Friends Drift Inn Farm Recipe
Appalachian Home Style Cornpone – Authentic Cornbread
I live in Appalachia. When Grandma passes away one of the first quarrels sure to break out is who gets the cast iron skillets. I have several. I am scrappy that way! Giggles
A Facebook friend recently confided she did not have cast iron skillets. I was stunned. I lead a sheltered life I guess. I thought everybody had at least one cast iron skillet. You cannot make cornbread without a cast iron skillet. You just can’t.
You don’t cut cornbread either. You will have bad luck! Cornpones should be served on a plate and passed around, each lucky recipient breaking off a chunk of golden goodness. It is symbolic of our tradition of sharing.
To enjoy freshly baked crusty cornbread with just a little bit of moist crumbs scattering across pinto soup beans flavored with a smoked ham hock is to virtually link the past, present, and future together on an favorite dinner plate.
If you want to set off a firestorm of arguments with hillbilly cooks, just suggest adding flour or sugar to a cornbread recipe. Honey, you will never inherit the cast iron skillets with talk like that!
Charlie does not use flour for cornbread, but his momma did. Sometimes if the corn meal is really fresh, I confess I might add just a tablespoon or two but you do not need to spread that around! Wink!
I have my own ways with making cornbread. I make cornbread by sight and feel. Some grinds of cornmeal are softer than others; there are different moisture contents. The best cornmeal is fresh ground. Even here in the heart of Appalachia, fresh cornmeal is hard to get. I have a source and I ain’t sharing. Giggles
Get the freshest cornmeal you can. For ultimately fresh meal, grow a dent field corn and grind your own.
Chef Sean Brock suggests it will take about 1/4 pound of bacon fried, to produce enough bacon drippings for this recipe. Here in Appalachia, most cooks worth their salt keep a mason jar filled with bacon drippings on back of the stove. You never know when a little bacon grease will come in handy! The amount of bacon grease needed is subjective. If your cast iron skillet is well-seasoned you might not need as much as you would if using a new cast iron skillet.
Cornbread Recipe A Good Cornpone
This is the way I make it. Yep, it looks a lot like Sean Brock’s and Ronni Lundy’s recipe or maybe it looks just like Charlie’s Aunt Emmie’s recipe. Hard to say.
Quick Bread, Cornbread, Appalachian Recipe
- 2 cups of yellow cornmeal (organic preferred)
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon of table salt (a pinch)
- 1 large egg (organic preferred)
- 1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups of buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons of bacon grease for batter, plus 3 for the skillet
Optional ingredients: Sometimes I add a ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Other times I add one cup of freshly cut corn kernels. If company is coming, I follow Chef Sean Brock’s lead and throw crispy bacon crumbles to the mix. Red pickled peppers makes for a flavor zing and a beautiful presentation. Use your imagination. Recipes are starting points, not stone chiseled edicts.
1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. In a 9 or 10 inch cast iron skillet with deep sides, add 2 or 3 tablespoons of bacon grease and put in the oven. You want the skillet to get screaming hot. Have a potholder nearby, and don’t forget to use it!
3. In a large mixing bowl, add all the dry ingredients. Whisk.
4. Add egg. I start with 1 1/4 cups of buttermilk, but if it seems too dry I add another 1/4 cup. Add a few tablespoons of bacon grease. Stir sparingly; I prefer a wooden spoon. Batter should be moist but not runny. If it looks too wet add just a little more cornmeal. Walk away. Let the leavening agents work for 5 minutes. This will give your cornbread a little lift.
5. Remove skillet from oven. Pour batter in. Batter should cover bottom of pan. Shove back in the oven.
6. Bake until the edges turn golden brown; my oven is slow but I usually start checking it around the 30 minute mark. If this is your first time making cornbread (GASP!) you should give it at peek at the 25 minute mark. Like cake, it is done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. We like a crisp bottom crust, so I usually go about
7. Remove skillet from oven. Place on heat resistant surface. Position a platter upside-down over skillet. Holding plate in one hand and skillet handle in the other, flip out the corn pone onto the plate.
Notes and Observations:
For family we serve with bottom side up. For company, we will flip the bread again revealing all the crooks and crannies that makes butter find a place to party. I have seen some cooks lightly brush the top with melted butter or bacon drippings just before serving. Cornbread often rests on the back of the stove, and is just fine for a grab and go breakfast crumbled up in a bowl of milk like cereal. Traditional cornbread meals would include pinto soup beans with fried potatoes and maybe a side of cooked greens. In summertime we make a Cornbread Salad with seasonal vegetables.
Serves 6 – 8 depending on how hungry they are!
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