Cornbread

This is the third and final post in the series of recipes for a traditional Southern New Year’s Day meal.

No meal of blackeyed peas and greens would be complete without cornbread.  Here is my version.  It is one of the few things I have been able to bake at 7000 feet.  It doesn’t come out quite as well as at sea level but at least it doesn’t sink in the middle.

Ingredients:

1 cup coarsely ground cornmeal

1 cup white flour

I tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 beaten egg

1 cup buttermilk*

1 ½ Tbls butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Put the butter in a 10 to 11 inch cast iron skillet or other dark baking pan.  Non-stick or light, shiny baking surfaces are not recommended since they will not produce a crispy outer crust.  Place the skillet in the oven.  The butter will melt and the skillet will heat nicely while you assemble the batter.

Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium to large mixing bowl.  Be sure to mix them well.

Add the wet ingredients and mix them until the batter resembles thick pancake batter.  Don’t over mix this.  It is OK to have a few lumps in it.   *You may need extra buttermilk depending on the thickness of the buttermilk as well as the cornmeal and flour you use. You may let it set on the counter for a few minutes while the oven is heating if you need to.

When your oven is up to temp, remove the skillet and pour the batter into it.  It should be hot enough to start ‘frying’ the outside of the batter immediately.  This is a good thing as it helps to form the crust.  Set the timer for 25 minutes and don’t open the oven door.  When finished, the cornbread will be slightly brown on top.

I have been making cornbread using this recipe for as long as I have been cooking and I have found that a few things can really mess it up.  You really need cornmeal that is somewhat coarsely ground.  If it is too fine, the texture will be off.  I started having problems with taste and texture a year or so ago and finally figured out that the buttermilk was the problem.  Milk and milk products are being processed differently from the way they were processed just a few years ago. Pasteurization at extremely high temperatures has a detrimental effect on both the calcium and protein molecules.  This prevents them from breaking down and interacting with other ingredients.  I recommend looking for organic local dairy products.  I am now culturing my own buttermilk with culture I get from the New England Cheesemaking Company.  Once I get a culture started, I keep adding milk to it as I use some. I have kept the same culture going for four to six months.

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