Friday, September 21, 2012

Diane's Good Cornbread

(Guest post by Jennifer Harris at Ponderings of an Elect Exile.)

I've been on a massive baking spree lately.  I think that yesterday was my 20th batch of chocolate chip cookies in less than 5 weeks, not to mention a whole host of other warm, yummy goodness during that time. I'm not typically such a baking fiend, but we were recently surprised with a new oven (and two new mixers!) after almost two years without an oven, so we've gone a bit baking crazy around here. :) 

When we found out we were getting a new oven, the kids (and my husband) began making a list of what they wanted to bake first.  Other than the aforementioned chocolate chip cookies, the list included banana bread, muffins, brownies, Dad's homemade pizza, baked potatoes, frozen pizza, lasagna, and biscuits (for biscuits and gravy).  Some of those things we'd figured out other ways to the microwave, crockpot, or toaster oven...but in pretty much every instance, they just weren't quite as good.  Other Dad's pizza...we'd just had to give up on entirely.

While I was excited about all the things on their list, the thing I was most excited about was cornbread.  I'm a southern girl.  I love my cornbread.  Cooked in bacon grease, preferably in an iron skillet (although I made some seriously yummy cornbread in a glass pie plate for years when I didn't have cast iron), and smothered in butter.  Yum. 

When Tauna asked me a while back to guest post on her blog a while back, I said, "Sure!"  Then I asked what she'd like me to post about.  "How about a craft or recipe post?" was her reply.  

Now...I love crafting, and I've taught scrapbooking, paper arts, and other craft classes off and on for years.  But I haven't posted anything remotely crafty on my blog in...well, in a very long while.  As much as I would like to say otherwise, this hasn't been a very crafty season of life for me.  So the thought of a craft post at this point made me shudder a bit. :)  (Especially when Tauna's been doing such fantabulous crafty tutorials lately! ;-))

So...okay, a recipe.  The only problem there is...I have very few "original" recipes, and those I have aren't really "recipes"; they are more like "how-to-make-this narratives" (case in point: this post on Saloon Beef and Billy's Ridiculously Easy Crock Pot Mac-and-Cheese).  

Then I thought...aha!  I have been wanting to start a series on my blog of "vintage recipes" from family and friends along with the stories behind them.  I could share my grandmother's lemon chess pie recipe, which is one of my favorite desserts in the whole world, and second only to cornbread on my personal list of "what to bake next".  

I could breathe easy...I had the perfect plan.  Perfect, that is, until I discovered that Granny Kitty's recipe box was nowhere to be found.  ACKK.  I have turned the house upside down looking for it, and I have the other recipe box that has always, since I was first married, been right next to it...but no avocado green metal index card file decorated many years ago by my grandmother with orange and yellow Contac paper flowers.  :-(

So...on to plan C. D? Z?  I'd lost count, and I was beginning to fret a bit.  

And then a friend said, "What about that 'Good Cornbread' recipe?"  

I have such brilliant friends. :)

I actually blogged on the "Good Cornbread" recipe a few years back, but I had been thinking recently that I needed to do an updated post.  Finally, "Plan Final" for the guest post. :)

A little background on this recipe.  My Granny Marks made the world's best cornbread (along with the world's best fried chicken, the world's best dressing, and the world's best scrambled eggs.)  The scrambled eggs I can pretty much duplicate, but the rest are, I'm afraid, lost forever.  I'm not sure what happened to her recipe box, but unlike Granny Kitty's, which I know is here, and which I'm sure I'll find as soon as the lightbulb goes off about the "safe place" I put it :), I never had Granny Marks's, so there's little hope of ever finding it. 

Many years ago, though, a friend of my mom's gave her a recipe for "Good Cornbread".  I still have the original recipe card, in our friend's beautiful handwriting, with her personal notes on the recipe.  I really wanted to take a picture of the recipe card for this post...but, alas, it is in that same missing green recipe box. :-(  Fortunately, though, after temporarily losing track of it a few years ago, I got the recipe from our friend again via Facebook and posted it on my blog so we wouldn't lose it ever again. :)  And now it's going to be on Tauna's blog for double-backup!

The name of Diane's recipe is a bit deceptive.  It should be called "super-duper-good cornbread"  or "amazingly wonderful cornbread" or something else with lots of superlatives.  It's the best cornbread I've ever had next to my grandmother's (well, and my dad's jalapeno cornbread, but that's a totally different ball of wax. :))

Start out with an 8-inch pan.  For years, I made this cornbread in an 8-inch glass pie plate.  It turned out perfectly every time.  Now that I have cast iron again, I've been making it in my 9-inch cast iron skillet, because that's the smallest I have.  It works; the cornbread just isn't as deep, and you have to watch your cooking time a bit more closely.  One of these days I'm going to figure out how to convert the recipe to use my 10 inch skillet and make the deeper cornbread.  

