Cornbread, A Love Story

“Happy Valentine’s day, here’s some cornbread!” is hopefully what you’ll be hearing tomorrow.

skillet cornbread

skillet cornbread


In case someone forgets to deliver your cornbread though, it couldn’t be easier to make your own.

Food is only as good as the ingredients used to make it, and it helps if you live within a short drive of a wonderful mill which uses restored, historic equipment to produce some of the country’s best grits, cornmeal, and heirloom grains like we do. Thankfully, it’s possible to order online as well. Geechie Boy’s (yellow) grits are my personal favorite, and I often give bags of them as thank-you gifts, housewarming gifts, or just simply because everyone (worth knowing) loves good grits.

The same can be said for their cornmeal, which is what I use to make cornbread. We also happen to live close to a lady who has made it her life’s work to produce the very best eggs, vegetables, and now, milk, for the people of the Lowcountry. We don’t drink a lot of milk, but I bake a lot and if I don’t have buttermilk on hand, I’ll use her milk to make this cornbread.

Geechie Boy cornmeal  and Sea Island Jerseys Raw Milk

Geechie Boy cornmeal and Sea Island Jerseys Raw Milk

There’s a lot of dispute about the best way to make cornbread, but I mostly fall into the camp of no sugar, no flour. That’s how my grandmother made it, and it’s not cake, right? As long as it’s delicious, though, who cares? One distinct must-have, in my opinion, is a cast-iron skillet. Here’s a simple recipe adapted from Chef Joseph Lenn, of Blackberry Farm. It goes great as an accompaniment to chili of all sorts, tortilla soup, or as a side to sop up after black-eyed peas and collards.

Skillet Cornbread

2 cups cornmeal
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk (or whole milk)
1 egg (room temperature)
4 oz unsalted butter (1 stick)

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Put all of the butter in a 10-12 inch cast-iron skillet, and place the skillet in the hot oven while assembling the other ingredients. (sometimes I throw a tablespoon or so of bacon fat in with the butter, just for fun)
Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together the egg and buttermilk or milk.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently fold them together.
When the skillet is hot and the butter is sizzling, take it out of the oven and pour the hot butter into the bowl with all of the ingredients.
Pour the mixture in the skillet and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Serve hot, immediately, and preferably give it to someone you’re trying to woo. Works every time!