Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Caroline's Squash Biscuits

My great-grandmother Caroline was born in Nova Scotia, and she was so named in memory of the fact that her ancestors of several generations previous had fled to Canada from the Carolinas, having been on the losing side of the American Revolution; they never ceased to long for their old home.  

Caroline was a child at the time of the War Between the States.  There were hungry days due to the war, even for our Northern neighbors in Canada; Caroline remembered going to the garden after the frost to dig up the roots of cabbages to make soup so that there would be enough food for her siblings.  She was clever about plants and later earned her way by growing herbs with her brother to sell to the producers of Lydia Pinkham's famous Female Remedy.   

When she was nearly 40, she went on holiday to Boston to visit relatives and there met with fate:  her husband Arthur.  They had four daughters in quite rapid succession; my grandmother was youngest.  Caroline was not known for her patience and she had a sharp tongue; but she was also conscientious and clever and kind and she loved Jesus, making sure in later years to tell her grandchildren about him.  

During the 1920's she won a radio from a movie theatre.  (Remember, this was back in the day when folks got dishes for buying movie tickets.)  She was proud of that radio.  It was a white-painted cathedral-style table-radio, and she kept it by the wicker chair in her bedroom.  In the afternoons when the light was just right, she would sit in that chair doing her mending and quilting while she listened to the soap operas.  Her favorite was Guiding Light.  (When the TV version of Guiding Light was cancelled several years ago, I was sorry about it for Caroline's sake.)

I never met Caroline.  She died years before I was born.  But part of her still lives in me.  I have sat by the TV quilting (yes, sometimes I listened to Guiding Light), I watch for the sunlight through the windows every day, and I believe that herbs have the power to heal (after all, I wouldn't be here now if it had not been for the wisdom of an old-time herbalist).  I love Jesus, and sometimes I'm unintentionally sharp.  Our ancestors have more influence than we might realize.  

Why am I thinking of Caroline today?  Well, to be perfectly honest, pumpkins were on sale at the local grocery.

Pumpkins.  One of my grandmother's treasured memories was of coming home from school on frosty-cold days and finding that her mother had made Squash Biscuits.  The warmth of home and of the old iron stove in the kitchen.  Fresh hot fragrant yeast rolls, golden with the addition of winter squash, and dripping with home-churned butter.  Can you imagine anything better?  I can't.

I am blessed to have Caroline's recipe for Squash Biscuits.  It may not be frosty outside (it's been an uncommonly warm autumn, and it will be in the mid-70's today in mid-December) but I've got pumpkin to spare (hey, pumpkin is a squash).  Today is the day to make Caroline's yeast rolls.  I'm sure she wouldn't mind me sharing the recipe with you.  After all, when I'm gone, the recipe will be, too, unless I hand it along to someone.  Squash biscuits are so good that the recipe really shouldn't be lost.  I hope that you'll make and enjoy them, dripping with butter (home-churned or not), and then Caroline won't be wholly forgotten.

Caroline's Squash Biscuits

Dissolve 1 package of yeast in 1/4 cup warm water.  Scald 1/2 cup milk.  Add 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup sugar.  Add 1/2 cup orange squash and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  When lukewarm, add the yeast mixture.  Add 2 1/2 to 3 cups flour.  Cover and let rise until double in bulk.  Punch down and shape into rolls.  Let rise again.  Bake at 375 for 20 to 25 minutes.  Shield with foil if they brown too quickly.

I guess that's a fairly bare-bones old-style recipe but if you've handled yeast recipes, it's not hard to figure the technique--yes, it does want kneading.  I tend to add a little bit of the sugar to the yeast and water so the yeast has something to grow on while it gets started.  The squash is assumed to be cooked, leftover stuff, by the way.  And, please, for the love of everything good, don't use that awful quick-rise yeast; it's horrid and unnecessary.  Good yeasted dough is worth the wait time.  Caroline shielded her biscuits with good old brown paper (my mother sometimes did that as well) but that's not exactly safe, so I couldn't recommend that; just use foil and avoid the danger.

How many rolls does it make?  Well, how big do you like your rolls?  I tend to split the dough into about 18 rolls but I expect that it would work well for either more or less.  The recipe makes a lovely golden dough, and it really does smell wonderful when it's baking.  I'm looking forward to that.....but, first, I need to go roast some pumpkin!

Life is good.  Really.

  ~~***~~  ~~***~~ ~~***~~

.....Of course, I just have to edit to add the rest of the story.

The pumpkins were only 99 cents each, so I couldn't resist buying two.

Everyone has their own way of doing, so it's reasonable that I like my method best:  slice the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, and lay it flat down on the cut side so that the squash uses its natural liquid to steam itself.  Super simple.

About 35 to 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven, by the way.  The results are a sweeter, softer product than if you roasted them cut side up and basted them with butter.  Less calories this way, too.....because you're gonna want to save that butter for the biscuits!

After the measuring and the mixing are done and the first rising is finished, the dough just naturally  plopped into a lovely circle when it was punched down.  

I suppose it was equally natural that the dough simply demanded to be cut into 16 biscuits.  It weighed in at just 2 pounds, so it was a pleasure forming the dough into 2 ounce biscuits.   I thought they looked really pretty just out of the oven and glazed lightly with butter.

And speaking of butter, the one right time to go just a little overboard is when you break open a warm Squash Biscuit that is crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.  So good!  

I had two right away.  Who wouldn't?! 
So good.  Really.

Thanks, Great-Grandmother Caroline.

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