Granny was the master of her southern cornbread, probably because she made it every day. I enjoyed watching her cook, she never measured anything. I think probably most Southern cooks measured by eye and habit. A pinch of this and a sprinkle of that was their rule.
I find a lot of help in Southern cooking through chef Sean Brock, in his new cookbook, Heritage. He says that perfect cornbread is the subject of much debate. There are the Southerners who like it with flour and sugar, the Northerners sweet and cakey and there’s everyone in between. Granny didn’t put sugar in her recipe and that’s how I like it, a little flour, no sugar for a more corn flavor.
Brock uses Anson Mills Antebellum Coarse Yellow Cornmeal, but you would have to wait for it to be delivered. I buy a stone-ground cornmeal I find in the bulk section at PCC Market. The trick to this crispy Southern cornbread recipe with bacon is heating a cast iron skillet in the oven. Nothing cooks like it and you would be a prudent chef to acquire one. This is a very classic cornbread that would be served down home in the South, gracing your table. I’m privileged to have tasted Granny’s cooking and seen the love she put into every dish, how I miss her.
5 ounces bacon, cut finely (optional) or 5 Tablespoons oil
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a 9″ cast iron skillet into the oven for 10 minutes.
Take the bacon and fry until golden brown, not burned approximately 4-5 minutes. Remove the cooked bacon and drain the fat into a bowl. Reserve 5 tablespoons of fat, placing 4 tablespoons into the cast iron skillet in the oven.
Combine the cornmeal, flour, drained bacon (optional), salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl. Measure the buttermilk and add the egg and 1 tablespoon of fat. Beat until incorporated. Now add the liquid to the dry ingredients. Combine, but do not OVERMIX.
Take the skillet from the oven and swirl the 4 ounces fat to distribute over the entire pan. Pour the batter into the pan with the hot fat. It should sizzle.
Bake for 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let sit 3 minutes. Cut around edges to loosen and invert onto a plate. You will have a dark, crisp crust to enjoy. Top with butter.