Cracklin’ Biscuits

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes about

    1 dozen

    biscuits

Appears in

The Glory of Southern Cooking

The Glory of Southern Cooking

By James Villas

Published 2007

  • About

Cracklings (or, in Southern lingo, “cracklin’s”), which are crispy, delicious morsels of pork fat after it has been rendered in a skillet or during the roasting or barbecue process, have been an important component of Southern cooking ever since lard was first rendered after fall hog killings hundreds of years ago. Today, cracklin’s (or “grattons,” in Cajun Louisiana) are still used in homes all over the South to enhance vegetables, beans, chopped pork barbecue, and all sorts of cornbreads (or “cracklin’ bread”), but never do I love the crunchy bits more than when they’re scattered through hot biscuits. In the South, cracklin’s are often sold packaged in supermarkets, but you can make your own very easily, simply by rendering finely diced salt pork in a heavy iron skillet. (When I barbecue a couple of pork shoulders in a pit or on a grill, I wouldn’t dream of tossing out any extra cracklin’s that haven’t been added to the chopped meat.) Think seriously about doubling this recipe.

Ingredients

  • ½ envelope active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons warm water
  • ¼ cup finely diced salt pork
  • cups unbleached (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ cup chilled vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup whole milk or regular buttermilk

Method

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the water and let proof till bubbly, about 5 minutes.

In a small, heavy skillet, fry the salt pork over moderate heat till well browned and crisp, about 10 minutes, then drain the cracklin’s on paper towels.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Add the shortening and rub it into the flour with your fingertips till the mixture is mealy. Add the cracklin’s and stir till well blended. Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour the yeast mixture and buttermilk into the well, and stir gently just till the dry ingredients are moistened and the dough is soft. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let rise in a warm area about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead about 8 times. Roll out about ½ inch thick and cut out rounds with a 2½-inch biscuit cutter. Roll the scraps together and cut out more rounds. Arrange the rounds on a baking sheet about 1 inch apart and bake in the upper third of the oven till golden brown, about 15 minutes.