November 21, 2010
Aunt Suzy says . . .
I recently posted a recipe for Southern Style Greens and stated that serving them with cornbread was a must. There are many approaches to making cornbread – some are lighter/cake-like, some are denser/chewier and some come right out of a box! I love this old-fashioned approach that doesn’t use wheat flour or sugar and has a pure corn taste, crunchy outside and chewy texture. This recipe is from the 1800’s and is an old family recipe my guy Randy learned from his grandmother. So I’ve asked him tell the story of this cornbread and share the recipe. I hope you try it!
Guest Chef Randy Tatum says . . .
This was a weekly staple at Sunday fried chicken dinners in my family’s Texas home. My grandmother, born in 1888, saw to its preparation well into her 80’s. Some of the ingredients were measured, but the liquid amount was based on her judgment of the “look” of the batter. The term she used in teaching me the recipe was “sort of blobby.” I went through many quarts of buttermilk as I tried to master this seemingly simple recipe. I wanted to achieve that wonderfully browned crust with an almost creamy but firm inside as she did effortlessly every time. When I consistently hit on the right combination of two-and-a-quarter cups, I felt I had joined the family.
This is an old recipe that came with my mother’s family as they migrated from Georgia to Texas before the Civil War. Because cornbread is such a staple of southern cooking and has a long history in the South, the genealogists in our family used this recipe to trace the origins of the Harvey family. It was known they started out from Georgia but exactly which part was unknown. This recipe, because of its simplicity, pointed to southern Georgia. Recipes containing flour indicated the northern part of the state. Those with added sugar meant they would have come from closer to or in Tennessee where these ingredients were more available and tastes more refined. I am proud to have such a tangible link to my ancestors.
2 cups yellow cornmeal – we use 1 cup fine grind and 1 cup coarse grind
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 egg beaten
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable shortening or solid coconut oil
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees
Stir dry ingredients together. Using an 8″ cast iron skillet, melt shortening over medium heat and leave on the burner. Meanwhile, beat buttermilk and egg together and then add to dry ingredients and blend. The mixture should have the consistency of a thick pancake batter. It is okay if it has a few lumps – be careful not to over-blend. Aunt Suzy editorial comment: I do not think stirring with a knife would be 4H approved :-). But Randy says this is the best way to blend the wet into the dry ingredients.
When the shortening just begins to smoke, pour into batter and stir to blend. (There should be some shortening left in the skillet making it easier to remove the cornbread once it has come from the oven.) Pour this mixture back into the heated skillet and immediately place into oven.
Bake for 25 minutes and check as you would for a cake – the top should be nicely browned and a knife inserted should come out clean. Remove skillet from oven and let sit for five minutes before removing cornbread.
Run a knife around the edge, flip out and let rest on a wire rack for five to ten minutes before cutting into wedges. Note the dark crust-like bottom of this cornbread, which is very different from cornbread made in a cake-pan. Don’t be alarmed – this is part of the deliciousness!