I don’t know whose idea it was to make the sweet substances that graced the biscuits of my Southern upbringing, but when I meet them in Heaven I’m going to shake their hand.
I say Heaven because whoever concocted blackberry jam, pear preserves, or other sweet fruity options must be currently receiving their eternal rewards.
Same goes for grape jelly, apple butter, and plum jam. Come to think of it, they’re all plum good.
From birth, most Southerners are fed a steady breakfast diet of eggs, bacon, sausage, and of course, biscuits and gravy. But the versatility of biscuits allowed for jellies and jams.
But who was it that discovered a way to take fruits, marry them with sugar, and preserve them so that kids of all ages could enjoy them slathered on a hot, cathead biscuit? The answer is hardworking people who knew how to make do.
My grandmothers made the best pear preserves. They also made the best biscuits. The two together were a culinary force to be reckoned with. If my sister and I were visiting, we looked forward to a biscuit covered with preserves. Of course, we had to eat what was on our plate first. But a journey through eggs, sausage, and bacon was never a problem when the final destination was a biscuit covered the sweetness found in a Mason Jar in one of their cabinets.
If we wanted, we could choose something other than pear preserves. Blackberry jam was always an option. Or apple butter. Plum jam.
Why was it that we had such great options at the breakfast table? It was because my grandparents and others like them grew up during The Depression, when they had little, but knew how to turn what they did have into treasure. All of these were fruits that either grew wild or were planted on family properties.
Southern folks made do with what they had, and that included the food.
My father used to load my sister and me into the Buick and take us out on the county roads. The goal was to find and bring back as many blackberries as we could locate. Those hours-long excursions left our arms scratched and itching, but we filled many a Piggly Wiggly grocery sack with wild blackberries that were later turned into cobblers, fruit salads, or a jam.
Same was true of the apple trees that were planted. I recall one on the side of the house that didn’t bear fruit for many years, but when it did, the apples were harvested and turned into apple pies, apple butter, and many other serving options.
Strawberries were always a part of the garden. If you could protect them from the birds and the squirrels, you’d have a way to make preserves, jelly, or a jam. Also, cobbler. A lot of people aren’t familiar with strawberry cobbler, but if you ever have the chance to try it, do. It’s an amazing option.
A pear tree was found on the property of many families. It wasn’t so much that families had an organized orchard with fruit and nut trees, but often folks would trade seeds or seedlings so that they had a way to continuously feed their brood.
As a kid in Ashdown, Arkansas, I never thought much about where those sweet options for my biscuits came from, but as time passed, I did think about it.
A few years ago, my wife and I began planting fruit and nut trees. Some are beginning to bear. Before long, hopefully they all will.
The ability to walk out your door and harvest peaches, plums, apples, and more is something to which we both look forward. We have the Mason Jars ready, and the biscuits won’t be far behind.
Nor will time with our grandchildren gathered around the breakfast table. Eating a homemade biscuit, covered with sweet future memories.
©2022 John Moore
John’s latest book, Puns for Groan People, and his books, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, are available on his website – TheCountryWriter.com, where you can also send him a message and hear his weekly podcast.