Friday, April 16, 2010

Black Skillet Southern Cornbread

Southerners can get pretty worked up about their cornbread. I posted a very old Mexican Cornbread recipe last year, but this is just plain ole cornbread, which I served with my speckled butter beans. Some cooks, like myself, enjoy a slightly sweet cornbread so add a couple of tablespoons of sugar to the batter. Others will declare that blasphemy. Some cooks swear by using buttermilk, others say you should use regular whole milk ("sweet milk").

I have personally never had cornbread I did not like. All in all cornbread is very earthy, peasanty, and forgiving. You really can't go wrong and you don't even have to break out the appliances, a bowl and spoon work just fine. If you have saved some bacon drippings, use that for the shortening, though I have seen the old ladies of the family melt vegetable shortening and use that, with delicious results. I prefer using buttermilk, but in a pinch I have even used water. If you have a black iron skillet, use that for the best crust.

Add sugar, or honey if you please. I did not add it here because I was planning ahead for leftovers, which I wanted to use for a cornbread stuffing that didn't want to be sweetened. Almost all the cornmeal sold in the South is self-rising, so if yours is not, you will need to add 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder and 1/2 tsp. salt to each cup of cornmeal.

Black Skillet Southern Cornbread
1 3/4 cups self-rising cornmeal
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 - 3 Tbsp. sugar, optional
3 Tbsp. bacon drippings or other shortening

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix together the eggs and buttermilk. Stir in the cornmeal, and sugar if using, until well blended. Place the bacon drippings into a black iron skillet and heat in oven until very hot. Working quickly, pour the hot fat into the cornmeal mixture, stir, and pour the batter back into the skillet. It should sizzle and this is when the great crust starts forming.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until very brown. Serve with butter.

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