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There are no cornbread heresies

Fred Nelson and Ed McClanahan once published an anthology called One Lord, One Faith, One Cornbread, the title coming from a woman who would chant that phrase while walking the hills of Appalachia.

But even in the South there is enough multiculturalism that we know there to be more than one cornbread. My older sister, Georgia, recently found and sent to me my grandmother’s recipe for corn pone, a denser, sweeter variant of her cornbread baked in a bundt pan.

I’d like to share it with you, with cautions.

It is the kind of recipe that women of my grandmother’s generation wrote down: a bare-bones list of ingredients and sketchy instructions that assume you already know how to do this. Any of you skilled in baking who might like to flesh out the instructions are welcome to comment.

If you try it, eat slices warm, with lots of butter.

Clara Rhodes Early’s corn pone

2 cups corn meal

1 cup flour

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Sift together and add 1 egg

1 pint sweet milk*

Melt two tablespoons lard** in baking pan and pour in mixture

When blended pour into baking pan and bake for 1 hour in moderate oven.

 

*I think this means whole milk rather than buttermilk or sweetened condensed milk.

**Get over it.

 

 

Posted by John McIntyre at 3:11 PM | | Comments (6)
        

Comments

At first I thought, "just a basic cornbread recipe" then I searched the Internet to confirm. I didn't find any recipes that matched the others! Some had half as much cornmeal as flour, some had 2 eggs, one had SIX!, some had just one cup of milk, and one said to use one cup of milk in the mix and then pour another one over the top before putting it in the oven! I guess the secret is trial and error until you find one that suits you.

Sounds like the recipe on the package of "Indian Head" Corn meal
(still a local co http://www.wrmills.com/products/consumer-products/)

But with any mention of cornbread...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZI0zO2TS1Y

I'm not an expert baker, but I make halfway decent cornbread.
Here's what I'd do. Lightly grease a baking pan so the cornpone doesn't stick
Sift together dry ingredients.If using lard or Crisco, heat just until melting. *If using veg. oil, add about 1/8 to 1/4 cup oil to dry ingredients and stir. Add **sweet milk. Add eggs last, especially if using melted lard or shortening. You don't want the eggs to cook. Mix to blend ingredients but don't over mix. Pour into pan and bake at 350 until done.

*My suggestion so the dough isn't real dry.
**(you're right John. There was a difference between Sweet milk and buttermilk or clabber)

Left unaddressed is the BIG question: yellow or white cornmeal?

The explicit reference to sweet milk is because the recipe includes baking powder, not baking soda. Baking powder is a leavener that requires only moisture and heat. Many traditional recipes use only baking soda for the base and buttermilk for the acid in order to get the leavening effect. Hence the clarification.

Melting the fat in the pan before pouring in the batter is supposed to create a crispy crust. One recipe I have suggests using a cast-iron frying pan and that the fat should be hot enough that when you pour the batter in that it sizzles.

As you say, there are approximately as many ways to make cornbread as there are cooks.

@Mike, Obviously you and I make cornbread in a similar manner. But I oil the pan and place it in the oven while it's heating. When the temperature is reached, I remove the pan and pour in the batter. So I use oil in both the batter and on the pan.
I was thrown off, though, by John saying his grandmother made the cornpone in a bundt cake pan. That's why I'm thinking of trying his grandmother's recipe.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
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