In West Virginia, cornbread is practically an art. For my cousin, who grinds his own cornmeal, it’s almost a religion. And I’m a convert. Fresh, stone-ground cornmeal. Try it. You’ll never go back to cornmeal off the shelf again. At the very least, throw out your Jiffy boxes. That is cardboard cornbread. You need the real thing.
Cornbread is easy to make from scratch, but if you want a mix, you can make your own homemade cornbread mix. (I’ll show you how.) If you can, get fresh cornmeal from a local farmers’ market, organic/health food market, or local fairs and festivals. The fresher the cornmeal, the better.
Note: Fresh cornmeal doesn’t contain preservatives. Store in the fridge or freezer.
If you’re in this area, my cousin sells his fresh-ground cornmeal at the Black Walnut Festival in Spencer every October and the Mountain State Arts & Crafts Fair in Ripley every July. (He’s been grinding cornmeal there for so many years, he’s been inducted into their Hall of Fame.) I like to get my cornmeal right off his grinder.
How to make Cornbread:
2 slices peppered bacon
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter (cut up) or oil
1 cup milk or buttermilk
Using a large iron skillet, fry two slices of bacon. Remove the bacon and drain to use for another purpose or crumble and stir into your cornbread mixture before baking.
In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add butter or oil, eggs, and milk or buttermilk. Stir to combine. Don’t overstir. (Sometimes more or less milk is required, depending on slight variations in measuring dry ingredients–add what you need to get a nice, thick almost pourable-but-not consistency.)
Variations: More sugar, if you want really sweet cornbread, or less sugar if you plan to add vegetables to the mixture–you can add a cup or so of diced, sauteed onions, peppers, anything that appeals to you. Add shredded cheese, or corn, or even chopped pecans. (I like it with pecans especially with a sweet, sweet cornbread mixture.)
Pour cornbread mixture into the iron skillet you used to cook the bacon in to season it with the bacon drippings. (First tip the pan all the way around, spreading the bacon drippings to grease the sides of the skillet.) Bake in a 425-oven for 20-25 minutes.
*You can skip the bacon step, if preferred. You can still bake it in a greased cast-iron skillet or in a greased 8 x 8 square baking dish or a pie pan.
How to make a Homemade Cornbread Mix:
4 cups flour
4 cups cornmeal
1 cup sugar (or less if you don’t plan to make sweet cornbread)
4 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup butter (cut up)
Mix well. Store in the freezer in a large plastic freezer bag. To use, scoop out 2-1/4 cups mix, add 2 eggs and 1 cup of milk or buttermilk. Just like a Jiffy mix. Only so much better. This keeps well in the freezer a long time, so make duplicate bags if you know you like to use mixes to fix cornbread quickly and if this will stop you from using Jiffy mixes. I’m here to help. I’m a helper.
Each batch of mix is enough for 4 pans of cornbread.
You know you need a pot of beans with that.