Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Biscuits & Syrup

Recent Signs (I've been so busy this week that the signmaker is putting them up before I can write them down, but here are a few:




People around here still make cane syrup. Not very many, but still a few. They heat the cane juice in a rounded shallow kettle until it concentrates into a thick syrup. Some cooks call it reducing.

If you use the term "sugar cane" you reveal that you aren't from around here. We simply call it cane. Probably the only other cane is the cane poles we use for fishing, and everybody knows the difference in a sweet, chewable cane from a dry, hard stick of bamboo.

At the risk of criticism, I must admit that I like the light maple-flavored syrups best. In fact I prefer the 10% maple to the 100% maple. But I do eat cane syrup, especially with good hot biscuits.

It may not be healthy, but I prefer my biscuits well greased. Greasy enough that additional butter is unnecessary.

Lard biscuits are the best. Around here, we like our hog. It's God's gift to southern cooking. Just ask Emeril. It's a miracle meat. Fresh pork can be grilled, fried, roasted, barbecued. It can be salt cured, sugar cured, smoked. What would the world be without bacon or Italian sausage? We use cured pork to season vegetables.
Lard is the fat of the hog. The fat and attached skin is cut into chunks, dropped into a large pot, preferably a cast iron wash pot, resting on an open fire, out where the hog was killed, dressed, scalded and scaped.

The cooked skin and fat solids are cracklin's. They crunch when you eat them. They can be used in cracklin' bread - the corn bread variety or the flour bread variety.
The part that remains after the cracklin's are strained out, cools down into solid lard, which lasts a long time without refrigeration.

The best fried chicken is cooked in lard, but that's another story. Before this post gets way too long, let me say that some of the best cane syrup is made by B. L. Powell, and I've been lusted after a large display of fruit jars filled with his good ol' syrup. But Christmas is a time of sharing, so I bought jars of syrup to give to my co-workers at our Christmas party (yesterday). But what about the biscuits?

I packed each jar of syrup with a 5-pound bag of Dixie Lily flour, a pound container of lard, and, for good measure, a package of sliced fatback (salt cured fat).

I Googled and printed out the first eight of the 86 biscuit recipes at and advised the ladies "Bake those biscuits, fry that fatback, and serve it with that syrup, and your husband will be so pleased that... well, let's just say it will be the gift that keeps on giving." And to our newlywed groom: "Y'all tackle it together. The two of you can figure it out."

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