Gourdseed Skillet Corn Bread Recipe

Cornbread will taste even better using this Gourdseed Skillet Corn Bread Recipe, the combination of flavorful gourdseed corn cooked in a cast-iron skillet makes for an especially delicious cornbread.

Heirloom Vegetable Gardening: A Master Gardener's Guide to Planting, Seed Saving and Cultural History
October/November 2008

Total Hands-On Time: Prep time 10 minutes, cook time 25 to 30 minutes

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 to 30 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

This Gourdseed Skillet Corn Bread Recipe uses gourdseed corn, Native Americans grew this soft-kernelled, late-maturing variety. This is a rich flavored corn that makes old-fashioned tasting Southern corn bread the way it used to be made.


This Gourdseed Skillet Corn Bread Recipe makes the most out of flavorful gourdseed corn and cooking the bread in a cast-iron skillet.

Skillet Corn Bread

The old name of this bread is spider corn bread, spider being the early American term for a frying pan with three legs and a long handle. (You can get the same results by using a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron frying pan.)

I don’t think I have ever eaten a better corn bread than this one, and I can visualize the Johnny cakes, hush puppies and other old-time hearth cakes to be enjoyed from this corn. Here’s how to make it, adapted from an 1880s-era recipe.

• 1 2/3 cups white gourdseed cornmeal (see note, below)
• 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
• 1/4 cup granulated sugar
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 2 tbsp unsalted butter
• 1 cup rich milk (mix 2/3 cup milk with 1/3 cup cream)


1. Sift together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt and baking soda in a deep work bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until lemon-colored and frothy, then whisk in the buttermilk. Gently fold together the dry and liquid ingredients.

2. While preparing the batter, heat a 10-inch cast iron frying pan in an oven preheated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. When the pan is thoroughly hot, remove it from the oven, melt the butter in it and coat the inside of the pan using a brush. Add the batter and spread it evenly, and then pour in the cup of rich milk (do not stir or disturb the batter underneath). The milk poured over the bread creates a cheeselike “skin” on top, which gives added flavor and considerable eye appeal.

3. Set the pan on a middle rack in the preheated oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cake tests dry in the center. Serve immediately with homemade butter. Yields 6 servings.

Note: If you are milling your own gourdseed corn, grind it as fine as possible and sift it so it has the consistency of pastry flour. Sift it again while measuring for the recipe.

If you use a commercial cornmeal, you will have to adjust the amount used in this recipe. Modern cornmeal is much denser than old-style types for corn bread, so it is important to remove 3 1/2 level tablespoons from the amount of cornmeal listed above.

Read about the wonderful world of heirloom vegetables in William Woys Weaver’s Heirloom Vegetable Gardening, now available on CD. To learn more about grain corns, see Heirloom Corn .

Read more about the history of gourdseed corn and how to grow it: Growing Heirloom Gourdseed Corn.