Angel biscuits are a cross between a biscuit and a soft white roll. And you are so not Nashville if your holiday sideboard does not showcase these gems filled with slices of Tennessee country ham.
Chances are the last time you had any Tennessee country ham was bits of Benton’s country ham scattered atop seared scallops at a restaurant. And if so, this holiday season it’s time to move forward with a big step back in time.
A true, salt-cured, hickory and apple smoked, and aged-for-almost-a-year Tennessee country ham is a Tennessee holiday essential. Long before chefs put our Tennessee Umami to work in their kitchens, country ham has been adding indescribable punch to Southern dishes forever. Salt-cured, smoked meat, the practical way to preserve pork in the rural South, is science, art, and magic.
The aging process begins in January and ends in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Just like picking out your Christmas tree, much of the fun is the trip to the smokehouse. Within a short drive of Nashville you’ll find two of our favorite country ham sources — The Hamery in Murfreesboro and Rice’s Country Hams in Mt Juliet. In addition to these boutique smokehouses, you’ve probably seen Clifty and Trigg brands available in supermarkets.
Check out www.picktnproducts.org for a complete listing of country ham producers in our area.
Sure, you can enjoy the work of scrubbing, soaking, and cooking a country ham if you want. It’s a fun project. But, we ham economists love the convenience of whole trimmed and cooked hams, ham slices, hocks, and ham bits vacuum sealed and ready to eat.
Now, for the biscuits:
Not just any biscuits, but angel biscuits made with another Tennessee tradition, Nashville’s Martha White Self-Rising Flour with Hot Rize. Alice Jarman, the founder of the Martha White Kitchen, called them “Riz” Biscuits.
Angel biscuits are a hybrid of baking powder biscuits and yeast rolls. Because angel biscuits have the superior staying power of a roll, they are preferred by the savvy hostess. There’s less worry about the biscuits drying out when served throughout the day (an all too common disappointment), especially when made ahead.
Make life easier and biscuits more often with a pastry cloth. Store it in the freezer in a sealable plastic bag.
- 1 package dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
- ¼ cup sugar plus 1 teaspoon
- ¼ cup warm water (about 110°F)
- 4 cups self-rising flour
- ¾ cup shortening
- 1 1/2 cups warm buttermilk (nuke it for a minute)
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
Dissolve the yeast and one teaspoon of the sugar in the warm water in a small bowl.
Combine the flour and remaining sugar in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture is crumbly.
Add the yeast water and the buttermilk. Stir until a soft dough forms.
Place the dough on a well-floured surface (a floured pastry cloth is the best way to go) and knead about 1 minute to form a smooth dough.
Roll the dough out to 1/2 –inch thickness. Cut with a biscuit cutter (use what you like from 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches). Place the biscuits on a baking sheet.
Brush the tops with melted butter, cover lightly with a towel, and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes to an hour.
Heat the oven to 400°F. Bake the biscuits for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Makes about 25 2-inch biscuits and about 50 1-½ inch biscuits.