Sally Weisenberger doesn’t remember exactly when she won blue ribbons for her biscuits at the Kentucky State Fair. “I remember winning for both ‘buttermilk biscuits’ and ‘baking powder biscuits,’” she says, “but I do not remember the date.” It was more than 20 years ago, when she was at home with four children ranging from 10 to 19 years old. Her husband, Mac, was working for his father as the fifth generation of Weisenbergers to run the family- owned mill in Scott County. Since then her oldest child, Philip, has become the sixth generation to work at the mill.
But those winning biscuits were certainly made with the kind of soft wheat flour that makes Southern biscuits famous, low in the protein that gives European-style breads their chewiness. Lower protein wheat is what gives Southern baked goods — biscuits, cakes, piecrusts and cookies — their tender quality.
It’s the product with which August Weisenberger, who immigrated from Baden, Germany, started the mill that bears his name on South Elkhorn Creek. The creek continues to power the mill’s twin turbines, and occasionally floods the modest building that has been in operation since 1865. Soft wheat and corn grown in Kentucky, and a variety of products made with them, are still the cornerstones of Weisenberger business. Though the mill offers a complete line of grains, including hard wheat (for breadmaking), semolina (for pasta) and oats, most of the bags of grits, cornmeal and fl our you’ll find at a grocery store near you will bear a sticker identifying the Kentucky county and sometimes even the farm that provided the contents.
Sally Weisenberger has cooked with those products “probably four times a week” for the 35-plus years she’s been married. “Mac and I and the kids love biscuits and cornbread,” she says. One of her small children, home from spending the night with a friend, said “We had biscuits and they came out of a can,” Sally recalls.
Not hers — they are mixed at home, but not always in the same way. Sometimes it’s with biscuit mix, sometimes with self-rising fl our and other ingredients, sometimes with plain flour. “Most of the time it’s ‘what do I have in the house’” that determines what Sally bakes and how she mixes it, she says. “Here lately we’ve been eating a lot of cornbread,” she says, but it takes different forms. It might be baked in a cast-iron skillet, or in an iron skillet that has walls to make wedges, or in muffin tins, or free form as corn cakes. One time, she added cheese to biscuit mix, a favorite ingredient they serve now with soup and chili. She also makes a wetter dough that is scooped into muffin tins, rather than rolled. “It’s a simple recipe for someone who thinks they can’t roll dough,” she says.
But Sally insists that making biscuits and cornbread is easy. “You just need to practice,” she says.
“For both [blue-ribbon] recipes, I used Weisenberger plain fl our,” says Sally. “I have also used the unbleached plain fl our and it works just as well; however, the biscuits will look a little off -white in color,” she says. “There’s no difference in the taste.” “One other thing I do,” she adds, “is I handle the dough as little as possible. I barely knead it — maybe two or three turns and then pat it into a flattened circle — just enough to keep the dough from sticking when rolling out with a rolling pin.” And her last tip: “I always use buttermilk, and not the low-fat kind.”
WEISENBERGER FLOUR MILL
In Louisville, Weisenberger mixes, grains and/or flours are commonly carried in supermarkets and specialty stores, but not always the same ones in each store. They will ship orders, and the mill is open for retail sales six days a week.
Weisenberger Mill is situated on South Elkhorn Creek, just off Leestown Road between Midway and Lexington, at 2545 Weisenberger Mill Road. The mill is open Monday through Friday 8am to 4:30pm and Saturday 9am – noon. Reach them 859-254-5282 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The website address is www.Weisenberger.com.