Basic Cornbread

Happy New Year!

Tomorrow, I go back to school. (Lesson plans? What lesson plans? I think I’ll write a blog post instead). I’ve read lots of books and cleaned out my pantry and closet, so I guess I’m as ready for a new semester as I ever am.

Everyone — my family included — is ready to put 2020 in the rearview mirror. Yet this year has brought my family closer, both those I live with and my siblings who live far away. I miss my mom terribly, but she should get the vaccine on January 12, so maybe there is a light at the end of that tunnel, too.

The traditional New Year’s foods — Hoppin’ John, greens (or cabbage, for my husband’s family), pork, and cornbread are supposed to bring luck and prosperity. This year, I again made my favorite Bacon Jam and Greens from The Southerner’s Cookbook… and it was just as amazing as I remembered.

But then I realized that cornbread — which unlike the greens and hoppin’ John is a year-round favorite here — definitely deserved its own post. Plus, putting it here makes it easier to find the recipe when I’m making red beans and rice, chili, or any of our other favorite cornbread-requiring mains.

Southern cornbread is decidedly NOT sweet — which seems to defy normal North/ South logic. Take tea, for example. We like ours tooth-achingly sweet. But cornbread? Not that I will turn my nose up at a pan of Jiffy, but if I’m doing the cooking? Save the sugar for the desserts. There are whole raging debates about this on the internet (the things you learn when you assign food research projects to your students). But as for my house… our cornbread is buttery, salty, tender… and not sweet at all.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal*
  • 1 cup flour **
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon baking powder (or 3 teaspoons) 
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 Tablespoons butter

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 450. Place a black iron skillet in the oven and let it get hot as the oven warms.
  • In a separate bowl, mix all of the ingredients except the butter.
  • Once the oven reaches 450, remove the skillet. Place the butter in the hot skillet and place the skillet back in the oven until the butter melts and foams. (You can also do this on the stovetop).
  • Remove the skillet from the oven. Pour half of the hot butter into the cornbread batter and stir. Then pour the cornbread batter into the hot skillet.
  • Place the cornbread back into the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the edges are browned and a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Notes:

  • *Stone-ground cornbread is great, but for everyday around here, we use any basic yellow cornmeal
  • ** Going gluten free? Just replace the flour with a second cup of cornmeal. It will be considerably more crumbly, but also delicious
  • *** You can also use buttermilk for a little more tang, but again, for my basic everyday cornbread, we just use regular milk — whatever is in the fridge.

Enjoy, on New Year’s Day and throughout the year!

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