A Southern Born and Bred Southerner's Take on the Cornbread Debate
The truth is ... in my little ole humble opinion, the two things that make cornbread Southern is 1) using a cast iron skillet to make it, and 2) pouring the batter into a very hot cast iron skillet that has been coated in some kind of fat. That's the secret that makes cornbread Southern - that yummy, crunchy bottom. Believe it or not, it's less about the recipe than the method itself. Gasp! Did she really just say that??
Why yes, I did.
And listen, don't you go lettin' people tell you that it's not Authentic Southern Cornbread if it's got sugar in it. That's a myth and you know what I say about that?
If you like the texture flour adds, use it. If you like sugar, add it. If you don't, leave it out. If somebody tries to tell you that it's not "the real deal" with sugar, they are just being haughty, bless their hearts. Ignore them. It's just simply not true.
I can tell you that I know plenty of Southern cooks from waaaaaay back that like at least a little bit of sugar in their cornbread, even if they don't tell anybody about it - and Jiffy cornbread mix, one of the best selling mixes in The South, absolutely has sugar in it - so just don't listen to the naysayers and add some sugar if you like. Personally I think it's just a myth that has been perpetuated over the generations, while all the while Southern cooks were sneaking a bit of sugar in their cornbread when no other eyes were around.
Besides that, corn absolutely loves sugar, and cornmeal is no different. By the way, I'm not talking making cake here folks, so just a couple of teaspoons, maybe even a tablespoon, is plenty.
Likewise for those who say to be Authentic Southern Cornbread it must be made with white cornmeal, not yellow.
Most everybody - and possibly everybody I know - who has grown up, and lived their lives in the vicinity of The Deep South where I am - which quite frankly is just about almost as far south as you can get - uses yellow cornmeal. Sometimes we use white if we ran out of yellow, or the store was out of yellow, but if you're from the part of the Deep South where I am from, you likely use a little flour, a pinch of sugar, and only yellow cornmeal - not white.
So in other words, if you are a Southerner, don't be trying to throw down a Southern Shame Card on me or any other Southerner about what is or is not right. I get some Southerners who have said to me that "a real Southerner would [or wouldn't]..." do something that I have done in my recipes, as if I am not a 'real' Southerner! Frankly I think it's just silly to waste energy gettin' all up in arms over things like that anyway, but for some reason certain myth keeps getting perpetuated across the generations and it's a silly fight, so let's just stop it, shall we? It's just food and cooking and your way is always the right way when it comes to your kitchen.
Frankly all that matters is finding the perfect for you cornbread, and the two biggest secrets to Southern cornbread is 1) use a cast iron skillet and 2) pour the batter into hot oil, and, that, is what makes cornbread "Authentic Southern Cornbread."
So now, go make a skillet of cornbread - you can find a more classic savory version made with bacon fat, no flour and no sugar, or what I call a Southern light version that has just a bit of flour and a tad bit of sugar, right here on my site. Why not try them both?