Cornbread is just one of those staples in the Appalachian kitchen. You can’t have iron skillets without cornbread. In fact, usually there is a special skillet designated just for cornbread. It’s the perfectly seasoned skillet where the cornbread just slides off onto the plate, perfectly intact. You get to where you can trust your skillet. You know that when you take excellent care of your cast iron, it will never disappoint you. (It’s a sad thing when cornbread sticks to the bottom of the skillet.)
Here’s how to make our favorite cornbread. I’ve adapted and meshed a few recipes together over the years. We like this version the best.
First, heat your skillet and pour just a little bit of grease in it. I never measure this part, but I would say maybe 2 tbsp. Just enough to coat the skillet well. You can really heat it on the stove eye, or go ahead and warm it in your oven. Oven will be set to 450.
Crack one egg in a medium bowl. Add ¼ oil to the bowl. Here’s where you can get creative. I’ve used coconut oil before, but our favorite is bacon grease or lard from smoked fatback. I’m not a fan of vegetable oil or Crisco. Good smoked bacon grease is the best!
Add 1 1/3 c. of milk, then add a tbsp or two of sour cream. Stir together, and then add the 2 c of cornmeal. Mix it all up. I really don’t overmix, just enough to get everything combined, I usually just use a fork.
Now the skillet (or Dutch oven) is ready for the batter. Get it out of the oven, and by now the oil should be very hot. Pour your batter in the skillet, and it will make a lovely popping sound as the batter hits the hot oil. This is good!
If you’re using the oven, preheated to 450, it will need to cook for about 20 minutes.
If you’re using the fire, which I frequently do, set your Dutch oven on hot coals, and heap some coals on the top of the lid. Be prepared to check it after about 10 minutes, because depending on the heat of the coals and how many there are, this could burn very quickly. Just lift the lid slightly to check on things, and if you need more time, about 15 to 20 minutes will get it done.
That’s it! A well cared for iron skillet will turn the cornbread right out! The cornbread is hot and ready for a big gob of butter.