Cornbread is not only a southern bread but, the bread of America. The Native American Indians were making cornbread in the time before the first settler’s came to our shores. The Wampanoag Tribe had taught the pilgrims to plant maize and most likely had already harvested and milled their corn for the first Thanksgiving in 1621. Having no sugar or flour; flat cornbread or corn pone was most likely the only bread or pastry served. As American continued to expand it was in need of a readily available, inexpensive and hearty travel staple; so the “Journey Cake”, which kept well on long trips fueled our expansion. During the civil war an easily prepared cornmeal cake was nicknamed after the Confederate troops that favored it, the “Johnny Cake” was named after the Johnny Rebs.
In the south people take their cornbread mighty seriously; there are a few hard and fast rules. A proper cornbread is made in a cast iron skillet, it is not sweetened and lastly it contains buttermilk. The fundamental difference between Southern and Northern Cornbread is that with the Northern type it is sweetened and more cake like in consistency and contains milk. In North Carolina that is called dessert.
Cornbread is considered a tradition on New Year’s Day in the south were it is served with pork, black-eyed peas and mustard greens, it is supposed to insure a prosperous new year. Now there are several different recipes that you can use, some people like to use white cornmeal, some use self rising yellow cornmeal, I believe the best way is to add your own leavening so that you can adjust your cornbread to your individual taste. A good quality local cornmeal is produced in Four Oaks, NC by House Autry Mills www.house-autry.com. Check out their website for products and recipes. Here is a recipe passed down from my aunt who hails from Valdosta, Georgia; she used to serve this as a special meal for me on my visits with the best pinto beans ever.
Aunt B’s Buttermilk Cornbread
1 cup fine ground yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup A.P. flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup buttermilk
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with cast iron skillet in it
- Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl
- Add beaten egg and buttermilk and mix well
- Pour into well greased and heated 9 inch cast iron skillet
- Bake for 20 minutes, until golden and crusty
- Serve hot