Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Cornbread Book by Jeremy Jackson

50. The Cornbread Book
a love story with recipes
by Jeremy Jackson
cookbook, 2003
fourteenth book for the Foodies Read 2 Challenge 2012
finished 9/25/12



When there are so many cookbooks out there, you may wonder why you should buy one that is so specialized. Why do you need recipes that are all about cornmeal? And I say, because this is one of the most entertaining, cheerful, and witty books about food I've read. And we all welcome a little more cheer and wit into our lives, don't we? To say nothing of the cornbread! This man loves cornbread.

One of Jeremy Jackson's goals is to make cornbread one word. Perhaps nine years ago, when this book was published it was written corn bread, but according to my online dictionary which encompasses:
New Oxford American Dictionary
Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus
Oxford Dictionary of English
Wikipedia
it is definitely one word.

His other goals are to
have cornbread named the official bread of the United States of America. …
to find a wife.
As far as I know the first one has not come into being but according to his fun blog, he is now married!

The book starts off with historical information about cornbread, told in a humorous, understandable, and interesting way. We learn that Henry David Thoreau 'saw it as a means toward a more self-reliant life.'
Every New Englander might easily raise all his own breadstuffs in this land of rye and Indian corn, and not depend on distant and fluctuating markets for them. Yet so far are we from simplicity and independence that, in Concord, fresh and sweet meal is rarely sold in shops . . . For the most part the farmer gives to his cattle and hogs the grain of his own producing, and buys flour, which is at least no more wholesome, at a great cost, at the store.
Later, the author tells about the difference between degerminated cornmeal and whole-grain cornmeal. He's no cornmeal snob. He uses both. While the whole-grain is more nutritious, as you might imagine, it does spoil if not kept cold.
I would never buy whole-grain cornmeal that is more than two months old. I much prefer to buy it earlier that that. (If you're inclined to mill your own corn at home with a hand mill or electric mill, you'll get the freshest cornmeal of all.) And when I get whole-grain cornmeal home, I put it in an airtight bag in the freezer immediately. Frozen, it lasts for months.
Mine comes from Butterworks Farm, and I'm quite sure it is fresh when I buy it. I just need to pop it in the freezer when I get it home. It does indeed look just like Jeremy Jackson describes it.

Whole-grain cornmeal is not uniform in shape - it contains small pieces (a.k.a. "dust") and larger pieces, and everything in between. It is mottled in color. The good news is about whole-grain cornmeal is that when it's fresh, it is flavorful and homey and individual. 
He offers a list of places where you can obtain 'the real thing.'

He is also no cornmeal snob when it comes to northern and southern cornbread. He is concerned that
The continued "Balkanization" of cornbreads has perhaps placed too much emphasis on the idea that certain cornbreads are or aren't "authentic." Any cornbread that has corn in it is authentic, as far as I'm concerned. And though southern cuisine still celebrates cornbread more than any other region, even southerners are consumed by the idea that only white cornmeal can make "real" cornbread. Meanwhile, most people seem to get their cornbread recipe off the back of the Quaker cornmeal box (even Julia Child admits as much) or out of the Jiffy box.
There are many recipes I want to try, such as Portuguese Cornbread (Broa), Summer Kitchen Pound Cake, Berry Patch Cobbler, and Popcorn White Loaf. Yes, popcorn.
World War II saw another revival of cornmeal cookery, including the remarkable use of "popcorn flour" in breads. When President Truman ordered bakers to use less wheat flour, the H. Piper Company, then a major retail bakery in Chicago, sought alternatives and found that popped popcorn that was milled into a "flour" was an excellent way to stretch their wheat flour supply. In fact, many people thought that the combination of 25 percent popcorn flour and 75 percent wheat flour created a bread that was superior to one made with wheat flour alone.
The author gives instructions on how to make this flour. It is quick and easy.

