Home made hamburger buns. (You’ll never buy buns again!)

While not a ‘true’ heritage recipe, I think making your own hamburger buns ranks up there with home made bread!

The density of these buns are heavier and therefor chewier than air puffed store bought buns. They also have a pleasanter taste.

Makes 8-12 buns depending on the size you want.

For hamburgers, I make the twelve count size, for sandwiches I do the eight count size.

Ingredients;

DRY (mix together before combining with Wet)

3 1/2 cups of bread flour (high gluten or bread flour) *

1/4 cup of sugar

1 1/4 tsp of salt

1 Tablespoon of yeast  (most any variety works well, one rises a bit faster than the other, that’s all )

* For delicious whole wheat Buns, use 2 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour and 1 cup of bread or high gluten flour

WET (mix together before combining with Dry)

1 cup of warm water

2 Tablespoons of melted butter (not hot)

1 large egg (beaten)

Extra ingredients;

2  Tablespoons of melted butter ( to brush tops with before and after baking)**

Directions

Place DRY ingredients into a large mixing bowl (I use my Kitchen Aide mixer for this). Mix DRY ingredients for 1 minute before slowly adding WET ingredients into the mixing bowl. Run mixer until a smooth soft dough ball forms. ( 5 minutes minimum.)

Remove dough ball and place in a greased bowl and cover it with a kitchen towel until almost double in size. 1-2 hours. (Rising time depends on telp of dough, yeast, etc… don’t rush it but don’t let it get past double in size.

Once doubled, remove dough ball and press down lightly until it is about 1/4 to 1/2 inch in thickness.

 

Using a knife, cut the round dough into 8 or 12 pie shaped triangles.

Shape triangles into balls by pulling the three corners into the center, then continue pulling the sides into the center and pushing them deep into the rounded ball until a nice round ball without top or side wrinkles are seen.

Let small rounded dough rest for 5 more minutes.

With the palm of your hand, slowly flatten and spread out the dough balls until disc is about 1/2 inch thick and a minimum of 3 inches in diameter. The 8 cut size will be over 4 inches in diameter.

Place flattened disc on a parchment lined bakers tray, cover with kitchen towel and let rise until very puffy. 3/4 to 1 inch in thickness. (20 minutes to 1 hour)

Preheat oven to 375* at this time.

Brush melted butter onto top of buns before placing in oven.** If desired, sesame  seeds can be sprinkled on tops but use egg white wash (egg white and a tablespoon of water) instead of butter and do not butter again after removing from oven

Place in oven on center rack.

Bake until light brown 12 to 15 minutes ( lightly browned, not super pale but not dark either)

Remove from oven and brush tops again with melted butter.

Cool completely and place in large plastic Zip lock bags. Refrigerate.

Wild animals in my home. (Not a recipe! these are my house buns! It’s near Easter, that’s all)

Well, it’s been a spell since I added a new western short story or even a recipe to my blog. I’ve watched the hits dwindle to a trickle. That’s fine, I never wrote anything to bump up my numbers. I know that’s how it’s done ’cause the blog folks all tell me I gotta post often or I’l be left behind. I never did get an answer as to exactly what would happen if my numbers slipped really bad. Maybe they’d kick me off for usin’ up precious ether world internet space, I don’t rightly know.

Anyway, I was pondering on all this when an idea floated across my brain an’ got stuck somewhere’s between my frontal lobe an’ my modulla obligotta (or some other noteworthy misspelled section of my brain). I conked myself upside the head an’ the idea fell from my brain onto my tongue and I said to myself outloud, “Huh! Looks like a lot of folks like puttin’ they’s animals on their post.” Then I thought of my own wild beast.

Now I ain’t no girly man. No offense intended to no one. I’ve come to figure a lot of writers is politically correct to a fault but I wasn’t brought up that way, so go ahead an’ take offense but I didn’t mean nothin’ more than I’m a big guy. Certain things is expected of folks my size. Like, if me an’ my friends was attacked by a Grizzly bear, it’d be up to me to turn him into that nights meal… bare handed while tending to things in the outhouse at the same time. You get the idea. No need to go any further.

