Nothing like a country breakfast
Restaurants advertise old-fashioned breakfasts, but no one can prepare such a big spread for as many as 24 people in one setting as a farmer’s wife.
There is country-cured ham; sausage, perhaps from their own stock; buckwheat pancakes, with homemade blueberry sauce to slather on; oven-baked French toast; sliced fruit; and sometimes eggs.
Virginia and Curt Glenn had such a breakfast when they brought guests in to check out the sites of the Gen. John Hunt Morgan tour around Bergholz. This included Sara Chadwell, who is a great-great-granddaughter to Keziah Morgan Allison, and is buried in West Grove Cemetery; some grandchildren; and Virginia’s brother, Mike. Sara and her husband, Gene Chadwell, live in Follansbee.
On with the breakfast. Virginia fried the ham slices, sausage patties, pancakes and stirred the blueberry sauce while the French toast was baking in their spacious kitchen, with a table that can seat as many as 24 people.
Virginia said that the baked French toast is much like an old-fashioned bread pudding recipe. She tears up the bread in bigger pieces than for bread pudding and lets the completed recipe stand for a time to soak before baking and then cuts it in squares to serve.
Oven Baked French Toast
2 cups milk
4 cups torn up bread slices
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg
Heat milk to scalding and pour over the bread, which can be white, whole wheat or Italian, but rye does not work well. Cool slightly and add the butter, sugar, beaten eggs, salt and the spice of choice, or it can be sprinkled over the top before baking. Pour into an 8-by-8-inch square glass dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let it rest for 5 minutes and cut into squares. Makes six servings.
Note: Glenn put half sugar and half of the made-for-baking Splenda in her recipe, and I couldn’t even notice the difference.
My dad would make buckwheat pancakes on Sundays when we were young, and I loved the strong taste of that flour. I had not tasted them for more than 15 years. This was when I got to eat buckwheat pancakes again in Florida.
My dad’s recipe was from the Aunt Jemima box, but I found a recipe from the 1950s Betty Crocker Cookbook that uses yeast. I think I would like these as well as Virginia’s or my dad’s.
1 small cake compressed yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 cups cold water
1 cup white flour
2 cups buckwheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon molasses
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water
Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water and let it get foamy and raised somewhat. Add cold water, but not ice water. Sift flours and salt together and stir in. Beat vigorously until smooth. Cover and place in refrigerator overnight.
In the morning, stir in molasses, melted butter and the baking soda dissolved in hot water. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Fry on a hot, heavy griddle that has been tested with drops of water sprinkled on its surface. If bubbles skitter around, the heat is just right. Brown cakes on one side and flip to do the other side. To keep pancakes hot for serving all at the same time, place between folds of a warm towel in a warm oven until ready to serve.
Note: One package of dry yeast can be used instead of the compressed fresh yeast.
To me, biscuits were a hot bread to be eaten with my mom’s great beef stew, but the time we went to the south in my youth, I learned they were eaten for breakfast, covered with ham gravy as well. Now everyone has them for breakfast with sausage gravy. It’s a favorite of mine, after whole wheat toast slathered with peanut butter.
If there is just a small amount of bacon, it can be included in a biscuit recipe to make a crisp and tasty breakfast bread. Just make sure to have the bacon very crisp and crumble it into small pieces to put into the dough.
2 cups sifted flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup milk
4 strips crisp bacon, crumbled into small bits
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Cut in shortening as you would pie dough, possibly with a pastry blender. Add bacon bits.
Stir in the milk to make a soft dough. Round up on a lightly floured cutting board. Knead lightly. Roll or pat out to about a 1/2-inch thickness. Cut in circles or side-by-side squares to save rerolling dough scraps when making circles. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake in 450 degree oven until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Makes 20 1 3/4-inch biscuits.
Note: I only get about 11 or 12 biscuits, as I make them much larger.
Eggs were a big part of country cooking. The Betty Crocker Cookbook notes that the egg is a many-sided food, full of vitamins, protein and minerals – all in one shell.
They need to be cooked over low heat to be prepared correctly for they are quite delicate but can be prepared in many different ways.
Sunny-side Up Eggs
Heat a thin layer of butter or bacon fat in a heavy skillet until moderately hot. Break eggs one at a time into a saucer; slip it into the skillet and immediately reduce heat to low.
Cook slowly, spooning fat over eggs until whites are set and a film forms over yolks, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Or the eggs can be “fried-over.” For this process, turn eggs over quickly when whites are set. Cook until done as desired.
Note: Another fried egg method is called poached-fried eggs. This uses the fat in the skillet, with 1/2 teaspoon water added for each egg in the pan. Cover tightly with a lid and cook to firmness desired, from 5 to 6 minutes each, turning heat to low.
Fill greased skillet with hot water to cover eggs by 1 inch. Add 1 teaspoon salt to a quart of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmering. Break each egg into a saucer and slip one at a time into the water. Slide egg toward the side of pan to keep yolk in the center.
Cover and cook below simmering 3 to 5 minutes. Lift from water with a slotted spoon or spatula, one at a time. Drain. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve at once on hot, buttered toast or split and toasted English muffins. Or they can be put on a toast round with a thin slice of boiled ham and topped with a mixture of a can of cream of mushroom soup and 1/2 cup milk.
For each egg, beat in 1 tablespoon milk or cream, a dash of salt and pepper. Beat until fluffy. Pour into sizzling butter in a skillet over low heat. Cook slowly until underside surface becomes set.
Start lifting the eggs slightly with spatula to let uncooked portion flow underneath and let cook. Add cheese, meat, vegetables or any filling of choice and as soon as mixture seems set, fold and roll up. Serve immediately.
(McCoy can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)