Scones are a fav around here. In Australia when scones are served, its most often with Jam and whipped cream!
Hoping your week improves xo

Greg and Donna said...

A biscuit from scratch is something this southern girl cannot do....pie crust would be another. But I can make a really good drop biscuit. Butter, honey, jelly or gravy would be my toppings of choice! And using the coconut oil sounds great to me! And I did have a MaMa and a Grandma ~ both good cooks!

Mrs Dewey Smith said...

I may have mastered biscuits, but pie crusts are a whole other story! My mom can knock out a great pie crust. Not sure if my grandmother can, I don't recall her actually baking pies...just everything else. My pie crusts are light and flaky, and they taste great. My technique is deeply flawed and I usually just call our pies *rustic* because taste aside, they are simply UGLY. No Betty Crocker pie centerfolds here.
But they do taste good, and I'll serve them to family and extremely well-known long time friends, LOL.


Jeremiah 6:16
Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.

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