For today, I made the simple and delicious Buttermilk Cornbread to go with tonight's Bean, Lentil, and Grains Stew.


Buttermilk Cornbread

This moist, full-flavored, buttermilk-based cornbread is similar in nature and spirit to many of the favorite cornbreads of the South, which are usually made with white cornmeal. Often they don't contain any sugar.

1 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup canola oil (you do know by now that for me that will be melted and cooled butter)
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour (or 1/2 cup soft southern flour such as White Lily or Red Band)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg

1. Preheat your oven all the way to 450ºF.
When it's reached that temperature, put the 1 tablespoon canola oil into a 9 x 9-inch baking pan or 10 1/2-inch iron skillet and put the pan/skillet into the oven to heat.

2. Whisk the dry ingredients together until they're well combined and there aren't any lumps of baking soda visible.
Separately, whisk the buttermilk, egg, and 1/4 cup oil together until they are smooth.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir until just combined.

3. Remove the hot pan/skilllet from the oven and pour the batter into the pan.
The batter will sizzle as it hits the hot oil.
Shake the batter into the corners of the pan and then return it quickly to the oven.

4. Bake the cornbread for 18 to 26 minutes, until it's lightly browned.
Serve hot.

I used the cast iron skillet. This cornbread is wonderful, wonderful. I wish you could taste it, but you can if you buy The Cornbread Book!





This is another book for the Foodies Read 2 Challenge 2012.

42 comments:

  1. Who knew? Amazing that there is so much about Cornbread that it can become a book.
    Ann

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    Replies
    1. There's another great one I've baked from a twice here on the blog:

      http://lettersfromahillfarm.blogspot.com/2009/12/simply-corn-muffins.html

      http://lettersfromahillfarm.blogspot.com/2010/03/vermont-maple-sweetened-cornbread.html

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  2. I don't eat cornbread as much as I used to. Mine usually comes from the Jiffy box. :/

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    Replies
    1. I didn't even know there was cornbread mix until reading this book. :<)

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  3. I love cornbread and have to admit mine comes from the same Jiffy box as Lisa's!!! but I love the idea of this book and hope you make more to share with us!!!

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  4. Cornbread.
    Yes Ma'am, you are speaking my language.

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  5. I love cornbread, Nan. I have this book, somehow it wound up on my kitchen bookshelf. Maybe someone gave it to me. At any rate, I read it a while back and wrote about it on my blog. Of course I can't remember much of what I read and I've always meant to make some of the recipes but just haven't gotten around to it. It is a funny little book. The recipes sound tempting as heck. I guess I'm one of those people who read cookbooks but don't actually make the recipes - except once in a blue moon.

    I've always meant to make the corn cakes for breakfast.

    P.S. I'm glad Jeremy found a wife. :)

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    Replies
    1. And I was your first commenter!! I was racking my brain trying to remember who first told me about it. Thank you! I'd recommend you get it out right now, and bake something! :<)

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  6. Anyway you cut it, corn bread can make an ordinary meal into a feast for all the senses.

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  7. I love cornbread, my husband is not as big a fan. I think because he is not from Appalachia. In grade school when we had corn bread and plain cake on the same day, we would have a hard time telling the difference sometimes. Our school cooks obviously used a bit of sugar in theirs! I made zucchini cornbread several times this summer and thought it warranted a feature on my blog. A book on cornbread--looks like a winner to me. I cooked some okra, corn and tomatoes last night, speaking of southern dishes, cornbread would have been perfect with it.

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    Replies
    1. I bet this book could convert him! There are some wonderful recipes. And if you see what I wrote above to Ann, there is another great cornbread cookbook I have. I'm going to go find that zucchini cornbread on your blog!

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  8. My father-in-law grew up during the Depression, oldest of 9 kids. He said they ate cornbread every day and on their birthday his mother would put sugar in it ;>) ..... but he still liked it as an adult and we think of him every time we make it. And we love it in any shape or form.

