Saturday, May 30, 2009

Grandma Howard's Cornbread--May 2009

Growing up my parents’ property adjoined my grandparents’ (as well as my aunt’s property), so it was really more like a sprawling compound of a farm. We didn’t raise any cash crops or livestock, but we did have a huge vegetable garden and chickens for eggs. We also had my Grandma’s fantastic Appalachian cooking. There are several dishes I remember, but the one I am fondest of is cornbread. I don’t know how often Grandma made cornbread, but it seems we had it available at every meal. I’ve never had another cornbread like it. Definitely NOT sweet, not light and airy, not’s almost more like a peasant loaf. A crunchy crust on the bottom, a golden brown top and a moist, dense crumb. I’ve never tried to make this cornbread before. I’ve always been afraid it wouldn’t live up to my memories (what does?), but I new I had to make it.

I inherited my Grandma’s cast iron skillet. So, I knew I had to use that to make the cornbread. Unfortunately, my laziness means that this wonderful skillet has been slowly corroding in my garage for several years. I’ve not supplied a photo so as to not shame myself further. Luckily, the interior of the skillet was unharmed, and a brillo pad took care of the exterior. I then seasoned the skillet and it was ready to go. Now all I needed was the recipe.

I’ve asked for, received, and lost this recipe more times than I care to admit. And now that I desperately need it, no one is giving it to me. After asking my Mother, my sister, and my aunts I was able to piece it together.

1 cup yellow corn meal (self-rising)

1 cup flour (self-rising)

1 ¾ cup buttermilk

1 egg

¼ cup Crisco

I couldn’t find self-rising cornmeal (and I didn’t have self-rising flour). So, I used what I had and added 1 tsp of salt and 3 tsp of baking powder. Preheat the oven to 450, put Crisco into the skillet and let the skillet preheat in the oven. I put the skillet in about halfway through the pre-heating process as I didn’t want the Crisco to smoke. You can see in the photo on the right all the Crisco love. Mix all other ingredients together.

When oven is ready, pour mixture directly into Criscoized skillet. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes.

I wanted to make a meal of this so I made Boley’s brisket and some mashed potatoes. I say “some” mashed potatoes, and that’s not really true. I have a hard time making small batches of certain items (restaurant cook’s back me up on this!), and mashed potatoes is one of them. The Brisket turned out beautifully (thanks BoBo). Sara said it was sweet and yummy. The mashed potatoes were pretty good as well. But the main event for me was the cornbread.

The final product was amazing! The color and texture were just right. It was a little salty (my Grandma’s probably was as well) so next time I’ll cut the salt in half.

The overall effect was so close to Grandma’s that I had to call my parents and sister to gloat.

Sara does not like cornbread, but said this was the best she had ever tasted. Tasted just as good the next day as a dessert with some raspberry jam.

I am very proud to have made such a good rendition of my Grandma’s cornbread in her skillet.

Feels like home.


  1. It looks delicious. I wish I could have some. Now. Please.

  2. O.K., Stubs, you've inspired me. I have been wanting to make cast-iron skillet corn bread for a long time, but been too intimidated. Your recipe looks do-able and delicious. I am super jealous that you inherited a seasoned skillet...being vegetarian, ours take a LONG time to get nice an black, and we eat lots of tomato-based things, so even with proper seasoning, I tend to strip them :(. Long post, but very yummy recipe - thanks!!!

  3. I agree, this is very inspirational! A friend has a cast-iron skillet she doesn't know what to do with, so I'm going to try making this with her. Thank you!

  4. Thanks for the kind words. My mother always made fried potatoes in her cast-iron skillet. Somehow she managed to keep them from sticking, maybe a lower (or higher) temp? Regardless, might be a good idea to try for veggies, as tomatoes are definitely verboten.