Cornbread and the Cast Iron Skillet

When the Scots-Irish came to America, they brought with them their foods and methods of cooking. Many of the cooking styles and foods became ‘American cuisine.’ One example is cornbread.  

In Scotland and Ireland, flat oat breads were cooked on a griddle. Oats and wheat were not as available on the frontier, but corn was. Cornbread quickly became the bread of the Scot Irish families and is still common throughout supper tables throughout the South.

Season your cast iron skillet before its first use. In the early days, a new skillet was lightly covered with lard and placed in a bed of coals and left overnight as the coals burned down. Now, the same thing can be done in an oven. Just put some foil on the shelf under the skillet to catch any drips. Lard still seems to work the best for seasoning, just a thin coat. You just have to season the skillet once, unless someone does something crazy, like putting the cast iron pan in the dishwasher.

In the old days, the corn bread was cooked in a skillet next to the fireplace or anyplace where coals were available. When Dutch ovens came into use, cornbread was often cooked in them.

Clean up is easy. Just wipe out the pan with a damp cloth and put on a high burner on the stove top for a few minutes. After it looks dry in just a couple of minutes, turn off the burner and leave the pan on the burner to cool over night. The next morning, the pan will be there waiting for you and the breakfast sausage and eggs. Nothing should stick to the pan and it won’t get rusty, with this regular use.

I remember suppers with a cereal bowl of corn bread with a little sugar sprinkled over it, then milk poured over it. Delicious! Our maternal grandfather, Daddy Holder, said it was better with sliced green onions and buttermilk . He never convinced us kids of that, since our daddy liked it with the sugar.

 Southern Corn Bread

 1 1/2 cups cornmeal*               2 tablespoons bacon grease or butter, melted                    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour*   2 eggs                                                                               Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt*           2 cups milk or buttermilk, more if batter seems dry      1 ¾ tablespoons baking powder *                                                                                           for the skillet – 2 T bacon grease or oil                                                                                   (*OR 3 cups corn meal mix instead of the above 4 dry ingredients)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Sift together the dry ingredients, into a mixing bowl. Add butter, egg and milk. Mix well. Heat your dry cast iron skillet over high heat for two minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of oil (bacon grease, preferred) to the skillet. Swirl oil around to coat bottom and sides of pan. Heat pan on burner another minute to get the grease hot.  Pour batter into pan. The batter will sizzle as it goes into the pan. Place in preheated oven and cook for about 30 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm with butter. Serves 10. (Variations include adding to the batter – sugar, as desired; chopped jalapenos; a small can of creamed corn or all of them. Good but not real Southern Corn Bread.)            Andrea Musgrove Perisho – “After Toil Comes Rest”

Copyrighted, 2012 by Andrea Musgrove Perisho.

Author: Andrea Musgrove Perisho

Genealogy research on my own ancestors is a new focus. Posts will include information about those ancestors including the social and economic issues, along with techniques for research.

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