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    Replies
    1. What a story! Amazing. You'd be interested to read the history part of this book.

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  9. Sounds like a truly excellent alternative to wheat, rye and other types of flour mainly used over here.
    Some people can't eat those because of allergies, so they are forced to eat cornbread... with such a good book and delicious recipes, it will make life nicer and easier for them.

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    Replies
    1. Well, all the recipes include wheat as well, but there are non-wheat alternatives that could be mixed with corn I bet.

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  10. Oh, dear Nan, how I love, love, love this review. I must find this book. I have the perfect friend to give it to, though I'll read through it first, just in case . . .

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    Replies
    1. You'll love it! (and probably keep it yourself)

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  11. This book definitely intrigues me as I'm a big fan of cornbread!! I have been baking my cornbread in an iron skillet for years and there is no comparison! So yummy. And just a funny coincidence, we are having red beans, smoked sausage and cornbread for dinner tomorrow. :)

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  12. Cornbread---a poor man's cake but what a good one! I prefer it without sugar and encourage you to try omitting it the next time you bake. It's a southern thing to use melted bacon grease (!) in place of the oil. My grandparents ate cornbread crumbled in buttermilk for the total evening meal and lived a long time. It did simplify things.

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    Replies
    1. I appreciate your suggestion, but I like it sweet!!
      Simple meals are often the best. I love theirs.

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  13. My mom always made her cornbread in the cast iron skillet, the baked and the fried. Now I have her skillet! Guess I better get with it on the cornbread front!

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  14. This book intrigues me. I will look for it! My mom's cornbread recipe is almost identical to this one and oh my it is so good! My family always ate cornbread and buttermilk for a snack at night! I still love it! Now if I could just get my husband to eat it, I would have cornbread every night!

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    Replies
    1. I would almost guarantee he will love the recipes in this book. :<) Maybe not with buttermilk, except if it were inside.

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  15. Nan, a favorite all the time in this cottage. My Southern cornbread has no sugar and use bacon grease
    to sizzle in my old old iron skillet. Need to make today....

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  16. I don't think I've ever made cornbread from scratch! I used to buy the Marie Callendar's mix that came in a tin, but I haven't seen it for a couple of years now. But, we didn't eat it very often... when we did, it was usually with ribs or chili. This recipe sounds wonderful. And I have a cast iron skillet that I've been using a lot lately, so I'll have to give it a try!

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    1. And I've never used a mix. As I wrote above, I didn't even know such a thing existed. :<)
      It's fun using a skillet!

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  17. My high-altitude baking book calls for buttermilk in a lot of recipes, for its acidity. It helps break down gluten and makes the bread more tender. Oddly, she does not put buttermilk in the cornbread recipe. I want to try this one.

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  18. I've ordered it! It was rather enticing, your post was.

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    Replies
    1. I truly don't think you will be disappointed!

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  19. Aw, shucks, Nan, you're makin' me blush. Thanks for the kind words about my little book. I wrote it ten years ago and it continues to find avid cornbread fans all across tarnation.

    /jj

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    1. So very pleased you stopped by to read this. I really do love your book, and will be making lots of the recipes. Thanks so much.

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  20. Did you know that Jeremy has two more cookbooks? You might check them out since you love this one so much. They are: Good Day for a Picnic and Desserts That Have Killed Better Men Than Me. I just love the title for that last one!

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    1. I just learned this from his blog! I definitely want to either buy or borrow. I love the way he writes.

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  21. Nan, What a wonderful post about cornbread and a great book about it!
    My Dad makes the best cornbread, of course he uses buttermilk and bakes in an iron skillet at 500 degrees! He puts onions in it too, which is not strictly Southern, but hey, he's a great cook and baker and we like it that way, especially with sweet Vidallia onions from Georgia!

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    1. I am delighted at the response to the post. I think it's a book you'd enjoy. Great story about your father's version!

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