Mar 21, 2010

Sunday Scones

I remember lying in the pink bedroom right off the kitchen listening to my grandmother wake the day. I could barely move under the woollen nest of mothball-scented blankets, but I'd stretch my sleepy toes to the hot-water-bottle at the end of the bed to gauge the time by the temperature of its response, and then confirm the early-morning hour by the fading glow of the neon statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. I loved listening to my grandmother set the day, and farm, in motion. She'd shovel out the ashes from yesterday's fire and start today's, roughly fist flour and sour milk together to make scones and soda bread, and wickedly whisper up to my uncle in the garret to go for the cows: "Michael are you up? Michael? Michael get up! MICHAEL, the Boss is rising!"
By the time my grandfather, a.k.a. The Boss, started to rumble in the room off the other side of the kitchen, the breaking sun, milk-dripping cows, and warm bread and scones would all be ready and waiting for him.

My grandmother produced scones then like she produced decades of the rosary and kids (twelve of them)—all without taking a breath. All these years later, her scones are still pumped out almost daily, though these days they are fussed and fought over by her kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids, and fantasized over by those of us outside the scone-zone/country.
I especially feel the scone-pull on a Sunday, when my aunts, uncles, and cousins descend upon Greygrove in constantly rotating shifts to share warm conversation and scones. I imagine myself sitting in by the fire with the dog at my feet, weaving in and out of several simultaneous conversations, and struggling with the want of one more scone and the fact that I'll lose my precious real estate if I move. If I'm lucky, Nana will spot my empty plate and dilemma over all the nodding heads, and quietly butter and slip me another scone, and then while she's standing, top up the kettle from her white bucket of well-water.

I couldn't be in Greygrove today, so I made my own scones; they lack years, news, prayers, sour milk from a bucket, and my Grandmother's touch, but they're not half-bad with raspberry jam and heavy cream ...

Buttermilk scones
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
a generous handful raisins
1 egg lightly beaten and added to buttermilk to make up 1 3/4 cup of liquid
2 tbsp sugar

heavy cream
nice jam

Combine dry ingredients in bowl, and then make a well in center for liquid.
Yell at someone to go get the cows.
Use your hand to stiffly pull the flour and buttermilk together into a soft-but-not-too-sticky dough; no need to knead.

Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and flatten to a round about an inch-and-a-half high. Cut scones in whatever shape you like and bake at 400 degrees F for 10—15 minutes (depending on their size). Remove from oven when the tops are golden (keep an eye on the bottoms so they don't get too brown) and scones are hollow when tapped.
Serve with clotted cream and jam, and a nice pot of tea.


Kate said...

wonderful! I am going to make these as soon as we are back from vacation. I love scones and it's so nice to have an authentic Irish recipe to try. Also love the part that is semi-optional - don't worry I will make jam and cream a requirement :). Is there a special trick to making clotted cream?

Jacinta said...

Two confessions: 1. my Grandmother would never use/waste an egg or sugar on this recipe--she'd just use buttermilk (or really, unpasteurized sour milk)for moisture and raisins for sweetness. The egg adds richness I think, but it's not necessary. 2. I didn't "clot" my cream! It's easy to make but it takes like 8-10 hours. You need an unpasteurized high-fat heavy cream and you just put it in a covered pan in oven at 180F for the whole day! Takes a while but it keeps in your fridge for days and is yummy on everything. My cheat is to whip my heavy cream longer than usual so it has a similar clotted/almost buttery texture. Not the same but good (and fast) enough! ps. you can buy a jar of clotted cream on amazon:

reb said...

i just found your site a week ago and am so glad i did! as dorky as it sounds, i'm an american girl who has been obsessed with your country all her life (but only just found out she was of irish ancestry a few years ago) and being able to hear snippets like these from your experiences are wonderful for me. thank you for sharing everything! i love the links, the recipes, and the memories. please don't ever stop writing!

Jacinta said...

Hi Reb, thank you for your lovely note and for stopping by. Your interest in all things Irish doesn't sound dorky at all—it's obviously an ancestral call! xojac

Kate said...

Thanks for the secret tips on the ingredients! I forwarded your post to Peg and she wrote:
"What an amazing website! I would love to eat those scones!...I wonder where one can get clotted cream." So now she'll also love your info on the alternate version as well as the link to buy!

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