So what kind of wild beast roam around in my home? Snarling Pit Bulls? Wild Razorback Boars? No Sir! Them critters ain’t nothin compared to the ornery wild eyed beast I have pacing back an’ forth lookin’ for a constant meal. I’m talkin’ things that go thump in the night here! Beast that chew up things most other animals just stare at. I’m talkin’ about the dreaded lagomorph…                                         You got it…Bunny Rabbits!

Now here’s a photo of Sir Benjamin (Ben Ben for short) I adopted him when I was a volunteer at the Humane Society here.

Like all my Bunnies, they are all spayed or neutered. They also are what are called ‘house rabbits’ as they have complete freedom to roam wherever they want in the house 24/7. They also are litter box trained. Actually, that’s a misnomer since they don’t need any training at all. Just put a plastic bin filled partway with bunny litter (I use Yesterdays News pellets or pine, never cedar chips as that can kill them) and they take to it right off. If you have more than one in the house you’ll find that the matriarch bunny will scold the others until they too know what a litter box is for.

Ben gets along well with critters of any sort, no matter how much they swipe at him every time he passes.

Then there’s Queen Elizabeth. She rules the household! No bun gets out of line without her scolding at them. She’s an English Lop who’s papers actually do go back to the Royal Family over there in Merry Old England.  She loves boxes and chewing on pine cones.

Little guy (Scooter for short) is Lizzy’s soul mate. They are a bonded pair. Lizzy doesn’t mind that her man is 1/4 th the size of her since she rules over him anyway. He groomes her and makes sure her royal coat is free of snarls.

Little Guy (Scooter) loves his little stuffed bunny and his bed! (both shown here)

This is Scooty’s favorite place to nap…under Lizzy’s ear. He’ll crawl up to her and tug at her ear until it covers him like a blanket.

Then there are the Girls Daisy and Buttercup. They now have a brand new home in West Virginia at a friends Bunny Sanctuary. They were to be euthanized but I rescued them and my friend took them in. They love their box. Being caught in the wild, they are a bit more skittish but a few dried cherries bring them out to play…and eat!

Here’s a couple pics of Lizzy and Scooter doing what they do best.


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So there! These are the wild animals I have to deal with back at my spread! I am going to add one more picture here. I know some are squeamish but I got to show you just how viscous these beast can be…A vivid reminder never, ever take a nap with your shoes off or you’ll pay a horrible price. Ya got to remember these are wild beast an’ need to be treated like they is!

I was warned, I just didn’t listen!

Canned pickles and Coyotes

A friend of mine who can wrangle any horse, kick rattlesnakes toothless and train a wild coyote to howl cowboy ballads at Arizona’s desert moon, called me one day in a dilemma.

“I need to ask a question!, What the heck is the difference between pickling salts in a box and pickling salts in a sack? This recipe says not to use the one but the other! I am trying to can pickles and I don’t understand any of the terminology they are using. I’m not a gall dern cook! (Actually, there was a bunch of swear words said but gall dern it will have to do for now.)

I said I had never heard of a ‘sack’ of salts before but wondered out loud if they are like the small sacks of spices I use in my chili recipe.

I advised that making pickled eggs is a whole lot easier and I have a super tasty recipe that is easy enough for any beginner to make My friends response was…”I hate eggs!”

“OK, then back to canning pickles it is…”

After trying to understand my friends over the phone recipe I’d finally had enough.

“Hold on, if you are really determined to make your own pickles, even though it’s sooooo easy to just drive to the grocery store and pick up a jar of Claussen Dill pickles and much less frustrating, then I’ll blog my pickle recipe and you can take it from there, OK?

After a minute my friend said, “I see! So this is how you get people to read your blogs. You wait until they’re helpless then force ‘em to drag their dusty eyeballs over your ponderous (insert labored and dull here) writing.”

