Grandma Ethel’s Mimosa Tree

by MichelleR on February 6, 2012

Carol remembers childhood summers running wild on her Grandparents farm in Arkansas. A beautiful white-shuttered farm house hand built by her Grandfather is what Carol still calls home. There were 120 acres for Ethel-Mae’s 19 grandchildren to run around on, along with horses, pigs, cows, chickens and two very large well-tended gardens.

Every Sunday afternoon after Carol’s Grandpa, both town Preacher and Carpenter, delivered his sermon; Grandma Ethel-Mae cooked up a feast back at the farm house. This was not a gathering of just family, but everyone in the town, visitors included. Grandma Ethel-Mae was well known to be the best cook around with her home-made biscuits, fried chicken and even her
buttermilk coconut cake. Her Southern Comfort food always brought the community high spirits.

Carol remembers as a girl snapping peas to help her Grandma make canned vegetables. Everything was fresh off the farm, from black-eye peas to sliced peaches.

Carol and her 18 cousins would climb up and down a huge Mimosa tree, swing on a grand Oak and bathe with soap on a rope in the local creek. Carol even remembers having to bring up large buckets of water to the house, so clothes could be run through a hand cranked ringer. Carol’s Mother, mind you who was born in 1942, was 16 when her parents finally got a working toilet inside the house. Carol’s mother was born 5 miles from the house at her great Aunt’s. With out much money, the Doctor was paid 2-pounds of butter for the delivery of the baby girl. Ethel-Mae bore 5 children; the youngest boy was the only one born in a hospital.

Carol’s childhood was full of catching fireflies and Fourth of July fireworks that filled the sky. Fourth of July memories of helping her Grandma crank the ice machine to make home-made peach ice-cream for the peach cobbler.

Ethel-Mae learned how to drive at the age of 71 from her daughter. She continued to remain strong even after burying 2 of her children. Still she cooked Southern Comfort for anyone around. Grandma Ethel-Mae was “the strongest person I have ever known. She was the rock of my family. Independent and sharp until the day she passed,” says Carol.


Grandma Ethel-Mae’s Home-Made Biscuits

Almost every meal, Grandma had biscuits on the table, warm and fresh. The only thing that didn’t come from the farm was the flour. She would use fresh cow’s milk and home-made butter to spread on top.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder (3 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup shortening
  • 2/3 cup milk or buttermilk or yogurt

First get out your big bowl. Put the flour, baking powder and salt into the bowl. Drop in the shortening and use your fingers to casually mix it in with the dry ingredients. Don’t get too serious about it because it is better to under mix at this point than over mix. There should still be a few lumps of shortening, the size of peas, or even a little bigger. Two minutes or less of mixing should do it.

Next add the milk. Stir it up into soft dough. On dry days you may need another spoonful or two of milk. Form the dough into a soft ball. Get a piece of waxed paper and lay it on your counter. Sprinkle the waxed paper with a little bit of flour. Place the dough ball on the flour and knead it exactly 10 times. No more, no less. This activates the gluten in the flour just enough, but not too much. Next flatten out the dough with a rolling pin or your hands so it is about 3/4″ thick.

Cut into biscuit shapes with a biscuit cutter, or the rim of a clean cup or can. I use a tomato paste can for small biscuits and a tuna can for large biscuits. Lay the biscuits onto a cookie sheet or pizza pan and bake them at 425° for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on their size. Makes about a dozen medium sized biscuits. You can brush them with melted margarine when you take them from the oven if you want them to look pretty when they arrive at the table.

Drop Biscuits: Substitute melted shortening or oil for the solid shortening. Increase the milk to almost a full cup. Stir it into the
flour making sticky dough. Drop the biscuits by small spoonful’s onto an oiled cookie sheet. Bake as directed. These used to be called Emergency Biscuits, in my grandmother’s day, because they could be made in such a hurry. They still make their appearance most often when I have forgotten to plan a hot bread to go with lunch or supper.

Grandma Ethel-Mae’s Coconut Cake

I remember watching my Grandma sprinkle the coconut flakes on-top of the white frosting. It looked like snow falling. It was a tender tasting cake and takes me back to the days when I would eat it on the stone porch watching the life of the farm.

  • 1 (14 oz.) pkg Baker’s Angel Flake Coconut (one
    package will be enough for the cake and the icing)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups sifted flour (sift before measuring
    flour, then add baking powder, soda and salt and sift 3 more times)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • large pinch salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut, whizzed in a food
    processor or blender until minced

Cake Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Using a stand mixer, cream butter until fluffy.  It took about twice as long to beat my cold butter fluffy.

Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6-8 minutes. Color and texture will lighten.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each
addition.  Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and coconut and beat just until mixed.

Divide batter equally among prepared pans.  Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4 inches above counter, then dropping it flat onto counter (this part was fun, I dropped from higher because it makes a bigger noise).  Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure a more level cake.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until done. Cool in pans on wire racks 5-10 minutes.  Then invert layers onto cooling racks.  Cool completely and spread cake layers with frosting to make a 3 layer cake.

Icing Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 4 unbeaten egg whites
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Icing Directions

Combine all ingredients in top of a double boiler.   Don’t let the simmering water touch the bottom of the pan (helps prevent grainy texture).  Use mixer to stir.  Beat briskly 7-10 minutes or longer until frosting is fluffy and holds a stiff peak.

Frost the top of the lowest cake layer and sprinkle liberally with coconut.  The coconut provides friction to keep the next layer from sliding sideways on the frosting, as well as adding coconut flavor.
Repeat.  After placing the third layer, frost the top first and then down the sides.  Sprinkle coconut on top.

Grandma Ethel-Mae’s Old-fashioned Peach Cobbler

I remember it was Fourth of July when I first had my Grandma’s peach cobbler. My grandmother grew peaches on the farm and she would make sure that they were just-right. I remember having her cobbler during the summers I spent there with family and friends.

  • 4 cups fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

In a medium pot, cook peaches, water, sugar, margarine, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg until tender but not mushy. Set aside.

Pastry for Peach Cobbler:

  • 2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup cold water

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, and salt. Work in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Gradually add cold water, stirring, just until the dough holds its shape. Roll out on a floured board and cut into strips. Work with clean hands to form dough into a ball. Chill 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Roll out half of dough and cut into stripes about ½ inch thickness. Pour half of peaches in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Top peaches with about 6 to 8 pastry stripes spreading about 2 inches apart. Bake until stripes are lightly brown and flaky. Pour remaining peaches over stripes then weave stripes into a lattice over peaches. Sprinkle with topping.

Topping for Peach Cobbler:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons margarine, soften

Mix sugar and cinnamon together. Sprinkle on top of cobbler. Speckle top with margarine about 2 to 4 inches apart. Return to oven and bake until top crust is golden brown.



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