Dec 2, 2011

Survival food

I mean survival both before and after the SHTF. I mean biscuits. Home-brew biscuits as what's made back in the hollers where there ain't no bizkwik.

And I mean it a a small tool for financial survival for small households even before the politicians force us to create a Madd Max world.


Now, I'm not an aggressive food snob. I tolerate grocery-store bread just fine for toast and sandwiches.   Some are even pretty good. Around here we can get real Amana bread, excellent especially in the black and rye versions.

Unfortunately the actual cost is about double the shelf price because one person can eat about a half loaf before even the best commercial stuff begins to get that obnoxious musty odor and taste whereupon you convert it to very expensive bird feed. I like my downy woodpeckers and nuthatches just fine, but damned if I'll support them at something like a buck-fifty a pound.

So I make what grandma called scratch biscuits. And do it with minimum hassle, I make the makin's in quantity based on a typical old recipe:

2 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt (scant)

1/4 teaspoon baking soda (a little less if anything)

That's the dry stuff. Stir it all together in a huge bowl, then:

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons shortening, preferably lard but a nice transfatty elixer like Crisco will do

Toss the fat into the dry goods and play with your food with both hands for a little longer than seems like fun, until you produce a crumbly mix.  (This business of "cutting in" with some sort of special instrument is tedious nonsense.)

1 cup milk

You already  heated your oven to about 350, so all you have to do now is stir in the milk. (It's okay to make a hole in the flour  and quickly! pour in the milk if it makes you feel more like Emeril and Alton and them.)

Stir it all up and hope you have a very sticky product -- just this side of runny.   Add a litttle more milk or water if you don't.

Take your rolling pin and place it on the floor as a dog chewy. Then take a big spoon and drop dollops of dough on your greased pan. (Any kind of pan will do, but cast iron lends a certain down-home, coon-hound, and 12 gauge-hammer-double panache to the process.)

Pat the dollops slight flat and bake for ten minutes or so. You'll have about eight biscuits, or a little over a day's worth for one.


Now, sharp-eyed readers have been wondering why a "huge" bowl was specified. It's because no one with a life wants to do all this every day.  You are going to quadruple or quintuple the recipe so you have to do it only once a week or so. Seal the extra dry mix in a plastic bag. It keeps a long time in your cupboard without going rancid,  longer in your ice box. Face it. It's Bisquick only better and cheaper and fresher.

Leading us to the question of extended storage against the era when life has become ungridded. Just leave out the butter and lard and it should keep more or less forever, until you've developed your butter-churning and hog-fat-rendering skills.

Further annotating the SHTF considerations: Dry milk can be mixed with the other dry stuff  and the biscuits will not be too repulsive. Or you can make the dough with water, ending up with a sort of fancy bannock which you can learn to like.

Back to the present: These things are good and amenable to refinements. For instance, add sage to the dough if you intend to grace biscuits with turkey gravy. Shredded cheese is good, either mixed in the dough or melted on top. Likewise a little sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, chili powder.  You can also substitute wheat or rye flower for part of the white. They'll just be a little chewier.

Come to think of it, it's all but impossible to screw them up which, I suppose, is why I make them.


JohnMXL said...

Gee, thanks...

It was bad enough reading about Abelskiver over at Brigid's, then you have to talk about biscuits.

So...instead of going to bed so I can get up and work tonight, I HAD to whip up a batch of biscuits.

I cheated a bit - I used the prepared mix in the big yellow box, but at least I'm topping them with real butter (and honey).

Sleep is highly overrated anyway.

Jim said...

If you keep cheating, your presidential ambitions will be toast. :)

I do it myself once in a while, especially putting those little boxes of el cheapo mix in the camper

Joel said...

I found that the secret to OMG biscuits is butter - lots of butter. My biscuits should harden your arteries if you just look at them.

The only thing I disagree with is your instruction to 'play with your food a lot' - paraphrased - because the less you knead it the flakier the product. And flaky is where it's at, when it's biscuits.

Jim said...

Agreed, and maybe I should have been clearer. You use your hands only to incorporate the shortening before you add the liquid.

JohnMXL said...

I have no presidential ambitions, Jim. If I recall correctly, the current presidential salary is $400K plus perks.

I'm pretty sure it's about $399.99K more than what the current occupant should be paid.

I know damn well it's several million dollars short of what I would have to have to be motivated to want the job.