of this heritage cornbread recipe were used by both my paternal and maternal
grandmothers, my mothers, and most of my aunts. I was taught to cook by
my grandmothers. Grandma Barton, my paternal grandmother, always said
that cornbread never had any sugar added. If sugar was added (a Yankee
heresy), it was no longer cornbread but Johnnie Cake. I usually cook the
way my grandmothers taught me, seldom measuring, except by hand and
eye. The ingredients listed below are close estimates for the recipe
handed down from grandmothers to granddaughter. The flavor and texture
of this cornbread is much improved if one uses stone ground cornmeal
rather than the commercial variety.
cups stone ground cornmeal (white, yellow, or blue)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
4 tablespoons olive oil or melted bacon fat, divided
1 cup (or more) buttermilk
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In large bowl, mix cornmeal, baking
powder, flour, salt, 2 tablespoons of the oil or fat, and 1 cup of
buttermilk. If cornbread batter is too thick (should be the pour-able
consistency of pancake batter), add more buttermilk.
Have a large cast-iron skillet with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil or
fat heating on a burner. Heat until skillet and oil are very hot, but
do not allow the fat to get hot enough to smoke. Leaving heat on under
skillet, pour batter into sizzling hot skillet. This insures a nice,
crispy crust and a tender middle.
Allow batter to cook for about 30
seconds to 1 minute or until bubbles around edges of batter begin to
look a bit dry. Instantly remove skillet from burner and turn
immediately into preheated oven to bake until top is a deep golden brown
(about 20 to 25 minutes). Remove skillet from oven, loosen edges and
bottom of cornbread (if skillet has been properly seasoned, this step
should be an easy one) and turn bread onto serving plate so that the
crisp bottom side is uppermost. It is now ready to cut and serve
If you make cornbread frequently, reserve one large cast-iron skillet,
season it well, and use it exclusively for baking cornbread or homemade
biscuits. A well-used, properly cared for cast-iron skillet will
eventually become so seasoned that you will seldom have any trouble with
the cornbread crust sticking to the bottom of the skillet.
country folks did not cut their cornbread. They took it to the table
whole and allowed each person to use his fingers and break off his own
individual-sized portion. The above bread is delicious crumbled warm
into a glass of cold milk and eaten with a spoon.
My family enjoyed many
a supper of hot cornbread and cold milk when I was a child. This
cornbread is also a basic ingredient, paired with crumbled commercial
white bread, in old-fashioned cornbread dressing for that Thanksgiving
turkey or hen.
You may also want to check out Sonia's
Fashioned Cornbread Dressing.