August 29, 2009

Southern Cornbread

Southern Cornbread is bread to accompany a meal. It is not cake. It is not dessert. It is not sweet. If you like sweet cornbread, fine...put sugar in it. Just don't call it Southern Cornbread. And most Southerners spell it "cornbread" (one word), not "corn bread".

You should use a cast iron skillet for your cornbread. It will not be the same without it. And it's the traditional way to cook Southern Cornbread. Cast iron is inexpensive and it lasts a lifetime. You can pass it down to your children.

This recipe is for an 8 inch skillet and makes a thick cornbread with lots of soft insides. You should fill to within 1/2 to 1 inch of top of the rim. If you use a larger skillet you will get a thinner, crunchier bread.
* 2 cups white cornmeal
* 2/3 cup flour
* 1-1/2 tablespoons baking powder
* 3/4 teaspoon baking soda (omit if you use regular milk rather than buttermilk)
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* Dash of black pepper
* 1 and 2/3 cups buttermilk (more or less)
* 2-3 tablespoons of bacon drippings (you may substitute cooking oil but you lose flavor)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
2. Prepare the skillet by placing the bacon drippings in the skillet and roll the skillet or use a paper towel to coat the interior sides of the skillet with the bacon grease. Place the skillet in the pre-heated oven while preparing the following batter.
3. In a medium size bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and mix well.
4. Add 3/4 of the buttermilk and stir.
Remove skillet from oven and slowly add about 1 tablespoon of the hot oil (bacon grease) from the skillet, into the batter, stirring well. (Use a pot holder to pick up the skillet!!)
Note: the skillet and bacon grease should be very hot but not smoking.
5. Watching the consistency of the batter, carefully add remainder of buttermilk while stirring.
The consistency of the cornbread batter should look like a thick pancake mix. This may require a little more or less of the remaining buttermilk. If the mix is too thick, add more buttermilk. If the mixture is too thin, add more cornmeal.
6. Lightly sprinkle the skillet bottom with dry corn meal and pour in the batter.
Immediately, place skillet in pre-heated oven.
7. Bake at 400 degrees approximately 25 minutes. Time will vary according to the consistency of the batter you end up with. Watch the cornbread after about 20 minutes and cook until the top is golden brown.
8. After the top is brown, remove the cornbread from the oven and flip the cornbread over in the skillet (see tip below), then continue baking another 5 minutes.

Serve hot. Makes 4 large servings.

Tip: If the cornbread sticks (step 8), run a table knife completely around the inside wall of the skillet while gently shaking. This will usually free the bread for you to flip it over. Protect your's hot! If the bread does not come out easily, do not try to turn it over. It will crumble and fall apart. Just skip step 8. Allow to cool a few minutes, then run a knife around the edge, while shaking, and the bread should come out in one piece.

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