In my childhood, I had a love of food. While it didn’t do anything for my waistline, it did at least mean I was paying careful attention to what was served. There are quite a number of recipes that were passed down within my family, some of them were even worth saving! Sure, that’s nothing unusual. Most of us have had recipes given to us by grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and any number of other relations.
Still, I find that as an adult, I cherish the recipes I was given. Some are rare, being only known to a few in the family. More than a few were only known by one person who then passed them to me after prompting. Two were never passed to me. From the title, I am sure you can guess which.
I suppose I should start with the biscuits. As I understand it, my great grandfather on my mother’s side was a subsistence farmer. As far as I can tell, the biscuit recipe in the family was created out of need and limited resources and passed down as a familiar flavor rather than its grand quality. One of those small comforts that remind you of growing up. Personally, I never liked them. They tasted of plain flour and lard, without anything else to commend them. At best I can say they were unique due to having been baked from a semi-batter state.
Over the years, I have tested dozens of biscuit recipes. So far, nothing has quite met my requirements. There are some very delicious biscuit recipes out there, but often they take ingredients I don’t have on hand unless I know in advance that I will use them (IE: buttermilk) or are too complicated and time consuming for me to want to prepare early in the mornings. Among the simpler recipes, nothing has quite had the texture and flavor I would consider worth the effort. Eventually, I am sure I will hit across one I like, but until then I must keep trying. Some have been serviceable enough that I do make them from time to time as needed. I suppose the best measure I have is that if it isn’t as good as the canned biscuits, it probably isn’t going to be worthy of being my go-to biscuit.
Of course, if you have a really simple recipe that still ends up having a great taste and texture, feel free to send the recipe my way!
Here is where things are a bit trickier. My great grandmother on the same side of the family, made an apple stack cake that was all but famous among the family. It was one of the amazingly good old fashioned stack cakes, not one of those modern variations made with applesauce. I even remember the dried apples on strings hanging until ready for another batch.
If you’re familiar with older social workings, it wasn’t uncommon for the person who was best at something to be the only one who ever did it. That grandmother who made the best chocolate cream pie would be the only one ever making it. Often, she would guard the recipe closely, only allowing very limited people access to the knowledge. Once in a while, they wouldn’t tell anyone. Instead it would be written on a note card that was passed on after they themselves had passed on.
This is how it was with my great grandmother’s stack cake, with one difference. She not only told no one how she made it, but also pointedly refused to ever write it down. When she died, the recipe died with her. As far as anyone knows, the recipe is forever gone and can never be retrieved. Well, almost anyway.
Remember how I said I focused on things a lot as a kid when it came to food? I remembered the stack cake. I remembered it and how delicious it was. As an adult, I began asking about it. Most of the family remembered it well, two in particular offering useful insights into the specific ingredients she used. Add to that my own memory and I have some fair ideas of where to start.
Based on what was known of technique and ingredients, I’ve gathered up about half a dozen recipes. None is quite identical I am sure, but they offer a good starting point. It might take air drying a few dozen pounds of apples (yes, I plan to air dry them to stay as true to her original recipe as possible) to even get started on nearing the original, but with some luck and careful tweaking, it is my hope to recreate that lost recipe.
We’ll just have to wait and see I suppose. If I ever get it worked out well enough that the family members all agree that it is close or accurate, I’ll have to make a point of posting it here. Of course, if you are interested in this sort of thing, please do make a point of commenting to let me know. I’m honestly not sure how many of my readers have a love of really good recipes, so speaking up is exceptionally helpful.