White Lily Flour leaves Knoxville in the dust

A staple of Southern kitchens since 1883, White Lily Flour is said to be the only flour in the United States milled from soft winter wheat, making it perfect for biscuits and pastries. It was created in Knoxville and milled there continuously for 125 years. Alas, the flour that made Knoxville famous is closing down operations in K-Town and will be moving to a couple of mills somewhere in the Midwest. Jack Neely tells the sad story in Metro Pulse this week, and even The New York Times weighed in with a story last week.

I used to make biscuits with White Lily Flour, which comes in a bag that is taller than most other flours. The flour is less dense than other varieties, so five pounds requires a bigger bag. My grandmothers used lard in their biscuits, whereas I always mixed in Crisco. The late Richard Marius, who brought me to teach writing at Harvard and influenced my life so much, used to make biscuits in Belmont, Massachusetts using While Lily Flour and lard, and I began doing that, too.

Lard really does make a difference; the biscuits are lighter and there’s just a hint of pork taste in them.  Buying lard at the grocery story, however, in these days of healthy eating makes the purchaser feel like trying to slip a National Enquirer into the shopping cart and hoping you don’t run into a friend.

Having biscuits made with lard and White Lily Flour with country ham from Benton’s Country Ham of East Tennessee is, in my opinion, as good as it gets.

This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.

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