Bighearted Cornbread is a staple of Southern food culture. Over the years we’ve taken some abuse about lovin’ our Cornbread- you know songs like ‘Jimmy Crack Corn and I don’t Care’ and ‘Just a Bowl of Butterbeans’ don’t exactly conjure up fine dining. And Yankees have gotten hold of the Southern recipe and tried to improve on perfection by adding sugar- which is sacrilegious where I’m from. Southern Cornbread is made with self rising cornmeal. I will say it again, my grandmother had rules when it came to cornbread. There are two basic types of Plain Southern Cornbread-
- Egg bread is made with self rising cornmeal, sweet milk and eggs. Egg Bread is higher and lighter, is more tender and has a mild flavor. Mimi’s rule was- Cornbread made with eggs paired well with any egg laying meat– chicken, turkey or fish.
- Buttermilk Cornbread. Eggs aren’t added to Buttermilk Cornbread, it is leavened with self rising cornmeal and buttermilk. Buttermilk Cornbread is thinner, crisper and tangier than Egg Bread- therefore it can stand up to the big boys like pork, ham or beef.
Beyond the rules for Plain Cornbread, you will find out just how Bighearted Cornbread is! It takes to having stuff added to it like Cracklin’ Cornbread which is so amazing I’m surprised it hasn’t won top notch culinary prizes! (For the unitiated, cracklins are rendered pieces of pork fat) Cracklins are not smoked like bacon but little chewy bits of pork which are stirred into the batter before it’s baked right into Bighearted Cornbread. Eat Cracklin’ Cornbread and you’ll be happy as a dead pig in the sunshine. Just remember Cracklins’ aren’t Bacon- I’m not sure you can even get them outside of the South. Bighearted Cornbread will accept Crumbled Bacon too!
Now, darlin’ let’s just get this out of the way- Bighearted Cornbread Batter is stirred up either thicker for Hushpuppies, best with chopped onions added, or a more cake batter consistency for Corn Sticks and Corn Muffins. Cornmeal Patties (little fried corn meal cakes- similar to pancakes in shape, form) call for a thinner batter. Bighearted Cornbread will satisfy you no matter what shape it’s in! Old Timers are fond of teaching the Mathematical Equation-telling children, ‘Pie are square, Cornbread are round’– referring to square Fruit Cobblers and Iron-Skillet-Made Cornbread. I am the Third Generation Owner of the Family Iron Skillet. Blessed is the Southern girl who inherits an iron skillet! Cornbread is the Bighearted accompaniment to Spicy Chili, Hearty Soups, Beef Stews and of course Chicken and Dumplings.
Cornbread is Bighearted enough to be made into Mexican Cornbread; a half recipe works well as a Topper to all manner of Mexican Casseroles. Adding weight to a Southern Vegetable Plate, Cornbread is a hearty addition. One of my favorite combinations is Bighearted Cornbread topped with Pepper Jelly; and for a special breakfast treat- Bighearted Cornbread, hot from the oven, is delicious slathered with Butter and Orange Marmalade! You’ll be grinnin’ like a possum! Cornbread is Bighearted enough to be made into a Summer Cornbread Salad- it’s so good and colorful -Crumbled Cornbread is added to Diced Purple Onion, Summer Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Bell Peppers with nothing more than salt, pepper and Sour Cream stirred in, then chilled. Cornbread Salad is a refreshing side to barbeque, fried chicken or even fried catfish!
Recently in one of my old Family Cookbooks I found a recipe for a Bighearted Breakfast Cornbread made with lots of Caramelized Onions, browned Hot Breakfast Sausage, Shredded Cheese, then topped with a half recipe of cornbread batter- baked in a hot oven until golden brown. I topped it with a Fried Egg with fresh cracked pepper and a Baked Apple on the side. It was to die for.
These are just a few examples of how Bighearted Cornbread can accept all manner of ingredients, adapt to the seasons and made into satisfying low cost meals. Bighearted Cornbread might not be the prettiest Belle at the Ball, but she’ll wrap her arms around you and say – ‘Welcome Home, Darlin’…
Love y’all, Camellia
The Cornbread Rules were expounded upon and the Basic Cornbread Recipe was featured in an earlier post entitled- Cornbread Rules, Sugah!
all photographs are mine for better or worse…