October 24, 2006

To return the erring to the way.

Since I pretend to be an authority on all things, and most particularly upon matters pertaining to things Southern, and even MORE particularly, things Southern that people put inside of their mouths, I am often called upon to gently guide the culinary lost sheep of this nation to a more proper understanding of the proper manner and method of cooking various dishes, or, failing in that effort, to smite all upon the infidels with a big skillet who don't do things right.

SUCH IS THE CASE with one Miss Diane, quilter and Wisconsonian who this past Sabbath got herself a powerful hankering for some cornbread.

Alas, I was too late to save her from committing an abomination before the Lord, but it is my hope that we can get her back upon the straight and narrer when it comes to this most humble and earthy of comestibles.

AND THUS ONCE MORE, we embark upon our sermon for the day:

How to Cook Cornbead

I would ask the congregation to click to The Website of Jane Linton and the chapter entitled "Cornbread."

Now let us read: Ask ten Southern cooks and you'll get ten different recipes for making cornbread. But one ingredient a true Southern cook will not include in her, or his, recipe is sugar....

And amen.

Miss Jane has several recipes for cornbread, but this one is about what I make:


Country Style

2 cups of self-rising cornmeal
2 eggs beaten
2 cups buttermilk
2 Tablespoons bacon drippings, melted, or veg. oil

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Grease your 9-inch skillet with about 2 tablespoon of shortening or oil (Use bacon drippings instead if available). Leave oil in bottom of pan.

Place pan in oven to heat.

Combine cornmeal, 2 eggs, buttermilk, and the melted bacon drippings. Mix well. I find a whisk does this nicely. Pour into hot skillet. Batter will sizzle.

Bake at 450 degrees for 35 minutes or until golden brown. Serves 6 to 8

Hint: Sprinkle a little cornmeal in the hot pan before adding the batter. It will brown and add a crispier texture.

That's it. One thing must not be overlooked, however--the skillet. Scroll down Miss Jane's page to see how to properly season a skillet, and yes, you pretty much have to use a cast iron skillet, which is what the Lord gave unto Moses right after he gave him that big stone cookbook.

Of all the things, the skillet is the thing that is the most important because that's the only way you get that crunchy crust all around. It does have to be fully hot before you pour in the batter, and the more you use it the better it will get. As the instructions say, don't wash it with soap and water--you wipe it out with a paper towel. If you just can't stand the idea of not getting it any less than spotless, you can use a little cornmeal for grit to clean it with. But let's face it--if you heat it up to 450 degrees, nothing's going to live on it that'll hurt you.

Use a good quality iron, too. I've got a set of cheap Chinese skillets and although they're okay, the surface is a bit too rough to take a good seasoning. Once my mother dies, though, her skillet is the first thing I'm stealing from her--she's got a good one that's almost as old as she is.

Now, for those of you who just can't leave well enough alone, do what you will, but realize it makes the angels cry when you get that sugar scoop out.

We ask those of you who've been doing that which is unseemly to repent of your sinful ways. Or I'll hit you with a skillet.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at October 24, 2006 01:45 PM

Oh, yum! Thanks so much - I love the ease of remembering the ingredients - 2 of whatever unit. Haven't seen the self-rising cornmeal up here, but haven't actually looked for it.

As for the skillet - there are some things that transcend Southern cooking (I know they are few and far between): I bought a good 9" cast iron skillet about ten years ago, for the purpose of making an Italian fritata. I figure if the eggs won't stick, neither will the cornbread. Water never touches it, nor do tomato-based products (takes all that wonderful seasoning off, and makes me wonder what it does to my stomach).

I'm off to find the cornmeal...

Posted by: Diane at October 24, 2006 02:04 PM


By the way, what brand of skillet is that? I've been thinking of getting another one so I don't have to keep using the ones I don't like all that much.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at October 24, 2006 02:11 PM

I use Lodge brand and get them from Cabela's all ready preseasoned as gifts. My castiorn is older than I am and I expect to pass it to my grandkids. Heh, that'll be a fight to see.

Posted by: Tony von Krag at October 24, 2006 03:10 PM

Indeed so--I might sneak in and grab a few things myself...

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at October 24, 2006 03:19 PM

I buy my cast iron preseasoned at yard sales. I'm not sure that it's quite the same high quality as what Tony is buying, but the price is right. You can buy the preseasoned Lodge stuff at Cracker Barrel, by the way.

Posted by: Jordana at October 24, 2006 03:19 PM

I think your idea of the thrift store is a pretty good one. It's amazing what some people will give away thinking it's just something old and worthless.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at October 24, 2006 03:26 PM

You know, I love cornbread. But I am certain I have never ahd it prepared in a cast iron skillet baked in the oven like you describe. I think I may have to get my BSU a cast iron skillet just so we can try your recipe. I'm ready to be surprised.

I'm also gonna ask my mamma, since I'm in Michigan to see her, what she knows about using a cast iron skillet for corn bread.

Posted by: Nate at October 24, 2006 10:54 PM

Benjamin & Medwin is the brand.

Ooo - Cabela's just opened in the region - I may need to take a road trip (just to look!).

Yard sales are a great idea - granny spends years seasoning the pan, and the grandkids sell it for a quarter.

Posted by: Diane at October 24, 2006 11:02 PM

oh, YUM.

My skillet was brought over by my great gran from Ireland, and was once used to whack someone over the head. we're not supposed to ask who.

Posted by: Sarah at November 7, 2006 08:34 AM

Oh, come on, Sarah--you need to find out and see if they wound up slanty-headed!

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at November 7, 2006 08:42 AM