As we head into the crisp fall weather it seems to be a natural turn to move cooking from grilling and sauteing to roasting and simmering. A slow simmered pot of soup, chili or beans just seems to warm and comfort. Sure, soup and chili are good with crackers or a grilled cheese sandwich, but my favorite add-in is a slice of cornbread!
I grew up with a mother who always made some kind of homemade bread with every meal. Biscuits, cornbread or muffins were the usual fare, and yeast bread or rolls were usually reserved for special meals and holidays. I tend to keep with this routine, for I love making and eating all of these homemade breads.
Even though there are different methods and recipes for cornbread, I prefer unsweetened cornbread baked in a skillet. It's crispy around the edges, moist enough to eat alone, yet dry enough to soak up soup or chili. Leftovers are good the next day, especially as an old-fashioned breakfast; crumbled up and covered with milk.
Ingredients for cornbread are common and it is a very easy recipe to prepare. Although freshly ground whole corn makes superb cornbread, simply using a cornmeal mix makes a delicious bread. A cornmeal mix can be compared to self-rising flour. It already contains the right proportion of flour and leavening components necessary to make bread. All that is necessary to add to cornmeal mix is milk, eggs and oil. Here is the recipe I use:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put bacon grease (or any other oil you might prefer) in skillet and place in hot oven to melt and heat. In a bowl place the cornmeal mix, milk and eggs. Mix till eggs and milk are combined. Carefully pull skillet with melted fat out of the oven and quickly pour hot fat into the cornbread mixture. Stir to incorporate the fat into the cornbread batter, then quickly pour all back into the hot iron skillet and immediately place back into hot oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until edges are slightly brown and middle springs back when pressed. Remove from oven and cool for a few minutes and cut into wedges. Makes 10 servings.
A pot of beans with ham is an easy meal that goes great with a wedge of cornbread. This is also a cheap meal and a great way to use the ham bone (and bits of ham) left after a holiday meal. Simply wash a pound of pinto beans, place in a large bowl with water to cover and sit overnight in the refrigerator. The next day the beans can be cooked with either a ham bone, ham hocks, or (in a pinch) a half-pound of chopped up and cooked bacon or ham. Place beans and ham in a large crock pot, or a dutch oven on a stove-top or woodstove and cook slow at medium heat all day. Make sure the beans are always covered with at least an inch of water and salt and season to taste. When the beans are throroughly cooked, but not falling apart, remove from heat. Eat and enjoy!
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