Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much any more. Resist!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Importance of Cornbread

I'm planning a regular dinner, which I'll make before I go to work at 7:00 tonight. Wesley leaves for work at 5:15, so honestly, I could make dinner any time after three. Pork chops and cornbread and black-eyed peas, yessirreebob. It's a calling. I have to have some proper food.

I'm pretty sure I've shared my cornbread recipe with just about anyone who's ever commented on the South's proclivity for the stuff. I am extremely picky about cornbread. It's not supposed to be sweet, y'all. It's supposed to be savory.

First thing you need to know is that it has to be cooked in a cast-iron skillet. I have never even tried to cook cornbread in anything else. I don't know what a non-stick baking pan would do to it, and I do not eat square cornbread. It's supposed to be shaped like a wedge of pie. If it's square, you can pretty much count on it being sweet. Yuck.

Here's the Bay Method of Cornbread:
- About 2 cups of self-rising cornmeal (preferably White Lily brand)
- About 1.5 cups milk or buttermilk (or you can clabber your own buttermilk by adding a tablespoon or two of vinegar to regular milk)
- About 1/4 cup of bacon grease (yes, bacon grease, not vegetable oil or shortening or canola oil or olive oil -- *bacon grease*, don't worry, though, I'll tell you how to get it)
- 1 large egg, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a well-seasoned, 10-inch, cast-iron skillet, prepare four or five pieces of bacon. Set aside the bacon. Chop it up for your salad, snack on it, whatever, it doesn't matter, you really just need the grease *and* you need a hot, hot skillet.

While the bacon is frying, mix up your batter of the cornmeal, clabbered milk, and egg. It'll wait while you finish the bacon.

Pour off the fresh bacon grease into your cornmeal mix, return the skillet to the hot eye on the stove to keep it hot. Pour the batter into the skillet while it's hot. Seriously. It should sizzle quietly. This will ensure a crisp crust.

Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden, tending toward brown. Cut the pone into wedges immediately upon removing from the oven, serve as quickly as possible with butter or margerine. Cornbread is best when it's hot.

Interestingly, I found a handwritten recipe -- sort of -- in one my mother's old cookbooks. It is unfinished, but it appears to be my Aunt Sybil's jalapeno cornbread recipe. Unfortunately, the baking directions aren't included, and it sounds like enough stuff to make two pones of cornbread.

If you're adventurous, here are the ingredients. Let me know if you have success with the baking --
- 3 cups cornmeal
- 2 1/2 cups clabbered milk
- half cup bacon drippings
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup cream corn
- half cup chopped jalapenos
- 6 slices bacon crumbled
- quarter cup chopped pimento
- dash of garlic powder

By the way, Aunt Sybil was a *truly* great cook. She could throw things together like nobody's business and put on feasts fit for a king. Well, a Southern king, anyway!


At 11/4/06 9:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there Bay,
For as long as I can remember my mom has used a cast iron skillet that is divided into triangular sections for making cornbread (crunchy edges on all sides of each piece, yum!). I'm also so happy to find someone outside of my little world who calls the burner on the stove by it's correct name - an eye! :)

Staci B.
in WV


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