I’m talking cornmeal, peoples! Cornmeal is a staple here in the South, and it comes in a choice of colors now — long available in yellow and white, blue cornmeal has become popular, as well. Myself, I have always been partial to the yellow cornmeal.
While we use it in a variety of dishes, the most prevalent is for that utterly delicious quick bread, corn bread. Cornbread is a traditional accompaniment with simmered pinto beans, but it complements a variety of other dishes, too. It can be tasty with soups that include tomatoes/tomato sauce, with pork dishes — pork chops, ham, pork roast — and with spicy TexMex kinds of dishes, such as chili, taco soup, Spanish meatloaf, etc. You can also use it as a topping over a TexMex spicy filling for an impromptu tamale pie. I’ve had a corn bread salad, which is much like a potato salad, but made with cornbread instead of potatoes. My family (and my daughter-in-law’s family, too, I have learned) would even make a “dessert” from leftover cornbread by crumbling stale cornbread into a glass, pouring milk (sweet or buttermilk) over it, and then eating it with a teaspoon. We called it “crumble in.”
And, of course, cornbread forms the delicious basis for a cornbread dressing, which was a staple at Thanksgiving and Christmas when I was growing up. My mom makes utterly delicious cornbread dressing, and her recipe for it, handwritten on a slightly worn and stained index card, is one of my recipe treasures. 🙂
There are different variations on cornbread, but the two basic types are Southern Cornbread, traditionally made with buttermilk, and so called Yankee Cornbread, which is much, much sweeter than the traditional Southern Cornbread. The recipe halves easily enough if you want to make only 6 corn muffins. This recipe is based on the one from my copyright 2000 Betty Crocker’s Cook Book. (The “Big Red” cookbook. 😉 )
I usually bake mine either as corn muffins or in an 8″x8″ or 9″X9″ square pan or 9″ round pan. My mom has some well-seasoned iron skillets, and she swears by making her cornbread in them — it makes it extra crispy — but I’ve never gotten the hang of properly seasoning and keeping an iron skillet seasoned, so I just stick with the pans I already have on hand.
And yes, of course, there are quick mixes available for cornbread, and while those can be handy at times, it really isn’t all that difficult to make cornbread from scratch — and it smells so yummy as it bakes!
Southern Buttermilk Cornbread (Makes 12 servings)
- 1 1/2 cups cornmeal (I prefer yellow meal)
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil or shortening (I like to use butter-flavored Crisco shortening)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon white granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 eggs (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
- Preheat oven to 450F.
- Grease bottom and sides of an 8″x8″ pan or a 9″ cake pan or a 10″ oven-proof skillet with shortening. Or, if making corn muffins, grease 12 muffin cups.
- Mix all ingredients together, beating vigorously for 30 seconds or so. (I just mix it by hand with a fork — after I’ve “cut in” the butter-flavored Crisco a bit into the dry ingredients before I add in the liquid — until all the meal and flour are “wet.”)
- Bake round or square pan 25 to 30 minutes; skillet about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Bake muffins for 20 to 25 minutes.
NOTE: If you don’t have buttermilk, for each cup of buttermilk, use 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar plus enough milk to measure 1 cup; allow to stand for about 5 minutes before using in recipe. OR, use 1 cup plain yogurt.
For a TexMex Flavor Boost: Stir in 1 small can (4 ounces) chopped green chilies (I drain the liquid into the measuring cup and count it as part of the liquid, decreasing the buttermilk accordingly), 1 teaspoon chili powder (if desired), and, if desired, 2 to 3 ounces (1/2 to 1/3 cup) shredded cheese (such as reduced fat cheddar, Monterey Jack, and/or a combo of whatever appeals to you). Bake as directed above. This is a nice twist when you’re wanting to kick the flavor and spice up a bit.
It will taste yummy, even if you do make it with degerminated cornmeal! 😉 (To be honest, I never gave it a thought ’til I saw this spot. My cornmeal is degerminated, but we love the cornbread it makes nonetheless. 🙂 )