Biscuit recipe, new yarn and projects

October 4, 2006 at 4:25 pm | Posted in country living, family, food, knitting, recipes, yarn | 10 Comments

Dorothys Maple Leaf on the DriveMy mother’s recipe box is a treasure chest filled with jewels. I used to love to browse through it, gazing and the various hand-written index cards and clippings from newspapers, magazines, and product packaging. In that magic treasure box she has recipes from her mother’s farm, my father’s mother’s farm, her own recipes of all the dishes she made when she was raising her children, and those shared by sisters, neighbors, cousins, a nanny, and even strangers in some cases, I would imagine.

My parents are wonderful people; they grew up on farms in Mt. Airy, North Carolina, the boyhood home of Andy Griffith. (Despite any disclaimers, that town was the inspiration behind Mayberry.)

My mother’s mother (we called her “Grandma Johnson”) was born in 1895, married my Grandpa Johnson when she was thirteen years old, and gave birth to thirteen children in her lifetime, two sets of twins in the mix. Eight of her children survived to adulthood: I can’t imagine giving birth to thirteen children, and I especially cannot imagine the pain of losing five of them before they reached adulthood. She was a sturdy little country woman with the smile of a shy little girl even in the latest years of her life.

I think about what it must have been like to feed a family of fifteen people when they were all little. Fortunately she had quite a few daughters and they all helped with the chores as well as the cooking. Perhaps having a huge family like that makes things easier in a sense because you always have plenty of help around and some of the older children can lend a hand with the younger ones.

My favorite recipe from Mama’s recipe box is Grandma Johnson’s Strawberry Shortcake. It isn’t like any strawberry shortcake I have had any other place. It is sort of a giant slightly sweet biscuit which you cut in half to make two layers, then load up both layers with tons of sweetened, chopped up and juicy strawberries and sumptuous amounts of whipped cream. One layer goes on top of the other to make a giant round cake big enough, I am sure, to provide plenty of dessert for a family of fifteen or so. It is simply divine.

A week after my husband brought me home to the farm this past May following our marriage and honeymoon, we had his family over for a lasagna dinner and I served Grandma Johnson’s Strawberry Shortcake for dessert. The cake was a whopping fifteen inches in diameter and about six inches high. The group of us only made a dent in it, even with generous portions being served. So, for an entire week afterwards my husband and I made our way through the rest of that magnificently simple cake each evening after dinner. It was a good way to begin the cooking aspect of our married life … giving him an idea of the heritage of recipes and cooking that were destined to warm his farm, home, and tummy for years to come.

Out of my mother’s magic recipe box came the biscuit recipe I used to win the Blue Ribbon at the agricultural fair last weekend. I modified the recipe a bit by using buttermilk rather than milk and increasing the levening to make up for the density of the buttermilk and to ensure my biscuits rose beautifully. I tested the recipe several times over the course of three weeks, until the biscuits were just as I wanted them: flaky inside, crispy on top and bottom, and tall enough to easily break open without a knife for adding butter and honey. I posted the recipe this morning, for anyone who would like to give them a try.

As for knitting news, yesterday a lady named Dorothy (I’ve written about her elsewhere in my blog) took me into one of the nearby villages and showed me two yarn stores … oh heaven and yum.

Side Bar: It is a stormy morning here; I hear Canadian geese flying by overhead. Rain, thunder, and the sound of Canadian Geese. Lovely.

Fireflys October Yarn FeastBack to Yarn Stores: One of the stores is in an old brick church building. They sell a variety of gift items, vintage and antique pieces, and have a yarn section on their upper floor. They also serve lunch and tea (finger sandwhiches, coddled cream, jams and jellies). We had butternut squash soup, broccoli and cheddar quiche, salad, and homemade banana bread … and a nice chat. I found a skein of some simply wonderful polymide yarn I originally used to make Winter’s first No Mo Blues Scarf (which she doesn’t have anymore). I bought that skein and three vintage buttons as well as an old carved wooden boat for my husband (he is a sailor at heart).

The store was stocked top to bottom, front to back in little dark cubbies with a wonderful selection of yarns including wools and cottons and linens and bamboo … even llama. I picked up a variety of skeins for various Christmas gifts. All so scrumptious and delightful!

Also, I am knitting a nap blanket of my own design for my new mother-in-law in Lion’s Suede yarn (mostly sage green, with ecru and rust accents). I am also working on a design for another itty bag using a somewhat complex stitch pattern. It will be lovely when it is complete. Patterns for both will follow when they are finsihed.

I suppose that is it for today.

By the way, the maple leaf photo at the top of today’s post is one I shot on the driveway over at Dorothy’s place when I dropped her off at home yesterday. She has a beautiful little farm … I wish you all could see it!

Have a beautiful day … hope you have some exciting weather.



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  1. i was off to the store to buy my buttermilk yesterday when i was sidetracked!! i will be trying your buttermilk biscuits today for sure! as always, you have succeeded in transporting me to living on your farm for a brief moment.

  2. Thanks for the story about my recipe box. It IS a real treasure. I’m glad it means so much to you.

    Love you, Mom

  3. As always, a beautiful post filled with lots of inspiration. I look forward to seeing the 2 new projects grow. I too have a “treasure box” (although it’s mine) it holds some recipes that were handwritten by my mom of things I remember eating as a child. Also I have some of my sis-in-law’s mom. I believe the food in our lives is very important in maintaining a sense of family and its values. As busy as I can get working and all, there’s always time to eat well & special times always call for food that shows people they are loved and cared for. You always make me think of all the nice things in my life! Thanks for that! I’m so happy you have 2 LYSs!!!

  4. I look forward to seeing your new designs. Another Dorothy pushing yarn on people, eh? Your two yarn stores sound nice and very well stocked.

    I’ll try your biscuit recipe out as soon as I get a chance. Although it is getting colder and time for soups and stews. Biscuits go so very well with them.

  5. I’m going to try your biscuit recipe, I don’t have a recipe box, but I think I’m going to start my own to pass down to my children. Your yarn store sounds like my type of place to shop. I love to rummage, and then to be able to sit and eat as well. Can’t wait to see your 2 new projects.

  6. The other thing about my mother’s recipe box, is the fact that all of these years it has been simply a dark green metal card box file. No decorations, no statements, nothing cute. Just a plain green box. Best way to disguise a treasure chest, I’d say.


  7. I too had a Grandma and Grandpa Johnson — and that’s what we called them. 🙂

  8. Congratulations on all the ribbons – how exciting! Your biscuits look delicious. I have printed the recipe and am looking forward to trying them.

  9. Firefly, visiting your blog is like taking a mini vacation. Can’t wait to try the biscuit recipe 😎

  10. I always feel so relaxed after visiting your blog. My mother hates cooking, so I envy you your mother’s recipe box – it’s a fabulous heritage to have.

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