Monday, June 29, 2009

The Great Southern Cornbread Debate

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?
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  1. Hi!! I love this!! I'm a Southern Gal myself and I just recently found your site and I must say... I love it.

    I especially love this post on what is/is not proper southern fixings!! It is just silly!! I read food blogs all the time and I read recipes from the North and from the South and I get so tickled at the Southern sites that are so adamant about their recipes being "the real Southern thing!!" LOL

    I agree with you and I have to say that every region of the South definitely has it's own distinct way of preparing dishes. I learned how to make cornbread from my Mom, and she from her Mom and so on and I've never lived anywhere other than the deep south and cornbread it totally different than yours! hehe But that's ok cause that's just how I was taught to make it and honestly I make mine a little different from my Mom and Gran! Shhh... don't tell! haha

    Anyway, I love all of your Southern recipes and stories!! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Have a great day,
    Kortney's Krazy Life

  2. Thanks Kortney and welcome!! It's all good, right? ;)

  3. Love this! I've been sayin for years "It don't matter how ya make it, just make it good!", lol.
    I make my cornbread with yellow cornmeal 'mix' and about a tablespoon of sugar! Completely different from my Mama!....and THAT'S the way I like it!!!!

    1. EXACTLY Donna!! I don't know why some southerners get all up in arms about silly things like this anyway. I always say please point me in the direction of who wrote the official rule book because they forgot to give me one when I was born - in the south! How is there one and only one way to make something anyway? Like I say phooey - make it the way you grew up with or the way that you have come to love it. That is really all that matters. One thing is for certain, your way is the right way for you and your way - even if it's different - certainly does not make you any less of a southerner! Phew! What just about wore me slap out LOL!! ;)

  4. Love this! MS to TX here!I've been sayin for years "It don't matter how ya make it, just make it good!", lol. I make my cornbread with yellow cornmeal MIX, and about a tablespoon of sugar! And guess what! I use a lot of black pepper in it,too! Totally different from my Mama! Cause THAT'S THE WAY I LIKE IT!!!!

  5. Great post, great blog and fantastic recipes. My husband and I are displaced coonasses, trying to raise our babies as "southern" as possible out here in the greater Seattle area. When people ask them where they are from, they answer "New Orleans" without hesitation, though none of them has ever lived there! :)

    I read in one of the Lodge cookbooks that "true" southern cornbread was made with white corn meal... in all my days of eating cornbread (from Louisiana, to Mississippi... to Alabama to the Panhandle... to Georgia and South Carolina...) we've *never* had it with white corn! Must be a Tennessee thing... and that's not really the south anyway... ;)


    1. Yay! Not sure what size skillet you used but if it was a bit larger that may be why or the baking powder/soda isn't fresh. Those are two things. On milk it's significantly thinner and depends too on whether you use whole milk or a lower fat milk, but next time try it with about a cup. It should be kinda loose but not too too thin.


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