“You got it my friend, it’s the price you gotta pay… it’s either that or pickled eggs!”

“I hate pickled eggs… go ahead an’ write yer gall dern blog then!”

So in response to my dear friend who has wrangled many a sway back, kicked more rattlesnakes into having to buy dentures and has been known to perform duets with howling coyotes in the Arizona desert during full moons… this blog is for you!

INGREDIENTS;

4 lbs cucumbers (3-5 inches, fresh)
2 cloves of garlic for each jar (peeled)
2-3 fresh sprigs of dill for each jar
4 or 5 black peppercorns for each jar
1 small fresh hot red cayenne pepper or banana pepper for each jar (optional)
2 quarts of water
2 quarts of white vinegar
scant 1/2 cup of pickling or canning salt NOT TABLE OR ROCK SALT, these will turn your pickles dark

DIRECTIONS;

Set aside enough jars to hold all of your pickles

Cut the blossom end of the pickle off, about 1/8th inch. (like a cigar)

Soak freshly picked cucumbers in a tub of ice water overnight. (Do not use old cucumbers or the pickles will be rubbery). Wipe the pickles dry. Pack sterilized jars* with several sprigs of dill, one clove of garlic at the top and bottom and the cucumbers.

Boil the 2 quarts of water, 2 quarts of vinegar and 1/2 cup pickling salts for 5 minutes. Pour the boiling brine over the cucumbers to the top then place the lid over the jar top, Screw the jar lid ring on to prevent the lid from being knocked loose. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes by placing the jars in a canning pot or large stock pot. Remove then let cool

Let jars sit in a dark cool place for 3 weeks to allow the pickles to absorb the vinegar, spices and salts.

*To sterilize jars. Boil 2 gallons of water. Meanwhile, fill all jars with hot tap water. Wait one minute and then the empty jars. Place dry towel in bottom of sink. Set hot but empty jars in sink. Pour enough boiling enough water into jars filling completely to the top. Wait 5 minutes then using hand protection empty hot jars and place upside down on a CLEAN towel. They are now sterilized.

Making the perfect loaf of home made bread

The perfect loaf of bread

Did you ever attempt to reproduce the loaf of bread your mother or grandmother used to bake? How many loafs turned out just like hers?

Not many if you were like me!

After my Mom passed away, I came across her lifelong collection of recipes. Many I already knew because of my interest in cooking. My own recipe collections had helped propel me into the restaurant business. But there was one recipe that eluded me no matter how many books I bought or magazines I read , that of a the loaf of homemade bread I had eaten as a child growing up in Idaho. It was the one recipe my Mom had not written down in her collection, she didn’t need to, she knew it by heart. To her it was like breathing. There is no need for an instruction manual in breathing, is there?

It wasn’t until I was in the process of doing research for my coffee table cookbook ( Maw Maws recollections, observations and recipes) that I realized in fact I did have my mother’s recipe. In my younger days when my Mom was still present on this celestial ball, I once took a job as the foreman on a cattle ranch. There, I befriended Jeff, a fellow ranch hand. Now Jeff lived in the small town just outside the ranch along with his 90 plus year old but very spry grandmother. On a cold rainy day, I gladly offered to drive him back home when his pickup truck refused to start. As I entered his home behind him, I smelled the delicious aroma of his grandmother’s freshly baked bread. Being from a generation that believed you should never let company part your home hungry, she sliced up the warm loaf and spread a goodly amount of butter on it. I remarked on its familiar taste and color telling her I believe my Mom made her bread from the same recipe. Jeff and I talked of weather concerns and other ranch related subject until I had to get going. As I was leaving Jeff’s grandmother handed me a hand written copy of her bread recipe. Thanking her profoundly, I returned to the ranch. Since my own mother was still years away from leaving us, I put the recipe along with other mementos of the ranch in a box for safe keeping.

