Yes, you can get Jiffy cornbread mix for not much money. But you can also make it, and
yours will be so much better. And it will be yours. Nothing like pulling piping hot cornbread from the oven right before you sit down to dinner.
When I was younger, Mom did most of the cooking, but as I got older and she was working more, Dad shared in the cooking more. Mom usually made cornbread in a square glass pan, but Dad usually used a cast iron skillet. I haven’t ever really asked why. Probably that is how his mother did it.
My dad has six brothers and sisters and they were all in the kitchen a lot when they were growing up. And it seems they all have different memories of how my grandma did things. Some of the most interesting conversations at family reunions revolve around their different memories. Some of them remember their mother melting the shortening in the cast iron skillet and then pouring the hot, melted fat into the cornbread batter. Others swear she never did this. And was it butter or shortening? Theirs was a large, spread out family, so it could be Grandma changed how she did things over the years. Or she could have done it different ways, depending on her mood. I am still looking for the aunt or uncle who has any of Grandma’s written recipes, but I don’t think many of them ever made it to paper.
I do know that a cast iron skillet makes a wonderful crust on the bottom of the cornbread. And I always feel a connection to my grandmother when I bake in cast iron. I even have one of her griddle/bakers that she gave to Dad and he gave to me. Hmmm, I think I need to do another post on cast iron cookware.
But back to cornbread – Dad is from southeastern Missouri and his parents were from Tennessee and Mississippi. You could definitely say there is a Southern background there. And Southern cornbread is not sweet. At all. My dad and his family usually only have butter on cornbread, or use it to soak up the juices from greens, beans or soups. Sometimes they even put jalapeño or other hot peppers in it (definitely not my favorite when I was a kid). When Dad married Mom and saw her put jelly on her cornbread, he was a little surprised. But time, and marriage, change all things – I have witnessed Dad putting jelly or honey on his cornbread. I like my Southern cornbread with butter and honey or jelly, but without sugar in it. Try it this way once, and then if you must put sugar in it, you can. But don’t tell my dad.
Shortening (Crisco) to grease pan
1 cup cornmeal (stoneground is best)
1 cup all-purpose flour*
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder**
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup vegetable oil, melted butter or melted shortening
1 cup milk or buttermilk**
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 8-inch square pan or 10-inch cast iron skillet heavily with shortening. If using a skillet, place in oven to preheat.
Mix cornmeal, flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl. In another bowl, mix together egg, oil and milk. Add to cornmeal mixture and mix well. Make sure there are no dry pockets of cornmeal or flour.
Remove hot skillet (if using) from oven and add batter. Spread batter to edges of skillet or pan, leveling top. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until just starting to brown on top. Serve hot from the oven with butter, and desired toppings. Best served hot.
Leftovers make great breadcrumbs for breading fish, as you can see in the picture. I pan-fried these filets in just a little olive oil and they tasted like they had been deep-fried. Calvin said they were “awesomely good.” From the mouths of pre-teens…
*I sometimes use ½ cup white whole wheat flour and ½ cup all-purpose flour.
**You can use buttermilk, but if you do, use 1½ teaspoons baking powder and ½ teaspoon baking soda instead of the 2 teaspoons baking powder. You can’t really taste the tang of the buttermilk, but it makes the cornbread a little lighter.