There are some recipes you find and you wonder how in the world you got along without them. This, my friends, is one of those recipes. I found it in The Gift of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock on pages 210-211.
It’s officially called “Our Favorite Sour Milk Cornbread” and has quickly become my entire family’s favorite cornbread. There are a couple of caveats so please pay close attention.
You will need:
Cast- Iron Skillet
1 1/2 cups fine-ground white cornmeal *
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder**
1 3/4 cups soured milk or buttermilk***
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 (ahem, or maybe 3) tablespoons unsalted butter
* This cookbook calls for J.T. Pollard cornbread made in Hartford, AL.
Luckily, I can get this brand of cornmeal at the Lewis Jones in Columbus, GA (my hometown). I haven’t been able to find it in Birmingham. Now you may ask, “Can’t I just use the cornmeal I have in my cupboard?” Normally I’d say, “Why, sure you can!” But not in this situation. Sorry, folks. Trust me when I say it is worth using this brand, I mean it. And I’ve tested MANY brands with this recipe.
** Mr. Peacock and Ms. Lewis also call for homemade baking powder. Huh? Yeah, I know. But, guess how easy it is to make homemade baking powder? All it takes is a 1/4 cup cream of tartar (equals out to be the small bottle of cream of tarter you find in the grocery store) sifted three times with 2 tablespoons of baking soda. I’ve done this a few times and I have to say that the cornbread is much lighter (at least it seems) when I use the fresh baking powder. But no worries. I haven’t lost my mind. I usually use the canned baking powder I have on hand and the world keeps on moving.
***Now for the buttermilk part, well…that’s exactly what I use! See? You thought I was going to tell you how I curdled my own milk, didn’t you? Another bit of advice? Sometimes I don’t have buttermilk on hand (I mean, who really does?). In that case, I simply add some plain greek yogurt to milk and call it a day. Works every single time.
Alright, I hope you haven’t left me yet. I promise you won’t be sorry once you’ve tasted this cornbread! Now, for the directions:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Mix the cornmeal, salt, and baking powder together in a bowl. Stir the milk into the beaten eggs and pour over the dry ingredients in batches, stirring vigorously to make a smooth glossy batter. (Or just do what I do and pour milk in a glass measuring cup, add two eggs, and lightly mix with fork.)
Cut the butter into pieces (I just keep it in the 2 or 3 tablespoon block) and put in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or baking pan (seriously, just do the skillet). Put the skillet in the preheated oven and heat until the butter is melted and foaming. Remove from the oven, and swirl the butter all around the skillet to coat the bottom and sides thoroughly. Pour the remaining melted butter into the cornbread batter, and stir well until the butter is absorbed into the batter. Turn the batter into the heated skillet, and put in the oven to bake for 30-40 minutes, until cornbread is golden brown and crusty on top and pulls away from the sides of the skillet. Like this:
Remove the skillet from the oven, and turn the cornbread out onto a plate. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before cutting into wedges. Serve the cornbread while it is hot.
Folks, this cornbread will transform your dinners and your world. I’m so thankful I found it and really glad to share it with all of you (especially just in time for those black-eyed peas and collards you are getting ready to cook tomorrow).
Happy New Year!