There it lay packed away for over thirty five years. Jeff is a grown man now with young grandkids. Sadly, as is the nature of things, his grandma passed on some years ago. It was on a day when one begins to reminisce about his childhood that I came across her bread recipe in that box. How ironic it seemed that the one thing I really wished I had, I had in fact been safely harboring for years! Since that time, I have rarely purchased bread at the grocery, and when I do, it taste bland and mushy!

I hope you find some similar memories as I did when you smell the familiar scent of this real homemade bread baking.

Ingredients;

2 ½ cups of bread flour ( Do not use all purpose flour as you need the added gluten for a good rise)

1 cup of whole wheat flour

(The combination of the two flours simulates the dense rougher texture and higher gluten content of the heritage flour that was used back in the day)

2 Tablespoons of sugar

1 1/4 teaspoon of salt

2 1/2 teaspoons of yeast (Instant or active, it makes little difference)

1 Tablespoon of unsulfured Molasses

1 egg

1 cup of warm water

2 Tablespoons of softened / melted butter

(Optional added ingredients if desired = 1/4 cup of wheat germ and 1 Tablespoon of flax seed)

2 Tablespoons of milk for brushing the loaf before and after baking. This gives the loaf a wonderfully soft crust.

Directions;

1) Using a mixer with a dough hook, add the dry ingredients and mix together well. Then add the wet.

There is no need to pre mix water, sugar and your yeast. Most common yeast today will activate without a ‘wet’ pre activation step

2) As the dough is mixing, if it appears too dry add a tablespoon or two of water, one at a time. If it appears to wet, add a tablespoon of the bread flour. It should have a slight sticky feeling, similar to that of a post it note but should leave no residue on your fingers

3) Knead the dough ball on low for 5 minutes, then remove it, fold it over on itself a few times and replace the dough into the mixer on low for 3-4 more minutes.

If mixing by hand you must hand knead the dough for at least 10 – 15 minutes or until spongy. You can also use a bread machine to mix and knead the dough.

4) Place kneaded dough in a greased bowl and cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel. Let it rise until double in size. Approximately 1 hour. Since high gluten flour can rise faster than regular flour keep an eye on it. Do not let it rise past double its size.

5) Once risen to its proper size, remove and gently punch down the dough. Fold and shape it into a nice smooth loaf and place it into a greased bread pan with the seam on the bottom.

6) Pre heat oven to 350 degrees at this time.

7) When the dough has again risen with its top peaking 1/2 inch above the bread pan and it fills the pan, brush the top of the loaf with milk. Using a toothpick, poke a few holes in the length of the top. This will prevent the loaf from bursting out its side from the rapid oven rise. The holes act as gas escape vents.

8) Place in the pre heated oven for 35  minutes or until nicely browned and hollow sounding when you ‘thunk it’ with your fingers.

Each oven bakes differently so keep an eye on it. This bread will look darker than regular bread due to the molasses in it!

9) When done, brush once again with milk and cool for 10 minutes then remove from the bread pan and cover with a dry towel until completely cool. Place in a plastic shopping bag and refrigerate to extend its freshness. There is no preservatives in this bread so it should be consumed within a few days.

Gods gift to Southerners, The catfish!


Reprinted from my book, Mawmaws recollections, observations and recipes. Free pdf download.

Did I mention fried Catfish yet? Nothin’s faster to make nor more delicious, I can smell it now!

Now I understand that many people think of catfish as a dirty ‘ol bottom feeding fish fit only for those who couldn’t afford (or catch) a Trout or Perch. The thing was, yes, it’s a bottom feeder, but y’all have to realize that most our streams an rivers back then was as clean as your tap water is today. Maybe I shouldn’t a said that, I hear there’s some pretty questionable tap water in some places. Anyway, it weren’t no Carp an besides most all Catfish today is farm raised anyway. I can’t understand why anyone would eat Talapia and not a Catfish. Talapi is raised to ‘clean up fish farm pods after Catfish,Trout, Salmon and other expensive fish foul it up with their poo. After the fish are harvested, Talapia are put in and ain’t fed, they eat the other fishes poo till the ponds clean, then they’re harvested!

