Southern Biscuits


The trick to making good biscuits is to handle the dough tenderly. You just knead it for a minute, very softly, like patting a baby’s butt. I can just picture Nanny’s hands now—they were not the hands of a Southern belle. But then again, this was not the South of the debutantes. Hers were hands that had worked, snapped beans, and sewn a flock of feed sack dresses. These were not hands that held a dance card at the cotillion.

She always had a wooden bowl on her kitchen counter with a bit of flour in the bottom and the sifter resting on top. The bowl was always ready because biscuits were a daily affair. She would sift a small hill of flour into the center of the bowl and then work in the fat with her hands. Using her fist, she’d make a well in the center, and in it she’d pour buttermilk–no measuring, of course. She’d slowly pull the flour into the milk, working quickly until the dough was as soft as an old woman’s cheeks. She’d sift a little flour out on the counter top, gently work the dough into a ball, which she’d roll out quickly with her rolling pin. Then she’d cut out the biscuits, quickly taking up the scraps to form another ball, until there was only enough scraps to make two little baby biscuits. Those were just for me and my sister, Pam.

I got stuck trying to recall the details of how my Nanny made biscuits. She died when I was fourteen, so my memories of her are limited, but somehow her biscuit making routine stands out. In an effort to recall details, it occurred to me that some smart Southern soul might have had the foresight to video the biscuit making ritual for posterity. Lo and behold…several people did just that. This one reminded me so much of my grandmother.

So, anyone out there have their own secrets for the perfect biscuits?

© 2010 L. Kay Johnson, L is for LaNita. All rights reserved. (Video not included in this copyright notice.)


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