|Alternative name(s)||corn pone|
|Place of origin||United States|
|Main ingredient(s)||Cornmeal, baking powder|
European settlers, especially those who resided in the English Southern Colonies, learned the original recipes and processes for corn dishes from the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek, and soon they devised recipes for using cornmeal in breads similar to those made of grains available in Europe. Cornbread has been called a "cornerstone" of the Cuisine of the Southern United States.
Cornmeal is produced by grinding dry raw corn grains. A coarser meal (compare flour) made from corn is grits. Grits are produced by soaking raw corn grains in hot water containing calcium hydroxide, which loosens the grain hulls (bran) and increases the nutritional value of the product. The now softened slightly swelled grains are called hominy. Hominy, posole in Spanish, also is ground into masa harina for tamales and tortillas. This ancient Native American technology has been named nixtamalization.
Besides cornbread, Native Americans used corn to make numerous other dishes from the familiar hominy grits to alcoholic beverages (such as Andean chicha). Cornbread was popular during the American Civil War because it was very cheap and could be made in many different forms—high-rising, fluffy loaves or simply fried (as unleavened pone, corn fritters, hoecakes, etc.)
Types of cornbread
Cornbread is a popular item in Southern cooking enjoyed by many people for its texture and aroma. Cornbread can be baked, fried or, rarely, steamed. Steamed cornbread is mushy, chewier and more like cornmeal pudding than what most consider to be traditional cornbread. Cornbread can also be baked into corn cakes.
Cornbread is a common bread in United States cuisine, particularly associated with the South and Southwest, as well as being a traditional staple for populations where wheat flour was more expensive. In some parts of the South it is crumbled into a glass of cold milk or buttermilk and eaten with a spoon, and it is also widely eaten with barbecue and chili con carne. In parts of the southern and southwestern United States, cornbread, accompanied by pinto beans, has been a common lunch for many people. It is still a common side dish, often served with homemade butter, chunks of onion or scallions. Cornbread crumbs are also used in some poultry stuffings; cornbread stuffing is particularly associated with Thanksgiving turkeys.
In the United States, northern and southern cornbread are different because they generally use different types of corn meal and varying degrees of sugar and eggs. Southern cornbread has traditionally been made with little or no sugar and smaller amounts of flour (or no flour), with northern cornbread being sweeter and more cake-like. Southern cornbread traditionally used white cornmeal and buttermilk. Other ingredients such as pork rinds are sometimes used. Cornbread is occasionally crumbled and served with cold milk or clabber (buttermilk), similar to cold cereal. In Texas, Mexican influence has spawned a hearty cornbread made with fresh or creamed corn kernels and jalapeño peppers and topped with shredded cheese. Cornbread is typically eaten with molasses in the southern states and honey in the northern states.
Skillet-fried or skillet-baked cornbread (often simplified to cornbread or skillet bread) is a traditional staple in the rural United States, especially in the South. This involves heating bacon drippings, lard or other oil in a heavy, well-seasoned cast iron skillet in an oven, and then pouring a batter made from cornmeal, egg, and milk directly into the hot grease. The mixture is returned to the oven to bake into a large, crumbly and sometimes very moist cake with a crunchy crust. This bread tends to be dense and is usually served as an accompaniment rather than as a bread served as a regular course. In addition to the skillet method, such cornbread also may be made in sticks, muffins, or loaves.
A slightly different variety, cooked in a simple baking dish, is associated with northern U.S. cuisine; it tends to be sweeter and lighter than southern-style cornbread; the batter for northern-style cornbread is very similar to and sometimes interchangeable with that of a corn muffin. A typical contemporary northern U.S. cornbread recipe contains half wheat flour, half cornmeal, milk or buttermilk, eggs, leavening agent, salt, and usually sugar, resulting in a bread that is somewhat lighter and sweeter than the traditional southern version.
Corn pone (sometimes referred to as "Indian pone") is a type of cornbread made from a thick, malleable cornmeal dough (which is usually egg-less and milk-less) and cooked in a specific type of iron pan over an open fire (such as a frontiersman would use), using butter, margarine, shortening, or cooking oil. Corn pones have been a staple of Southern U.S. cuisine, and have been discussed by many American writers, including Mark Twain.
Hot water cornbread
Cooked on a rangetop, one frying method involves pouring a small amount of liquid batter made with boiling water and self-rising cornmeal (cornmeal with soda or some other chemical leavener added) into a skillet of hot oil, and allowing the crust to turn golden and crunchy while the center of the batter cooks into a crumbly, mushy bread. These small (3-4" diameter) fried breads are soft and very rich. Sometimes, to ensure the consistency of the bread, a small amount of wheat flour is added to the batter. This type of cornbread is often known as "hot water" or "scald meal" cornbread and is unique to the American South.
Pouring a batter similar to that of skillet-fried cornbread, but slightly thinner, into hot grease atop a griddle or a skillet produces a pancake-like bread called a johnnycake. This type of cornbread is prevalent in New England, particularly in Rhode Island, and also in the American Midwest and the American South. It is reminiscent of the term hoecake, used in the American South for fried cornbread pancakes, which may date back to stories about some people on the frontier making cornbread patties on the blade of a hoe.
A thicker buttermilk-based batter that is deep-fried rather than pan-fried, forms the hushpuppy, a common accompaniment to fried fish and other seafood in the South. Hushpuppy recipes vary from state to state, some including onion seasoning, chopped onions, beer, or jalapeños. Fried properly, the hushpuppy will be moist and yellow or white on the inside, while crunchy and light to medium-dark golden brown on the outside.
Images for kids
Cornbread Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.