Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Recipe: Buttermilk Cornbread

1 stick butter*
2 cups self-rising cornmeal mix**
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs

This looks deceptively simple, but like all good Southern cooking it absolutely depends on having the right tools and using the right technique.  I'm not even sure it can be made well just from reading a recipe -- it's probably one of those things you have to see done at least once, and try yourself several times, tweaking things until it comes out just right.

First, put the stick of butter in an 8" iron skillet, put into the oven, and turn on to 425°.

Next, using a one-cup scoop*** put two scoops of cornmeal mix into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center.

Then, pour two cups of buttermilk into a glass four-cup measure or small mixing bowl.  Crack the two eggs into the buttermilk and beat well with a wire whisk or a fork.

Add the liquid to the dry, pouring it into the well, and stir a little, just until moistened.  There will still be lumps and that's okay -- just don't overmix it.  Let it rest while the oven finishes preheating.

When the oven's hot and the butter is just starting to turn brown, pour the batter into the middle of the skillet all at once, and put it back in the oven.  Cook until it's golden brown on top and crispy around the edges, oh, twenty or thirty minutes.

If your skillet is well seasoned, you can invert it over a plate when it's done and the cornbread will fall right out.

Cut into wedges and serve with  more butter and honey if it's for dessert, or butter and cheese (or just butter) if it's for supper.  Or crumble it up and sprinkle over chili or soup, or crumble it into a goblet, pour buttermilk over it and eat it with a spoon.  The latter was my daddy's favorite dessert.

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* It really has to be real butter, and yes, a whole stick of it.

** I like Aunt Jemima and White Lily the best.  I only use white cornmeal, and I think the buttermilk mix turns out better than the plain one.  Where I live right now, I can only find one-pound bags of mix, so I usually make my own.  Here's how:  1 cup of white cornmeal, 1 cup of plain, unbleached flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon of salt.  I mix up several cups of it at a time -- enough to fill a large Rubbermaid canister about 3/4 of the way to the top, so that there's some room at the top to make scooping it out easier.

*** On using a measuring scoop:  With a dry-measure cup, you fill it lightly with flour, tap the side to make the flour settle, then scrape off the top with the back side of a knife.  This gives you exactly one cup.  To use a scoop, you dig into the mix a time or two to fluff it up a little, then you dig in and bring up a fill, overflowing scoop of the mix.  Shake the scoop a little so that the excess falls off, but it should still be mounded above the top of the scoop -- just not so high that it's going to spill while transferring it to the mixing bowl.  I have no idea what the exact measure is.  I just know that once you've got the technique down, it's a lot easier than using a cup.

As it turns out, this wasn't quite full enough and I had to add a smidgen more when mixing the batter.


  1. Oh, cornbread! How I love thee... Let me count the ways ~
    1) Plain and warm straight out of the oven.
    2) Wedged on my New Year's Day dinner plate
    3) Slathered with butter and sorghum syrup for dessert
    4) Split and toasted with butter for breakfast
    5) Complimenting soup on a cold day
    6) Wrapped in foil and given as a gift
    7) Planned over for Thanksgiving Day's Dressing
    8) Completing the protein in a 3-veggie plate
    9) Shared with the birds on my back deck
    10) Crumbled in a glass of cold buttermilk?

    1. #7 -- I always make two a few days before Thanksgiving and freeze them to make the dressing. It's the best.

      #10 -- Have you tried it that way? My daddy and granddaddy both loved it, but I find it too sour. Well, I haven't tried it in ages, and my taste may have changed, so I should try it again next time. "With homemade buttermilk," my twenty-year-old says.

  2. Great idea to make cornmeal mix. I've always mixed up my dry ingredients each time. I like white cornmeal better, too.

    I always use my grandmother's iron skillet to make corn bread but a whole stick of butter! Wow, that would be amazing. I've got to try that.

    Thanks for posting this. We LOVE cornbread for dinner and if there is any leftover, I slice it in half and toast it with butter for breakfast.



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