As far as Catfish goes though, Northern or Southern, once bitten into, everyone agrees it’s dang good!

I always said that if you was able to starve in the South, then you must either have a bunch a marbles rollin’ round inside your head or you’s just plain too lazy to reach your hand out ten feet to get some edible substances. Remember Euell Gibbons? He wrote that book “Stalking the wild asparagus” in the early ’60’s. I still got my copy, still read it from time to time. He come through here one time asking folks for their recipes but he only wanted the ones made from local plants and nuts. Nice man from what I’s told. I hear tell he up an died of a stomach ailment. Ha! Must a been sumpin’ he ate!

Anyway, he showed how much food there really is around us all. We just have to recognize it. I assume the French an’ their uppity snails fit in there somewhere’s but God knows where. Catfish on the other hand is natures answer to those too clumsy to fish proper or for those bordering on being a vegetarian. It takes no skill to catch a Catfish. It takes more skill not too! An even if you’re not prone to eatin meat, why one look at a Catfish an you’d realize they’s so ugly they deserve to be eaten!

But, seeing them golden brown fillets sizlin’ in a iron skillit an having that delicious smell hit you smack in the nose makes you want to put an extra five in the collection plate to thank God for his gift of the Catfish.

Speaking of how easy they is to catch, I once caught one with my shoe! I was a youngster splashin’ in the pond near the house with my friends. I had my shoes up on a limb that over hung the shore a bit. One of ’em fell off, bounced on the ground and plopped itself right into the waters edge. Well, I walk on over and reached on down for my shoe. When I grabbed hold of it, my shoe tugged back at me! Frightened me to death! I screamed an not thinking yanked that ‘ol shoe up an outa the water in kind of a panic reaction sort a way. Out flew my shoe…with a big ‘ol catfish still trying to eat one a the tie strings on it. I got on outa’ there ’cause everyone told me how Catfish would sting ya up good if you touched ’em. I never did find out the truth in that.

Golden Pan Fried ‘Southern’ Catfish

“ If you say you can’t eat a Catfish because they’s so ugly, then why in tarnation would you eat rump roast!”

4-6 catfish fillets

¾ cup corn meal

¼ cup flour

¼ teaspoon of salt

½ cup milk

2 eggs, beaten

1/8 teaspoon of red pepper sauce

2 Tablespoons of oil

Preheat deep fryer or 5 qt sauce pan filled with 2 inches of oil in it to 375 degrees. Any hotter an you’ll burn and smoke up your oil.

Preheat oven to 275 to place fish in after frying to keep hot.

Rinse fish in water and towel dry.

Mix cornmeal, flour, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in milk, beaten eggs, pepper sauce and 2 Tbl oil until well blended.

Coat fish with cornmeal batter, shaking off any excess.

Fry two fillets at a time until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Keep fried fish warm by placing on a cookie sheet in the oven until all are cooked.

Broiled Catfish Fillets

(A healthier alternative than fried Catfish)

4 catfish fillets

1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon of lemon pepper

Lemon wedges for garnish on each plate

Sprinkle fillets with garlic salt and lemon pepper. Preheat broiler pan for 5 minutes. Coat with shortening spray. Place catfish fillets on broiler pan. Broil 3 inches from heat for 4-6 minutes until catfish flakes easily. Put some garnish like lemon wedges and stuff around them on a plate.

True Southern biscuits and gravy

 

Hands down this recipe makes the best biscuits and gravy you’ll ever eat.

 

Nothing disturbs me more than stopping in to a greasy spoon somewhere and seeing Southern ‘Biscuits and gravy’ on the menu. I love biscuits and gravy! Ordering them though is another matter all together. I bet, no, I know, when my breakfast arrives my plate will contain those horrible institutionally pre frozen biscuits drowned in that white soapy tasting gravy that sells in #10 cans!

What really amazes me is when I run into this down here in the Southern Boonies you’d think the folks in town would run the cook out on a rail! I mean Southern? Pu-lease!

