As much as it pains me to admit it, for most of my life I made inferior biscuits.

I suppose I could blame my mother for not teaching me how to cook. Yet she always knew I’d learn when I was good and ready, and a couple years after I’d moved away from home – and after many cans of beanie-weenies and boxes of Hamburger Helper – I took a beginning cooking class in college. It wasn’t that I was terribly interested in cooking back then; the class was good for five credit hours, and I figured it would be an easy way to rack up some required elective time.

John’s belly was the happy recipient of all this learning, except when it came to biscuits – mine invariably turned out flat, looking like miniature Frisbees (with nearly the same texture). Despite the embarrassing end result, I continued to consult my college text, “Cookbook: A Workbook for HFN 110” by Vola Simpson, solely for its biscuit recipe.

One day, after admiring the tall, fluffy biscuits Dana had made, I grilled her for the secret. Salt, as it turns out, is an essential component in biscuits. Some chemical reaction transpires between the baking powder and the salt, apparently…and I’d always opted not to include salt in my quest for perfect biscuits, thinking they’d be healthier that way. (This coming from someone who subsisted on beanie-weenies for two years of her life.)

And though Vola Simpson instructs me to use a rolling pin to flatten the dough before cutting it into rounds for baking, Dana was horrified at the very idea of it. The less the dough is handled, the more airy the resulting biscuits.

Since acquiring this eye-opening information, my biscuits have noticeably improved. They still haven’t matched the quality of Dana’s – a lofty goal, indeed, both literally and figuratively – but they ain’t bad. Best of all, the timing couldn’t be better. Just a week ago, Farmer John and Bee Guy Larry harvested this year’s honey.

These are the “supers” Larry removed from our hives a few days prior to harvest. Each super holds nine frames, all of which are brimming with honey the bees packed away during the height of the wildflower season. (Don’t worry – Larry left plenty behind for the bees to eat too.)

The bees cap off the filled honey cells with wax, which is removed with an electric hot knife.

Once the honey is accessible, Larry places the frame into a holder inside a big metal cylinder, attaches the lid and spins the handle, like you would an old-fashioned ice cream maker. The centrifugal force throws the honey off the frame and into the storage area of the cylinder.

There’s a spigot at the bottom. When the cylinder is full, Larry transfers the freshly-extracted honey into buckets with filters attached to the tops. The filtered honey is then poured into 5-gallon lidded containers, where it sits for a few days to settle out the bubbles…

…before ultimately being poured into one-pound jars.

It’s good stuff.

Which brings me to my second painful admission: John and I historically have used very little honey, even though the farm’s apiary has produced it for a few years now. We still have a half-full jar left from last year’s harvest.

Dana and Mary were appalled when they heard our humiliating confession. According to Dana, biscuits and honey should be, if not a daily ritual, at the very least a weekend staple. After tasting this latest batch of honey, I’m thinking I agree. Especially now that I’ve all but mastered the fine art of baking biscuits.

As for Vola Simpson, even though she led me wrong about rolling pins all these years, I forgive her. I suspect Vola’s no longer among the living, but I do hope somewhere along the line someone told her to stop smashing down that dough, and she was able to finally experience the joy of a perfect biscuit slathered with sweet, sweet honey.

* * *

Here’s what we’ll be bringing to the farm stand this Wednesday (we’re winding down for the season, so some things will be in rather short supply…see below**) And like always, we’ll be there RAIN or SHINE:

Jars of Angel Valley Farm wildflower honey (of course!); tomatoes (hopefully a fairly decent amount…we’ll only know for sure after we’ve gone through them); two varieties of Asian cucumbers; many kinds of peppers – super sweet Corno di Toro, red bells, green bells, white bells, Cubanelle frying peppers, and jalapenos; yellow squash and zucchini; four varieties of eggplant; bunches of basil; bags of arugula; butternut squash; acorn squash; spaghetti squash; some of this and some of that.

**Unless some crazy miracle happens, this will be our last Jollyville Road farm stand for the summer. We’ll use August and September to tear out the old and plant the new, and will be ready to come back for the fall season either the last week of September or the first week of October. Stay tuned to the blog!

Thank you for a wonderful year so far!
Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm
Farm stands:
Saturdays 9:00-1:00 in Jonestown on FM 1431 at the blinking yellow light; and
Wednesdays 10:00-2:00 in NW Austin at the Asian American Center on Jollyville Road (1-1/2 blocks north of the intersection of Jollyville and Duval)

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