I love my cast iron skillets.  They were gifted to me by a couple of friends, so they have a sentimental attachment for, they remind me of my grandmother. :) They came to me with that old, worn, almost silky seasoned surface that makes cooking in them a delight. Not sure why this one looks almost rusty in the photos...weird lighting in my kitchen, I guess.

Next, you need some bacon grease.  Because I don't want to have to cook bacon every time I bake cornbread, I keep bacon grease in this little vintage jar in the fridge.  Isn't it cute?  My friend Jodie found these several years ago after we'd had a discussion about storing bacon grease.   (And no, there's no bacon grease there...I took this photo back when she first gave me the jar. :))

PSA re. using glass to store bacon grease:  Always be sure to let your bacon grease cool a bit before transferring to the jar.  Thanks to my friend Jerri Sue for sharing this warning when I first posted about my jar...she learned this the hard way when she ended up in the ER getting stitches because her jar exploded. :-( 

Now...back to the bacon grease.   Add a "hunk" to your skillet, put the skillet in the oven, turn the oven on to 450, and heat till grease is smoking.  (I know...some of you are asking how much a "hunk" is.  You may have to experiment a bit to decide what works best for you.  I'm guessing my "hunk" is about 3 T.? More or less. ;-)  You don't want to skimp here, trust me.) 

While waiting for bacon grease to melt/smoke, begin gathering and mixing other ingredients.  The original recipe says to sift the dry ingredients together.  Diane's notes said she never sifts, and neither do I. :)  Toss a cup of cornmeal, 1/2 tsp. of salt, 1/2 tsp. of baking soda, and 1 tbsp. sugar together in a medium-large bowl.  

In another bowl, beat one egg and mix with one cup buttermilk.  Add to dry ingredients just before putting in oven, or mixture will rise in the bowl.  

When grease is smoking, pour cornbread batter in skillet.  Bacon grease will come up over the edges of the batter and look a bit funky.  This is good.  It makes that delectable crispy-crunchy-yummy crust that other cornbreads envy. :)

Bake for 20 minutes at 450.  (Watch closely if you are using a larger will bake faster because it's not as thick.)  

Grab a piece for yourself quick before your family inhales the rest. :)   If you are lucky enough to have leftovers, they are great warmed with butter and a bit of maple syrup or honey for breakfast.  Yummm. 

Diane's "Good Cornbread"

1 c. cornmeal
1/2 t. soda
1/2 t. salt
1 T. sugar
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk

Sift dry ingredients together. (She doesn't, and neither do I :)). Beat one egg and mix with buttermilk. Add to dry
ingredients just before putting in oven, as they will rise in the bowl if prepared too far in
advance.  Add a hunk of bacon grease to the pan, place in oven and heat oven to 450.  Keep pan in oven until grease is smoking. Add batter and bake about 20 minutes. Makes an 8 inch round skillet of cornbread.

Huge thanks to Tauna for letting me guest post here at creative confetti!  Tauna has been one of my dearest bffs for over half a lifetime.  I remember being so excited when she first started her blog...from her Haiti Journals to her photo tours of downtown Nashville to her crafty tutorials to her pics of her beautiful family...and everything in between...creative confetti is one of my very favorite blogs ever. :)   

I'm thrilled to be posting here today, and would love to "meet" you, her readers, in the comments.   Tell me about your favorite family recipe, or the food you most craved but couldn't for whatever reason have at some point in your life.  I'd love to hear all about it! 

Jennifer Harris 


mary b said...

I remember mom teaching me how to make everything from biscuits to apple pie from scratch. I am so happy that you have a working oven to cook yummy cornbread in. Would love to know hubby's receipe for his awesome pizza.

t marie said...

Thank you Jennifer for a delightful recipe and memories that go with it.

Jennifer said...

Okay, apparently my posts are not only disappearing from Facebook, but from Blogger as well. I commented on this last night, and now it's gone. UGH. I said something on the order of this:

Thank you, ladies! Mary, you reminded me that I want to try your mama's skillet apple pie this week. And I'm hoping to do a post on Billy's pizza very soon...although, as usual...there really isn't a recipe...just a husband who loves to play in the kitchen! :)

Jennifer said...

Just thought I'd come back and update that I tried doubling the recipe in my 10.25 inch iron skillet this week...worked perfectly! :)

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