Recently, my husband Morgan decided to make some traditional Southern corn bread, but with a vegetarian twist (normally, bacon and bacon grease are used). This is not the more common sweet cornbread, but instead, as Morgan puts it, “substantial, sweet and nutty with the flavor of the corn but with an earthy undercurrent, and having a rustic, heavy-crumbed feel in the mouth.” It is a wonderful side dish that will fill out any meal.
Morgan wrote the following as backstory:
“Once my father, a native of the Appalachians of Western North Carolina, challenged my aunt–his brother’s wife from Connecticut–to see who could cook the best cornbread. In his estimation, there wasn’t much to a cornbread batter other than course yellow cornmeal, milk, maybe an egg, and some soda. Mix it up and pour it into a hot skillet with plenty of lard and bake it until it’s golden on top. My aunt, however, swore by a brand of boxed corn muffin mix.
“In the end, my father’s cornbread was as it has always been–not precisely ‘heavy’ or ‘dense’ but certainly substantial, sweet and nutty with the flavor of the corn but with an earthy undercurrent, and having a rustic, heavy-crumbed feel in the mouth. It was the ideal accompaniment to chili, beans, soups, or greens. Its flavor, bland on the surface, begged to enhance the food it was served with. A piping-hot slice split down the middle and lathered with sweet butter and sourwood honey was divine.
“My aunt’s, on the other hand, tasted like a corn muffin. It was sweet, it held shape obediently, and it had more wheat flour than cornmeal. It seemed a little out of place with food–its sweet flavor too assertive.
Traditional Southern Corn Bread Recipe – For Vegetarian
serves at least six as a side dish
- 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp vegetable shortening
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 small eggs
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp liquid smoke flavor
- 1/2 cup Durkee’s French Fried Onions
1). Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (220 degrees Celsius) with a medium, well-greased cast iron skillet (with high sides) in the oven.
2). Mix the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl.
3). Cut the vegetable shortening into the dry mixture using a pastry knife or two butter knives
4). Beat eggs and add buttermilk to them.
5). Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
6). Dissolve soda in a little water and add the soda, smoke flavor, and onions to the batter. Stir until incorporated.
7). Pour the batter into a hot, greased cast iron skillet and bake at 425 until the top is just browned–about 25-30 minutes.