First of all, biscuits have to be made fresh, and they’re so easy to do so. I can lay out a breakfast of biscuits and gravy from scratch just as fast as if using pre made junk. And… it taste dee-licious!

When friends come down here to visit from out west or (shudder) up North, the conversation always seems to get around to ‘real’ Southern food. I’m not kidding here but my biscuits and gravy are always held up as “real Southern food”. The reason? The recipe is well over 100 years old…and given to me by someone who’s family has been here in the South since the early 1800’s. This is a true Heritage recipe. I have “modernized” it for convenience sake. After all, who would know that a ‘passle’ of salt is equal to 1/2 tsp or running your wood cook stove at ‘very quick’ is equal to 450-500 degrees.

Biscuit recipe  (read entire recipe through before starting)

2 Cups of unbleached all purpose unbleached flour (not bread flour)

4 teaspoons of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

3/4 teaspoon of salt

2 Tablespoons of butter

2 Tablespoons of shortening (The original recipe calls for pork lard and it still makes the best tasting biscuits!)

1 cup of buttermilk. (Powdered buttermilk mix can be used. It works great and last for months or you can make your own.  Simply add 1 Tbl of white vinegar to each cup of milk, stir and let stand 15 minutes until curdling starts , then use.)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Gather all ingredients, baking pans etc, before starting. Flour is best if chilled ( I always keep mine in the fridge anyway. Flour beatle’s can easily hatch in warm flour. Also make sure your baking powder is not out of date or your biscuits may not rise!). Chilled flour will prevent butter and shortening from melting too early.

In a large mixing bowl, (do not use an electric mixer for this recipe)  combine chilled flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. (The faster the better, you don’t want the fats to melt.) Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky. Add enough flour to the bowl until it looks like the dough can be rolled out. The dough is to remain a bit sticky so be careful not to add so much flour that the dough becomes a bread dough.

Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a ¾ inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter. (A small drinking glass works well.)  Push straight down through the dough while twisting cutter to free the biscuit from the dough pile. Place biscuits on a ungreased baking sheet so that they nearly touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting more biscuits out of it.

Bake until biscuits are tall and golden brown on top, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Sausage gravy recipe

1 lb plain or sage spiced breakfast sausage*

½ teaspoon of pepper

dash of salt (if desired)

1 teaspoon of ground sage

3-4 Tablespoons of flour

4 cups of milk

Brown sausage while adding salt, pepper and sage to browning sausage. Preheat milk to very warm temperature but not to scalding. When sausage is almost completely browned, add the 3 tbl flour sprinkling it evenly over sausage. Brown flour with sausage for 2 more minutes.

Add the warm milk while stirring constantly. Boiling will be noted. If needed, add milk or small amounts of flour to get the consistency you like in your gravy.

Pour over biscuits (broken up or whole)  immediately and serve hot.

 

* How to make your very own breakfast sausage from scratch;

Use either 2 lbs of pork butt or pre ground bulk pork sausage. (if pork butt is used; dice into 1/4″ pieces)

1/2 lb of fat back. Cut it also into 1/4″ pieces.

Mix pork and fat together then grind in either a hand or electric meat grinder

In a large bowl mix the ingredients listed below by hand into in to the ground pork; Never use an electric mixer.

2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp pepper

2 tsp of fresh finely chopped sage leaves or 1 tsp of powdered sage

2 tsp of fresh finely chopped thyme leaves or 1 tsp of powdered thyme

2 tsp of fresh finely chopped rosemary or 1 tsp of powdered rosemary

1 Tbl of brown sugar

1/2 tsp of nutmeg

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients and chill for 1-2 hours to tighten meat up. (I chill mine overnight to increase the flavor). Using the fine grinder blade, grind pork . If using pre ground bulk sausage chill and mix all ingredients together well.  Cook as above recipe instructs. (To make into patties just roll into balls, flatten into a 3″ round and cook in a medium heated skillet.)