Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cornbread, Georgia Style

A while back I read a quote from Bill Maher about cornbread: "Cornbread isn't bread. It's cake." Of course, if he's only had Yankee cornbread, he would think so. But Southerners know that traditional cornbread from the Deep South doesn't have any sugar in it. Mark Twain agreed, Missourian though he was: "If God had meant for corn bread to have sugar in it, he'd have called it cake."

Traditional Southern cornbread also doesn't have flour in it, and is made from white corn, not yellow. I discussed this with an acquaintance from Alabama a few months ago, and he nodded knowingly. "White corn is for people; yellow corn is for hogs."

Now, I will eat most cornbreads put in front of me. A little sweetness beyond what the corn brings can be a good thing with certain foods. Cookbook author Pam Anderson (no, not THAT Pam Anderson - THIS Pam Anderson) adds a teaspoon of sugar to her cornbread recipe, explaining that it enhances the corn flavor. I can live with that. I enjoy the famous corn cakes from McCabe Pub, which have corn kernels in them if memory serves. I know that lots of people like to load up their cornbread with chiles or peppers.

When I make cornbread, though, I go back to basics and make my Mama's Georgia cornbread. The recipe couldn't be simpler, and it's been engraved on my brain since I was a wee one.

Barbara Ferrell's Georgia Cornbread

1 egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup self-rising white cornmeal / cornmeal mix*

Preheat oven to 500. Generously grease a medium (about 8-inch) cast iron skillet** with shortening, bacon grease, or vegetable oil. Put the skillet in the oven to heat while you mix the batter.

Combine the egg & buttermilk. Gently stir in the cornmeal and mix until just moistened; it's ok if there are still a few lumps. When the fat in the skillet is rocket-hot, remove the skillet from the oven and pour in the batter. (Be careful, it may sizzle and spatter a bit.) Return pan to oven and bake until top starts to brown, 10 to 12 minutes usually. Invert the bread onto a plate immediately and slice into wedges. Serve piping hot with plenty of butter.

* Self-rising cornmeal without flour is hard to find these days, so I usually wind up using the stuff labeled "mix" and live with the bit of flour. I'm a White Lily girl, but Martha White is OK if you must. If self-rising cornmeal/mix isn't available in your area, you can make your own: http://www.food.com/recipe/self-risi...eal-mix-254874

** If you don't have a cast iron skillet of the appropriate size, of course you can use any similar-size pan you have on hand. You just want to use the sturdiest pan possible so it can take the preheating, and make sure it's not non-stick or have plastic parts that aren't suitable for the high oven temp. If you want to use a muffin tin, or have a corn pone pan, just start checking for doneness about halfway through the stated baking time.

1 comment:

heavy hedonist said...

We had a restaurant around here that used to serve real cornbread, along with a fresh, deconstructed sort of salsa of tomatoes and red onion moons on the side. I loved it, even though I was raised on jiffy-style.

I've never made it without flour, I think. Have to try it soon.