By Peggy Sims
The Star Herald
Each year when our garden begins to harvest itself, especially our tomato crop, I am reminded of childhood memories of a little girl and an older woman standing before an old black wood stove canning and preserving tomatoes for the winter's reward of a summer's treasure.
As a little girl I would spend several days in the summer with my grandmother and granddaddy in Montgomery County. Their barn sat right in the middle of the unseen boundary line where Attala and Montgomery counties met. They had lived in the old weathered gray clapboard house for more years than I can remember.
Right outside her back door was a small vegetable garden, fenced in completely so that Mabel, the milk cow couldn't eat the vegetable bounty.
We'd rise early, dew still sticking to our black rubber boots, and with our galvanized buckets in hand, we would walk over to the dew soaked, sweet smelling vegetables. The tomatoes were ready for the picking, hanging heavy on the bent green vines tied and held up by a long hogwire fence running right down the middle of the rows. She would start at one end and I would meet her in the middle. We'd empty the full buckets into an old washtub sitting at the end of the garden. We would repeat this picking on each of the three rows of only the brightest red tomatoes until our tub was full. Then, each grabbing a side, my grandmother and granddaddy would haul the heavy tub into the kitchen, situated in the center of the old house.
There would always be a delicious aroma coming from a coffee pot sitting on one of the old black iron eyes of the wood stove. One of my jobs today would be to keep the fire stoked using the small pieces of wood held in a basket behind the stove.
My grandmother's written law - no actual day's work would begin before a good hearty breakfast. She would make those mouth watering biscuits with the buttermilk that I had helped to churn the day before. She would only make five biscuits, two for me, two for herself, and only one for my granddaddy. Of course, I should tell you that the ONE she made for him was as big as a 7" saucer! He always bragged and said, "I only eat one biscuit at a meal."
She would set a jug of sorghum molasses on the table, made at the mill just down the hill from the house, and after butter was added, also made from the churned buttermilk, we would enjoy our biscuits with everybody trying to talk at the same time. I always sat at the end of the big old rough hewn table, covered with an oil cloth, on the little box my granddaddy made for me so I could reach the table.
After breakfast and the dishes were washed and put away, we were ready to turn the bright juicy tomatoes into soup, sauces, ketchup, or just plain canned tomatoes.
The old Mason jars with the wide mouths were sitting on her sideboard, sterilized, one teaspoon of salt added, and ready to catch the hot red liquid as it was poured with an old tin dipper. I stood on my little box so that I would not miss a thing this practiced cook added as she prepared the bright red fruit.
I am happy to share with you her recipes for her home made biscuits and her soup mixture that we canned in that old house kitchen on that old black stove.
Mrs. Edna's Biscuits
2 cups plain flour
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons of baking powder
3/4 cup of lard (we call it vegetable oil)
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
Mix flour, salt, baking powder together in a large bowl. (She used a wooden biscuit bowl.)
Make a "well" in the center and add the shortening.
Mix with fingers until the flour looks like course cornmeal.
Add buttermilk and continue to work dough.
Pinch off enough for a biscuit and roll with floured hands.
Place in a black iron skillet greased with "lard" and Bake 450 degrees for about 15 minutes.
Makes about 10 biscuits. Serve with sorghum syrup.
Pour a quart jar of canned tomatoes in a large pot and begin to heat over meduim heat.
Chop the following vegetables and brown in a skillet with 2 Tablespoons oil - 1 large onion, 1 garlic bulb
1/2 bell pepper, 3 medium sized red potatoes.
Add all the browned vegetables along with 1 cup cooked butterbeans, 1 cup of creamed corn, l teaspoon
of salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and 1 Tablespoon sugar. Simmer on low 1 hour.
Serve with hot cornbread.