Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Good Eats

When growing up I had two, no three, favorite breakfasts. Salt Roe Herring with homemade biscuits was one. Another was Red Eye Gravy with biscuits. And the third was Salt Rising Bread with mashed up hard boiled eggs on the side.

None are available any longer. The fish has been fished out. The hams all have too many preservatives or are cured differently than my grandmother's method which produced the gravy of memory as well as ham to be cherished. The bread I could bake but none of the recipes I find have the right ingredients, they all have corn meal. Both my aunt and I do not recall any corn meal flavor in this dense bread. No one in the family can locate a copy of the recipe that was used by my grandmother and mother to bake the bread.

Now lest you think this a maudlin post it is not, it is a thank you to the breakfast gods for some really good eats.

This is the way the Salt Roe Herring breakfast went down. The fish were set to soak in brine months before consumption. They were sold that way. When you were ready to eat them, you soaked your quantity overnight in fresh water to lessen the salty flavor and then fried the fish up fresh while the biscuits were baking. Some folks ate the fish but I found it too salty even after the soaking. But the roe, ah the roe, cooked inside the fish was just right. You would remove the entire row of roe, mash it up with butter and spread it on the warm biscuit. And no, canned roe would not do. Mom tried a few times through the years but canned was a poor substitute.

Red Eye Gravy heated and poured over fresh from the oven biscuits was just as heavenly. Mother Leigh made her gravy by adding just a bit of the ham fat drippings to the red gravy base which was of course what was left after cooking her perfectly cured ham. She discarded most of the fat drippings keeping just enough to mix in with the red juice to produce just the right amount of salty gravy. Since the ham had been cured with a good amount of sugar and black pepper those subtle under flavors mixed with the salt were divine.

And lastly Salt Rising Bread. If you have never eaten Salt Rising Bread you are possibly going to laugh at this writing. The somewhat heavy salty bread was sliced, toasted and then dipped into hot boiling water for the briefest moment to cause it to become soggy but not to the point of falling apart. Yes, wet bread. This dipped bread was scooped onto your waiting plate where you slathered it with butter and dug in. The side dish of warm mashed with a touch of butter hard boiled eggs completed a delicious breakfast.

Add to any of these amazing breakfasts a cup of Mother Leigh's (my name for my grandmother, Branch Leigh Arthur Jett) double drip coffee and you were in breakfast heaven. For the children she would modify the coffee by adding lots of sugar and cream and call it coffee milk.