Put Some South in Your Mouth

Cornbread—in all its forms—is a regional food stalwart


There are several branches in the cornbread family, including corn mush, spoonbread and fried offerings like corn pones, hushpuppies and journey or johnnycakes. The most common version is baked, either plain or with additions such as cheese, herbs, onion or scallions, jalapeño or other peppers and sugar. Cornbread can be made with yellow cornmeal, but white cornmeal is typically favored in the South.

Cornbread is served at many meals and is a ubiquitous side to a bowl of beans or chili and to barbecue. A classic quick meal is to crumble a piece of cornbread into a tall glass of milk or buttermilk, sometimes with onion cut up in the mix. Cornbread is also often added to the retained pot liquids—or potlikker—of collards and other such greens after they have been cooked. It serves as a base for dressing or stuffing made for holiday dinners like Thanksgiving.

Cracklin’ cornbread is a particularly Southern tradition. Cracklings are crispy rendered bits of chopped pork skin that are added to traditional cornbread batter. To make crackling cornbread, stir 1⁄2 cup cracklings into the batter before baking, or use 1⁄2 cup crisped and chopped Virginia-type ham.

Cracklin’ Cornbread
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups stone-ground white cornmeal
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 cups buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 450F. Pour the vegetable oil into a 10-inch cast iron skillet and place in the oven to warm.

Whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Beat the egg in a separate medium bowl. Whisk in the buttermilk until combined.

Pour the egg-milk mixture over the cornmeal mixture and stir thoroughly to incorporate. Remove the skillet from the oven and pour the hot oil into the batter. Stir to combine.
Pour the batter into the skillet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top of the cornbread is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean. Serve immediately.
Yields 8 servings.
From CoVa’s food editor, Chef Patrick Evans-Hylton’s book, Dishing Up Virginia. Buy a copy at www.Tiny.CC/BuyDishingUpVirginia.

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