There is no food that says “Southern” or “comfort” more than the humble biscuit. Biscuits are a true taste of nostalgia for me. My mom made biscuits almost every other day. She made enough each time for leftovers, and when the leftovers ran out, she made more. It was a happily perpetual biscuit cycle. Mom had a light brown bowl that she always used, without fail. I never saw her make biscuits in any other bowl, and she deftly poured in the flour, Crisco, milk, salt, and leavening, all without measuring. I can still hear the “scratch, scratch, scratch” of the well-worn pastry blender she used to cut in the Crisco. Biscuits were mighty important to us. My dad didn’t feel a meal was really a meal without bread, and on the rare occasion Mom didn’t place biscuits or cornbread on the table, Daddy would incredulously ask, “We don’t have any bread?!?” Mama would reply that she could toast him a piece of loaf bread, and Daddy would say, “Please – and go ahead and toast me a couple.” It was as if you were getting ready to go into surgery and suddenly found out the surgeon wasn’t a real doctor. You would never go through with the surgery, and my dad, I think, would just as soon not endure a meal with no bread! Biscuits were multifunctional and devoured numerous ways: crumbled into pinto beans, covered with sausage or gravy, or sausage AND gravy, graced with a crispy piece of livermush, slathered with butter or jelly, and topped with shredded stewed beef and its juices until the biscuit was soft and mushy and had to be cut with a fork. The leftover biscuits were always cut in half, dolloped with butter, and toasted until golden and crispy around the edges. One time my brother wouldn’t eat his dinner because he didn’t like what was placed in front of him. My mom told him he wouldn’t get anything else until he’d eaten his dinner. Well, after dinner when Mom was cleaning up the table and putting away food, she noticed some biscuits missing. She also noticed my brother was missing. Hmmm . . .you didn’t have to be Sherlock to deduce they’d probably run away together. A brief search ensued, and my brother was found skulked away in his closet, covered in biscuit crumbs. My brother was a happy fella, not too stealthy, but happy now that he wouldn’t have to endure the night on a biscuit-less tummy.
My mom also used to make little sausage and cheese balls for us to snack on after school. They were the kind made with Bisquick. She never used Bisquick for her real biscuits, but for the quantities of sausage and cheese balls my brother and I consumed, she needed a shortcut, I suppose. Every day in the car after school, the first question I asked was, “What’s for supper?” Without waiting for an answer, my question was followed by, “I’m starving.” Dinner never seemed to be forthcoming enough for my brother and me, and rather than listen to us whine all the while she cooked dinner, Mama made up large quantities of the sausage and cheese balls and froze them. That solved both her problem and ours: we’d arrive home, pull a few sausage and cheese balls out, microwave them, and gobble them up. My how I loved those things!
These days, nothing makes my own family happier than a big pan of golden brown biscuits. I have “healthed them up” over the years by switching to einkorn flour rather than refined, bleached white flour, and I don’t use hydrogenated oils. I typically use a combination of whole grain, sprouted einkorn flour and all purpose einkorn flour. I sometimes make them all whole grain, and they’re wonderful, but are not as light and fluffy. I use grass-fed butter and/or pastured lard and grass-fed buttermilk. Recently, I was thinking about how good a sausage and cheese biscuit version of my childhood sausage balls would be, so I decided to pull out my go-to einkorn flour and make some. The results took me right back to when I was 10. They were tender and warm on the inside, golden brown and crunchy on the outside, and with that little bit of kick from the sausage. My husband said they took him back to his childhood, too, because his mother made the sausage and cheese balls for him as a child. He ate three and then asked if there was a limit on how many he could eat. I told him I HAD hoped to freeze some, so he said to take them out of his presence or he couldn’t guarantee there would be any for freezing. So I did!
- 1 cup whole grain, sprouted einkorn flour
- 4 cups all purpose einkorn flour
- 2 tsp. sea salt
- 2 Tbsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 Tbsp. organic sugar
- *8 Tbsp. cold butter, preferably grass-fed and cut into ½ inch cubes
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- 1 lb. pasture-raised sausage
- 1 cup grass-fed cheddar cheese, shredded
- *you can also use lard or a combination of lard and butter
- Preheat oven to 400. Place first six ingredients in food processor. Pulse a few times to combine ingredients. Add cold, cubed butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse sand. The butter should be distributed throughout the mixture. With machine running, pour in buttermilk through feeder tube. Stop the machine as soon as the mix starts to hold together. Add sausage and pulse until distributed evenly throughout dough. Pour mix into a bowl and fold in the cheese. It's actually easiest to fold in with your hands, taking care not to overwork or warm the dough. Pat dough out into ¾ inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Use a biscuit cutter to cut dough into biscuits and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. I used a 2½ inch round biscuit cutter. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and puffed.