When it comes to southern baking, cornbread is about as southern as it gets. One immediately is filled with images of a thick, black, cast-iron skillet emerging from Grandma’s oven and the contrast of that grainy, yellow bread with a crust and browned edges just waiting to be eaten up with molasses or a pat of rich, creamy butter. Okay, okay, our mouths are watering already. Better to move on.
As much as Southerner’s would like to claim cornbread as their own, its origins are deeper than the roots of English colonials who settled here generations ago. Native Americans of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek had their own versions of cornbread long before Europeans ever thought of making voyages to lands far beyond their own shores. Some version of cornbread can be found in countries all over the world, as a flatbread, a pancake, or quick bread. Cornbread filled many a hungry belly in lean years when soldiers went off to fight in the Civil War. Sometimes cornbread or corn pone was found in the pocket of those who sought a new life by traveling westward. Many found cornbread a comfort during World War I, The Great Depression, and World Wat II that followed.
Cornbread is a quick bread made from coarse-ground cornmeal, and though there are different types of cornmeal, stone-ground is the type most commonly used in Southern cuisine. Most Southerners use both yellow or white cornmeal in their recipes. And though there is controversy among Southerners as to whether cornbread should have a spoonful of sugar or not added to the mixture, we all agree cornbread is a staple no Southern kitchen should be without.
This is a basic cornbread recipe familiar in many Southern kitchens. I hope you enjoy it.
Basic Southern Cornbread
1/4 cup bacon drippings (you can use turkey bacon or a substitute)
2 cups self-rising cornmeal
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- Preheat oven to 425*. Cook bacon in a 9-inch cast, iron skillet in the oven.
- Combine cornmeal, baking soda. Make a well in the center of the mixture. Stir together the eggs and buttermilk. Add the mixture to the well and stir until just moistened.
- Remove skillet from oven. Make sure the bacon grease coats the botttom of the skillet. Pour the hot bacon drippings into the cornmeal mixture and stir until blended. Pour the batter into the hot skillet and return to oven.
- Bake for about 30 minutes. Sides should pull away slightly from skillet and the edges should be brown.
Note* There will be cracks in the top of the cornbread. This is normal. It is said that a crack in the cornbread means a new arrival to the family!