A few days ago I blogged about a Southern staple of healthy frugal food, beans and cornbread with greens. Today I’d like to give you my Georgia grandmother’s cornbread recipe.
I learned how to make cornbread standing by my grandmother, in her kitchen. As with so many of the foods she prepared often, she had no recipe for cornbread, so I insisted that we measure as much as we could after she eyeballed amounts. She was particularly fond of measurements like “butter, about the size of a hen egg,” which confounded me until I became the recipient of her most treasured cookbook and discovered that that was the kind of measurement her well-worn nineteenth-century cookbook used. (Please don’t tell my mother I have the cookbook. My mother thinks she got the most treasured cookbook. I don’t think she knew about this cookbook.) It has been two decades since I transcribed this cornbread recipe. At the time, I know I got more direction on how the mixture should look, but I did not write it down. Nonetheless, this recipe produces a darn good cornbread. If you do not have bacon drippings, you can use butter. You could also use apple sauce if you want less fat, but it may produce a little stickier bread. This cornbread is authentic; it was originally lacking completely in sugar, and it has no wheat flour to soften it. The bread’s consequent hardiness makes it perfect for crumbling in beans or mixing with celery, onions, and seasoning in Southern dressing (stuffing for those of you who aren’t Southern).
Tools: one 10-inch cast iron fry pan (Yes, you can use a 9-inch square pan, but the cast iron heat helps create the crust.)
- 2 to 3 Tablespoons bacon drippings (or butter or apple sauce–see note above)–about half of a large cooking spoon
- 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (original recipe called for 3/4 teaspoon)
- optional: 1 teaspoon sugar (not in original recipe but really does perk it up)
- 1 egg (In all likelihood, she would have been using medium eggs.)
- 1 1/3 cup buttermilk (My note says 1 1/4 “or more, if necessary.” This was one of those measurements where she talked about appearance. I think 1 1/3 or even 1 1/2 cup is closer to what you need.) You could use Kefir if you cannot get good buttermilk.
Put the bacon drippings in your skillet and put the whole thing in a 425 degree (F) oven, to melt the drippings and get the skillet hot. Mix the cornmeal, leavening (baking powder), salt, egg, and buttermilk in a bowl. Pull the skillet out of the oven, and swirl the drippings to coat the bottom and a little of the sides. Pour the melted drippings into the batter, stir the batter to incorporate the drippings, and then immediately pour the batter into the skillet. Bake for 30-35 minutes, higher rather than lower in the oven. When you take out the cornbread, flip it over and leave it in the pan upside down to cool. Then flip it back to serve, or flip it onto a plate. Cornbread is served in wedges, cut like pie slices.
Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader. Short excerpts with a full link and reference to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome. Passing off my grandmother’s recipe as your own? not cool!