COTTONWOOD — Dianne Herring wanted to create the warm “table” memories she grew up with for her own young family, and she wanted to do it by cooking like her own mother and mother-in-law.
So, years ago, Herring went to both women and asked to learn their secrets.
“When my son was 6 years old, I realized by eating at the dinner table at my mother’s house and my mother-in-law’s house that if I wanted to give my husband and my son the same memories, I had to learn to cook like my mother and mother-in-law,” Herring said.
One of the first things she wanted to learn was how to make her mother-in-law’s homemade biscuits, the kind of biscuits referred to as cathead biscuits because of their size. But it’s not like her mother-in-law, Othel Herring, used a recipe.
“She would take that flour bowl down from her cabinet, which had the flour in it from the last time she used it, pull back the dish towel that was covering it up,” Dianne Herring said.
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It took a few tries for Herring to get the technique down.
“She had the recipe in her head, but I needed a recipe that I could write down, so I got her to slow down long enough that we could come up with the amount of flour, the amount of Crisco, and the amount of buttermilk, so I could replicate when I came home,” Herring said. “It took several times, but I can make those cathead biscuits.”
After years of gathering and perfecting recipes, Herring compiled her favorites for a cookbook – “D’s Farmhouse Kitchen Recipes” published through Morris Press Cookbooks.
The recipes include a collection of appetizers, beverages, soups, salads, main dishes, breads, side dishes, and desserts. The recipes are chock full of specific brands that Herring has come to rely on in her kitchen. Most of the recipes are uncomplicated in both ingredients and technique. No hard-to-find spices, but you’ll have to keep some Crisco shortening and buttermilk on hand for those cathead biscuits.
There’s a pecan roll that is just three ingredients – a box of crushed graham crackers, a can of Eagle Brand condensed milk and a cup of chopped pecans – shaped like a log, wrapped in aluminum foil and placed in a freezer.
Herring began selling her homemade jellies years ago as a vendor with the online store Market at Dothan. She and her husband, Phillip, grow blackberries, nectarines, peaches, plums, blueberries, and mayhaws at their picturesque farmhouse near Cottonwood. In 2011, she began sharing recipes on her blog mycookingmemories.com. Herring became a contributing chef for local magazine Wiregrass Living in 2013.
While she treasures the recipes she collected from her mother and mother-in-law, it was the quality time she spent with them learning the recipes that continues to mean so much to Herring. Like Othel Herring’s peanut butter cake, a family favorite that Othel made for birthdays, that Dianne now makes for her husband’s birthday.
“The time we had at her table was just priceless,” Dianne Herring said. “She made everyone who came to that table feel special.”
Herring still uses recipes for the majority of things she cooks because she doesn’t want to leave any steps out that could make a difference in the outcome of a dish.
It took her a year of going through all of her own recipes as well as those of her mother-in-law and mother, Peggy Wilford, to decide which ones to include in the cookbook.
There are 180 recipes in “D’s Farmhouse Kitchen Recipes.”
Her cookbook sells for $20 and can be ordered by email at [email protected] or by text sent to 334-805-1462. Herring will also be selling her cookbooks at several upcoming holiday and seasonal events, such as the Dothan Nurseries Fall Festival on Oct. 1 and the Jingle Bell Market set for Oct. 27-29 at the Dothan Civic Center.
She hopes the cookbook will help families share a good meal and quality time together.
“The dinner table is just a wonderful place to share life experiences,” Herring said. “By sitting at my parents’ dinner table and my mother-in-law’s dinner table, I learned a lot about their lives growing up. I learned about why certain recipes meant a lot to them.”
Peggy Ussery is a Dothan Eagle staff writer and can be reached at [email protected] or 334-712-7963. Support her work and that of other Eagle journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at dothaneagle.com.