Southern Skillet Cornbread—the real stuff. I don’t think I’ve ever had it. Look it up, read about it, peruse the comments of others, and what you’ll find is, well, contention and snobbery. And the sad truth is that even living in the land of sweet tea, collard greens, and Hoppin’ John, I’ve never really had what would probably be considered real, true cornbread. How do I know? Because if you read all of those high-minded comments, you’d know that Southerners do not put sugar in their cornbread. But here’s the thing—every cornbread muffin I’ve ever stuffed in my craw has been coarse and chock-full of sugar. And I most certainly am a Southerner.
In my quest for the quintessential Southern New Year’s Day dinner, I chose to pursue the elusive skillet cornbread—straight from the pages of Southern Living who took it from Hoppin’ John Martin Taylor. This would seem to fit the bill.
The result? I’m on the fence. It was really good. Like really, really good. It also was like no cornbread I have ever eaten before. It wasn’t gritty or coarse. It wasn’t sweet or greasy. It was soft, and sort of cake-like, but not like cake at all. I had two slim wedges that I studied for at least five minutes, tasting, thinking, picking, contemplating, and then tasting again. And I just couldn’t reach a definitive conclusion about whether or not it was the kind of cornbread for which I was looking.
I did actually capitulate a bit and add a scant tablespoon of sugar to the batter. Regardless of the no sugar fervor…okay, how to say this kindly? Well, I’m calling BS.
Next time, I think I might add butter to the bacon grease and maybe I’ll use a coarser grind of cornmeal.
slightly adapted from Southern Living’s ‘Skillet Cornbread’ which is adapted from John Martin Taylor’s Hoppin’ John’s Low Country Cooking
3 tbsp. bacon grease
2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
1 ¾ cup fine cornmeal (I used yellow)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 scant tbsp. sugar
Set your oven to 450 degrees F. Put the bacon grease in the 10-inch cast iron skillet and place them into the oven, allowing them to heat up together (the oven, bacon grease, and skillet that is). Ten minutes is the suggested time. I think I let mine go about 7 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and eggs. Stir in the cornmeal
followed by the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar until well combined.
Remove the skillet from the oven, and carefully pour the mixture into the very hot skillet. It will spatter and begin cooking immediately.
Return the skillet to the oven, and bake the cornbread for 15 minutes.
Brush with melted butter.
Yield: 12-18 wedges, depending on how you cut it