I Love Southern Food! I love the freshness of southern food, the simple goodness of it. If your only experience with southern food is a meat and three or a KFC then you haven’t actually had good southern food. Not that there aren’t some great meat and three’s out there, there are. If your experience with southern food is sitting at someones kitchen table, eating fresh biscuits dripping with butter, fresh out of the oven, passing massive bowls of greens picked that morning, cooked to perfection, glistening with pot likker, with a mound of fried chicken on a platter in the middle of the table, and fresh corn on the cob picked 20 minutes ago, shucked, and only blanched for 5 minutes because its so tender and sweet it don’t need more cooking, with a plate of sliced deep red tomatoes waiting to fulfill their destiny as a perfect complement to the fresh corn, then my friend, you have had southern cooking! If you have had the experience of going to someone’s home after a service for a dear departed loved one, especially if that loved one lived a long and happy life, and have seen the groaning tables of fresh casseroles, deviled eggs, country fried steak, fried chicken and a whole roasted ham studded with cloves and glazed with a honey orange sauce, and biscuits and cornbread and caramel cake, and lane cake and chocolate cake and blackberry cobbler, and jugs of sweet tea and fresh coffee perking, then you have had the Best Southern Food. Because nothing soothes the soul or honors the dead like a magnificent spread of food, cooked that morning (probably at 5 a.m.) before the service and brought to the families home (by the ladies who cooked it, with the curlers in their hair and a scarf tied around their head to cover the curlers so they will be able to show up at church with their hair looking perfect, even though they have been in a hot and steamy kitchen since God woke up that morning) so that after the church service and the visit to the cemetery for the burial everyone gets to have a “little something” and therefore feels better. That is the best of southern food. That is my southern food.
I’ve never had the southern food that has been characterized in the media as heavy on grease and cooked to death, where turnip greens are black when you serve them and everything is fried. Maybe that’s because I grew up on a farm, a tiny one, but a farm. We only used fresh butter, EVERY vegetable we ate was fresh or canned fresh by my Granny, Thelma Godfrey Eaker. And the eggs were gathered every morning, if there were too many of anything we shared them. In the summer we had fresh cantaloupe and watermelon and grapes and peaches and blackberries. In the winter we didn’t. Same with fresh tomatoes. Yes in the summer. No in the winter. When my other Grandmother Pauline was keeping me one day we went to the Big Grocery store in Forest City and they had those signs in the window, one of which read, “Canned Biscuits on Sale, 3 for a Dollar” and in my 6 year old head all I could see was Granny’s beautiful biscuits stuffed down into a ball jar and being lowered into the boiling water of the canning pot. What???? Grandmother Pauline laughed at me like I was not right in the head, but I had never seen a “canned biscuit.”
Biscuit making is one of those things that can be difficult for the poor folks who have never had the experience of growing up watching my Granny make them every day of the world. She could have make biscuits with her eyes closed, just by the way the dough felt. I loved to watch her tanned, farm-rough hands patting and rolling the white soft dough. She used a pet milk can that had the banding at the end cut off even, so it was sharp and cut the biscuits cleanly. It is the one thing I wish I still had of hers, she touched it everyday and I think my biscuits would be better if I could use it. The most important thing to remember is not to handle the dough too much. This recipe for Sweet Potato Biscuits is fairly simple if you remember that. One of the first times I made these was for Ashley’s last Writers Meeting before she took off to L.A. California to seek her new life! I made them small more bite sized, Charlotte was here staying with me from Portland and Melinda had gotten here early for the party, as I am pulling out the pans of SP biscuits and setting them on the table Charlotte and Melinda are grabbing handfuls of them and slapping butter on them, I thought to help me out, BUT NO…. they are stuffing their greedy little mouths with them, what clued me in was the obvious and loud MOANING noises coming from their direction. They were eating 2 for every 3 they buttered. Such great little helpers! Since I made a double batch of dough it was no problem, and we had plenty, so here’s the recipe, I would double it if I were you, unless there’s only 1 of you. As long as you put any leftovers in a sealed container and refrigerate them they do warm over quiet nicely, but you can’t keep the dough so cook them all! I have made these in a 1 1/2″ and a 3″ size and they are great both ways, the small ones cook really quickly. The only thing difficult about this is you have to bake off the sweet potatoes ahead of time, bake about 3 to 4 of them at 350 for about an hour or until them are mushy and running their brown sweetness out the cracks in the skin.
Preheat a 425 degree oven and put your rack in the center of the oven.
We are going to mix all the wet ingredients in one bowl and all the dry in another
1 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 cups of mashed sweet potato
3 tablespoons of half and half, maybe 4
1/2 stick of salted butter softened
Put the wet into the dry, gently mix the dry and wet together, if its too dry add the extra tablespoon of half and half, put it out on a floured surface, sprinkle top with more flour, kneed it 3 times ONLY, this is a very wet and tender dough, it needs to be, barely roll it out to about an inch thick and cut your biscuits. Place them about 2 inches apart on baking sheet and bake them off until the are lightly brown. Eat them up with butter, and country ham and pepper jelly. Below is where I buy my shaved country ham they have the best country ham ANYWHERE, and they can ship it to you. My son’s best friend Adam was teaching children how to speak English in OMAN for a few years and I got some of this county ham for him when he was home one time for a visit, which he SMUGGLED into that country in his suitcase. He didn’t get caught and said it was so worth it! I can’t imagine living anywhere ham is not readily available. If you are ever in Murfreesboro, Tn go by and see this cute little store or go see their website. As for the pepper jelly you can buy that in almost any grocery store these days. The lady I get mine from only sells locally, but if she ever sells it on the internet I’ll let you know.
The Hamery, 411 West Lytle Street Murfreesboro Tn 37130