Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Southern Staples: Cornbread

Here in the south there are some things that just define the culture...
Some of those being the humidity (take note, southern women don't sweat, we "glisten")
The dialect (hun-neh and pah-dun, included)and especially important, the food.
And be quite certain there "ain't" no one that can serve it up like someone's momma or grandmomma. Those of you that were not lucky enough to be born in the south can cook like one, with the proper instructions, mind you.
Today we are going to examine some of those essential and defining southern dishes. Pretty soon, you will be serving up a slice of cornbread and sweet tea like a southern belle.
Ok, almost....we still need to work on that drawl.
In the meantime....the food.
Every Tuesday on my recipe blog, Plates and Places, I will introduce you to the fine art of southern cuisine... that being SOUTHERN STAPLES. (Today's post is being posted late).

Let me declare that real cornbread is not sweet. Not even in the slightest.
What is more southern than that? I don't know.

My mentor, author Kathryn Tucker Windham loves to say, "Honey, don't matter what...put sugah in cornbread. Because if you do, it becomes cake." I would highly recommend listening to Ms Windham in her own words. I promise you, you will crave cornbread *right now*!

Before we get to the cornbread lets discuss two very important things:
The Cast Iron Skillet: A well seasoned cast iron skillet is essential for good Southern style cornbread. Make sure in your final will and testament that it is clearly stated who inherits your skillet.
The Cornmeal: Today at the grocer, most of the cornmeal you will find has had the oil extracted from the meal. If possible find and purchase stone ground cornmeal. Its natural and contains all of the essential corn oils to make your cornbread crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. Once you try real stone ground cornmeal, you will not go back. I strongly recommend storing cornmeal in your freezer instead of say, your pantry. Freezing it will keep it from having a rancent taste and will always taste fresh. It will not clump, you can scoop straight from the freezer.

Now...the Cornbread. I am going to allow my mother to explain cornbread and how she came to know this recipe that has been in the family for many generations.

"By the time I was "old enough" to help out in the kitchen and help Dada (my maternal grandfather) Mama (my grandmother) has had a debilitating stroke. She still tried to cook meals for Dada and herself. She used a big high stool to sit down on and cook. One hot summer day, she said, "Sharon, I want you to make the cornbread. I'll tell you how." So she sat on that stool and she told me what to do. These measurements are how I make her cornbread to this day. Thanks, Mama!"

Thank you to MY Mama for sharing this with me. It is a recipe that will continue to be passed through generations.

Crisco shoterning (dollop)
1 heaping coffee cup self rising cornmeal
approx. 3 heaping "soup spoons" self rising flour (spoons from eating utensils)
approx. 1/4 tsp baking soda
scant tsp sugar (very scant-this will sweeten the meal only lightly. But you will not taste the sugar)
1 egg (or 2 if you are making a large skillet)
buttermilk (enough to blend and moisten mixture)
water (1 quick burst from kitchen faucet)

Place a big dollop of shortening in skillet. Preheat to 450 degrees. Place skillet in oven with shortening. While skillet is getting hot, measure the dry ingredients (as she told me to measure) and stir then to blend well. Add egg, break yolk and mix into a small well you have made in the dry mix. Add enough buttermilk to make batter thick. Now add the water to thin batter A LITTLE. The mixture should be thick, but not as thick as cake batter. Pour some of the Crisco shortening (not all of it) from the now hot skillet into the batter. Stir hot Crisco in. Pour batter into hot skillet and cook until nice and golden brown. About 20-25 minutes.


Derek said...

Leigh I'm so glad you shared this. Before we left home for college, cornbread was among the things Mama made sure we knew how to do. Mine is real close to this, and I'll look forward to trying yours. If only I could learn to make her biscuits, but mine have never ever turned out.

Now here's the big question... Do you eat your cornbread with sweet milk or buttermilk?

Dawn said...

Now that sounds like the recipes my mom uses..."how much mom?, "just whatever looks right"!
Ha ha ha, that's why my son gets biscuits and cornbread from a box or tube! My poor kids!

Cass @ That Old House said...

Oh my gosh, Leigh, this recipe made me laugh out loud -- now THAT is a family recipe. My mom once asked for my Aunt Sylvia's bread recipe, Sylvia went into the kitchen and came out with a small enamel pot. "You got a pot like this?" "Yes." "Good. Mix 3 pots of flour...."

I'm going to make your sirloin tips tomorrow for my Dad... but I'm afraid I won't have time to make REAL cornbread; it will be from a mix. (Hides head in shame. Don't blame me, I was born in NY.)


Chandy said...

Hi Leigh, so sorry for not visiting more. Lately it's either post or visit and vice versa or none at all.

I'm so all over that recipe, girl! Anything with rice, delish in my book! Thanks and hugs dear Leigh!

Pam said...

Amen, hallelujah and pass the cornbread! This is the cornbread that's been passed down through my family, too (minus the egg). The first time I ever had sweet cornbread, I was aghast. Southern cornbread is the only kind that will do for this girl.