Downtown Roanoke finally appeared this afternoon shimmering in the heat and haze. I'll take that as an omen that the recipe for the "Perfect cornbread" needs to appear. One of my friends who lives up on the side of a mountain overlooking Blacksburg gave me some grief for not publishing the cornbread recipe. Of course he told me that I should always fry the bologna in my bologna sandwiches, but I chalk that up to his relative youth and lack of experience in such matters. That's especially the case since my kids agree with him.
I kept asking Glenda to just write the cornbread recipe down. Well it turns out she operates off a recipe that comes on the back of White Lily Self Rising Cornmeal except that she doesn't really use any of the measurements or times and also doesn't put sugar in her cornbread. That basically means the recipe on the bag has no resemblence to the one she has in her head. Our daughters are used to that and have a phrase for those kinds of recipes. They're called "cook til done recipes." They offer guidance only in the most general way.
On top of that, Glenda says my Blacksburg friend has no hope of success because he probably doesn't have the right kind of pan. So I took my life into my hands and found the small pan that Glenda uses just for the two of us. It was hidden in the bottom of our pan drawer. I caught a glimpse of the sacred larger one but decided not to risk getting caught handling it.
I put my ink pen in the picture for a little scale, but obviously the important thing is the shiny finish of the pan which I suspect comes from a number of cornbread pones and careful handling. This particular pan is one Glenda bought in Canada and has hauled all over the east coast, not the one which was handed down from my mother. I'm sure you all know that you never wash a cast iron cornbread pan in soapy water. You just wipe them out a hot wet cloth.I hesitate to even go forward with the recipe but it will be a good lesson in Southern cooking. According to Glenda, you mix your cornbread and get your pan ready at the same time. I suspect doing it the first time that way might be a little of a challenge considering the "recipe" that I'm about to give you. May your grandmothers be watching over you when you try this.
First pour some oil in the pan. Of course the amount of oil depends on the pan size and I have no quantities to give you. Make certain you swirl the oil around the pan so the edges get coated.
So for a very small pan like the one above, the approximate amount of White Lily self-rising cormeal is one cup to which you add buttermilk in a quantity that is probably over half a cup but less than three quarters of a cup. She adds half of one egg beaten or a similar quantity of Egg Beaters. While this has all been going on, she has been warming about one eighth of a cup of oil in the pan. She then pours the oil in the mix except for an unknown but small quantity that remains in the pan to give the cornbread a nice crispy crust. According to Glenda's directions (which are different than the White Lily ones) you mix the ingredients until the mixture is smooth. Then pour it into the skillet when the skillet is hot enough for the batter to sizzle and of course cook until done in a 425 degree Fahrenheit oven. Apparently she has never timed the cooking so I would say pull it out of the oven when it starts to look nice and brown.
In other words, I got her to come up with rough times for cooking, but the recipe really should read, "Cook until done."
May the force be with you and if you have questions, my I suggest a note to email@example.com and not me.
Here's the White Lily recipe.
2 cups White Lily Buttermilk White Cornmeal Mix
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups milk or buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted shortening
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar (optional-we don't use it)
Preheat well greased 8 or 10 inch skillet in 425 F oven. Or, grease an 8x8x2-inch baking pan
Blend all ingredients, stirring just until moistened. (Batter should be lumpy)
Pour batter into preheated skillet or pan.
Bake 25 - 30 minutes for an 8-inch skillet.
20 - 25 minutes for a 10 inch skillet
25 - 30 minutes fir 8x8x2 inch pan
Remove from pan and serve.
Makes 8 servings.