The Southern History Of Cornbread

Recipe: Classic Skillet Cornbread

Although the Aztecs and Mayans were making corn tortillas and tamales long before we heated up our skillets, the Southern version of cornbread actually originated with the Native Americans. Because, as any good farmer knows, corn was like gold in the South. Join Test Kitchen Director Robby Melvin as he walks through the history of this beloved Southern side, and learn how to make our classic, rich cornbread with a perfectly golden crust.


Native Americans, settlers, slaves, all used corn for everything from food, to soap. And one of the greatest discoveries that came from all of that, was cornbread. [MUSIC] While the rest of the country was flourishing from the production of wheat, the south was just too hot for it. In hot weather, ni heavy rainfall, wheat can go rancid. Which really opened the door for corn. It was easy to grow, it was very easy to prepare. All you really needed after you harvested was a mortar and pestle to grind your corn into this great meal which would then be used for cornbread. If you go even further than the American south. To Mexico and South America, where the Aztecs and Mayans, centuries ago were using corn. Grinding it into meal and making tortilla. Which are an essential part of their diet. In it's early development, cornbread did not taste very good. It was just a simple combination of cornmeal and water. Stirred together And then baked over a open fire or in a hearth. Now, what really changed the game for corn bread is when they started invoking things like buttermilk, like eggs, baking powder, like baking soda. The settlers and the slaves had pigs. They used pig products, rendered bacon fat, rendered ham hog fat, things they had around that were gonna Help with the texture and the flavor of these ingredients. One of the most classic southern cooking methods for cornbread was the hoecake. Which was made by heating the flat side of your garden hoe in the fire or in the hearth. And then you would take your corn batter and spoon it out onto the hot surface. And you'd have this really delicious, tender Flat cake. Now, the secret to any great cornbread is going to be a super hot cast iron skelet ,essential for getting a nice crispy, well baked, cornbread. As you see, as cornbread evolved it no longer became a bread of necessity. It was something people enjoyed making .It was a delicacy. It would evolve even further into a common side for almost all classic Southern food. It's perfect, exactly what you want from cornbread. Rich corn flavor, nicely from the butter, enriched with the egg and buttermilk, absolutely perfect. [MUSIC]
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