Bacon Biscuits and Honeysuckle Season

Our latest Cook the Books Club selection was Honeysuckle Season, by Mary Ellen Taylor, this round hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats.  The novel was a truly absorbing and enjoyable read, romantic with a mystery, at times heartbreaking, yet uplifting. I didn't find a lot of food inspiration, though was maybe reading too fast?  Hey,  but we Cook the Bookers are ready for that eventuality.  We can get inspired by atmosphere, location and any little off the cuff mention of items from the plant or animal worlds.  Sometimes a stretch, but we're generally able to come up with something.  

Our library never came through with my request for the book, and after more than a month on the list, I ordered at the last minute from Kindle.  Which is why I'm sailing in under the deadline bar here.

From the Publishers: 

"Adrift in the wake of her father’s death, a failed marriage, and multiple miscarriages, Libby McKenzie feels truly alone. Though her new life as a wedding photographer provides a semblance of purpose, it’s also a distraction from her profound pain.

When asked to photograph a wedding at the historic Woodmont estate, Libby meets the owner, Elaine Grant. Hoping to open Woodmont to the public, Elaine has employed young widower Colton Reese to help restore the grounds and asks Libby to photograph the estate.  From bestselling author Mary Ellen Taylor comes a story about profound loss, hard truths, and an overgrown greenhouse full of old secrets. Libby is immediately drawn to the old greenhouse shrouded in honeysuckle vines.

As Libby forms relationships and explores the overgrown—yet hauntingly beautiful—Woodmont estate, she finds the emotional courage to finally sort through her father’s office. There she discovers a letter that changes everything she knows about her parents, herself, and the estate. Beneath the vines of the old greenhouse lie generations of secrets, and it’s up to Libby to tend to the fruits born of long-buried seeds."

The very first food mention was, I believe on page 42 (Kindle version), biscuits stuffed with Virginia ham.  That was, in the end, my choice to do a riff on.  My own Scotch Irish ancestors also settled in the Virginia area and, coincidentally, this is a very traditional recipe in that region of our country.  I posted the Scottish original version a few years ago - Aberdeen Butteries - made with yeast, and remembered how delicious they were.  So now we have the Southern incarnation, in biscuits.  Mine reverts to bacon, as I cure it myself, so there's more of a connection in that homemade aspect, as well as deriving from the Scotch original.

Virginia Ham Biscuits

Yields 8
Virginia ham biscuits. A southern staple. Brunch, lunch, dinner, tailgate party, reception...whatever the occasion, you'll find these simple, tasty sandwiches on the menu.


2 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons, cold, unsalted butter (cut in small pieces)
2 tablespoons duck fat (or lard)
3/4 to 1 cup cold, whole buttermilk
1 pound Virginia Ham, thinly sliced  --  As noted above, I used my home cured bacon, sliced thin and briefly fried.

Condiment of your choice
Honey mustard (1/4 cup whole-grain mustard, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon dijon)
Plain mustard (whole-grain or Dijon recommended)
or...get creative...
Pickled red onions
Your favorite chutney (fruit chutneys pair nicely)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar together into a large bowl. Blend the butter pieces and duck fat (or lard) into the dry mixture with a pastry blender (or two knives) until you achieve a course meal with flakes of butter/fat throughout.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, then slowly pour the buttermilk in the center while stirring the flour into the "pool" of buttermilk. Depending on the humidity levels, it may only take 3/4 cup buttermilk (rainy or very humid day) to 1 cup buttermilk (clear, dry day). Stir in the buttermilk until a dough forms and no dry pieces are left, but it should not be overly wet either.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Roll out the dough until it is 1/2 inch thick. Use a biscuit cutter (between 2-3 inches...I use a 3 inch cutter for bigger biscuits) to cut out rounds and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Gather dough, form, rollout, and cut out biscuits until you're out of dough. Don't over handle the dough as the butter starts to melt. You can dust a little flour over the dough if it gets too sticky.

Place the biscuit rounds on the cookie sheet so they are lightly touching one another. They'll help each other "climb" as they bake. Friendly biscuits...

Bake for 10-12 minutes until the biscuits have risen and the tops have started to brown. Remove from the oven, brush with melted butter (if desired).
When slightly cooled from the oven, slice the biscuits open, pile high with thinly sliced Virginia ham, spread honey mustard (or condiment of your choice) on the top biscuit half, and enjoy! Serve warm or at room temperature.
Adapted from The Southerner's Cookbook

I had one for breakfast, with mustard and a bit of mango chutney and for lunch with pickled onions, arugula, mustard, and mayonnaise.  Oh Boy!! Delicious! Both versions.  I'll be sharing this for the Cook the Books Round Up, which is now up, also for, Weekend Cooking hosted by Marge the Intrepid Reader, and with Heather who hosts the Foodies Read Challenge.  Be sure to take a trip around and visit everyone for some great food and book ideas.


Camilla M. Mann said...

I love this! I'm usually one for savories, so I can't wait to try this. Thanks for sharing.

Tina said...

My goodness that sounds ( and looks) good! Glad you were able to get the book via Kindle. Sometimes my library is slow getting me a requested book too.

Jackie McGuinness said...

This sounds delicious. I should pay more attention to food when I read. You have inspired me.

A Day in the Life on the Farm said...

These sound delicious....I am making this the next time I get a hankering for a breakfast sandwich. YUM

judee said...

Sounds like you can't go wrong with these biscuits.

Melynda@Scratch Made Food! said...

They look delicious, love the red onion...

Claudia said...

I love those pickled red onions too. No vinegar, naturally salt brine fermented for 5 days on the kitchen counter, but definitely worth it!

Laurie C said...

This looks amazing! My husband used to make the fluffiest, buttery-est buttermilk biscuits. We haven't discovered a really good way to make them gluten-free, unfortunately. Curing your own bacon sounds daunting to me, but I should be able to manage the pickled onions!

Deb in Hawaii said...

This looks like a tasty little breakfast or any time of day sandwich! I am a big fan of pickled onions too! ;-)

Marg said...

Biscuits for us as the equivalent of cookies. I have tried biscuits before when I visited the US!

Simona Carini said...

Great choice of recipe, Claudia, personalized with your home-cured bacon. I like pickled onions too (I must try them with arugula :)