Authentic Southern Cornbread

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Continuing on this week’s theme of The South, I’m sharing another American Deep South recipe, and for the American Deep South, it just doesn’t get more iconic than cornbread. No one who grew up between about West Virginia and west Texas doesn’t have too many memories to count of eating good ol’ proper Southern cornbread; you eat them at picnics, it’s a standard side at barbecue restaurants, and sometimes just a side at dinner. Or an afternoon snack.

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But, Southerners are picky about how their cornbread is made: no sugar in the batter! This is of utmost importance. Cornbread is not cake. It is supposed to be served alongside your dinner, and therefore it cannot be sweetened at all. You serve wedges of cornbread hot out of the oven with a pat of butter slathered all over. That part is not optional.

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Like anyone who grew up in this general region, I ate my fair share of cornbread growing up (and probably a few others’ fair shares too, to be perfectly frank!). So I know beyond a doubt that not all southern cornbread is created equal. This may be blasphemous of me to say, but I actually understand why the Yankees started putting sugar in the batter, because there is a lot of dry cornbread out there. It’s shameful, but true. This recipe, however….. This cornbread is among the moistest cornbread I’ve ever tasted in my life. Strong statement, but 100% true.

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And to make an even stronger statement now: I think I may be done trying new cornbread recipes. This one might just be the one. It’s so unbelievably perfect. I’m absolutely thrilled to have it on my blog, even though it’s not my original recipe. Of course it’s Lisa’s. But if me sharing it puts it out there for even a few more people, then I’ve done a good deed for society. Never will you have dry cornbread again!

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Source: slightly adapted from The Homesick Texan Cookbook by Lisa Fain

Ingredients:
¼ cup lard, bacon drippings, or vegetable oil
2 cups yellow cornmeal
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg, beaten
2 cups buttermilk, well shaken

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 450 F.
While the oven is heating, put the lard or oil into a 10” cast-iron skillet and place it in the oven for a few minutes until the lard is melted and sizzling. Remove from the oven as soon as it is sizzling to avoid burning it.
Meanwhile, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium to large mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the egg and buttermilk. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Whisk until just combined.
Take the cast-iron skillet and pour the batter into it. No need to stir anything. Immediately place the skillet into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool just a few minutes, then slice into wedges and serve with pats of butter. The typical way is to take a regular butter knife and make a slit down the center of each wedge, lengthwise. Stick a pat of butter inside there. Then take another pat of butter and put it on the top of the cornbread. Slather it around as it’s melting for even coverage. Dig in!

2 Responses to Authentic Southern Cornbread

  1. My mom when she makes it uses a can of creamed corn. AH-mazing. But that might be just what us michiganders do :)

    • Texan New Yorker

      That sounds really good! Talk about moist… I love that idea, actually. I find myself fascinated by how other regions of the country do cornbread. I probably shouldn’t admit this, considering where I grew up, but I kind of like Yankee cornbread with all the sugar… Shh, don’t tell. :)

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