MISSISSIPPI
DELTA CATHEAD BISCUITS

They're called "cathead biscuits" because they should be about the size of a cat's head. They should be somewhat round on top and not flat like canned biscuits. Do not cut them out of rolled-out dough with the rim of a glass or with any other implement as every biscuit recipe I've ever read said to do. Roll them into a ball with your hands. Why make home-made biscuits if they look like store-bought biscuits?

Here's the recipe for four cathead biscuits which will satisfy two hungry people. It calls for a Lodge Manufacturing 8" cast iron skillet. For more people, double the recipe and use a Lodge 10" skillet. You'll need:

  • 1 1/8 cup self-rising flour
  •   2/3 cup milk or buttermilk
  •   1/8 cup oil or bacon drippings

Step #1: Blend above ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Step #2: Dump a hand full of flour on a pastry cloth or whatever. As you can see, I use a brown paper sack. Newspaper also works just fine.

Step #3: As in the top photo, dump the blended dough onto the flour.

Step #4: Pour a dash of oil into your skillet and smear it around with your fingers. Coat the inside of the skillet and the palms of your hands with oil.

Step #5: Knead the dough for about 30 seconds, rolling it in the flour and thickening it.

Step #6: Half the dough as in the middle photo. Half it again, making 4 pieces of dough.

Step #7: Roll each piece of dough between your hands, making it into a ball, then put it in the skillet.

Step #8: As you see me doing in this photo, use a spoon or a pastry brush and put a little oil or bacon drippings on the top of each un-baked biscuit. You're ready to start cooking.
Biscuits

Biscuits

Biscuits

  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • Bake 25 minutes at 350°
  • Broil/toast for 1 or 2 minutes
  • Enjoy!

Ready to eatHere's what my biscuits looked like straight out of my little $50 toaster oven. Y'all, they sure tasted fine with some home-made mayhaw jelly and sopped in dark cane syrup!

Try my recipe and maybe you'll make some memories. Someday the kids in your family might compare all biscuits to the cathead biscuits you used to make way back when.

My memory is of left-over biscuits cooked by my aunt Mabel Doughty Breithaupt. She and her husband, Henry, and their son, James, a year older than me, lived near Jonesville, Louisiana on a small farm located about 15 miles down a narrow gravel road which meandered along French Fork Bayou. Throughout my childhood, I spent my summer and winter school vacations on that farm.

God only knows how many biscuits Aunt Mabel cooked every morning, but she always cooked extra. Anytime of day, a cloth-covered plate sat on the back of her stove. It contained left-over biscuits and left-over chunks of crisp-fried salt pork bacon she had sliced that very morning from one of the slabs hanging from the smokehouse rafters.

If Cousin James and I wanted a snack, we broke open a biscuit and inserted a chunk of salt pork bacon. That's my biscuit memory. It's not just the memory of the taste of a cold biscuit and bacon. It's the memory of my lost, long-ago youth and a simple but vanished way of life.

Cholly MacMy beer-drinkin' buddy Charley McBroom also remembers left-over biscuits. He lives in Tullos now, but he lived in Jonesville for many years where he helped his wife's family make their living by running catfish nets in the Tensas, Black, and Ouachita Rivers. Cholly Mac, as we call him, remembers left-over fried biscuits.

If you're dirt-poor--as most Delta folks were back then and many still are--you eat left-over everything. When cornbread and biscuits get stale and hard, you slice the biscuit or piece of cornbread down the middle and fry each side. Cornbread and biscuits are delicious fried. For lunch, Cholly Mac and his in-laws would pull their boat up on a river bank and chow down on fried left-over biscuits and chunks of salt pork bacon. "Man, that was some fine eatin'," Cholly Mac said.

Like it does me, just the thought of a cathead biscuit sends Cholly Mac to a simpler place and time.

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