I’ve been enjoying vintage recipes lately. You know, the kind you find in old cookbooks sold by church and civic groups. Some were mimeographed, folded, and stapled while others had an artsy cover and a plastic, spiral binder. Truth be known, I was responsible for compiling a half dozen, or more, of those recipe collections over the years.
Trek Down Memory Lane
During my recent scan of aging cookbooks, I ran onto Aunt Dora’s Kentucky Cornbread. Now I’ve never met Aunt Dora or eaten her cornbread, but I knew the woman who submitted the recipe. Old cookbooks are full of familial ties: Cousin Abby’s Tomato Aspic; or Uncle Frank’s Blue Ribbon BBQ Sauce; or Grandma Tessie’s Snickerdoodles. Most readers have no idea who these people are, but the homey title adds credence to the dish.
Intent on making the bread, I took a photo of Dora’s recipe with my cell phone. (That’s so much better than tearing recipes from magazines or scribbling them on 3″x5″ cards.) There were so few ingredients, I could’ve committed it to memory.
Stirring Up a Batch of Cornbread
Most often I make cornbread at the last minute to go with a pot of chili, soup, or a fish dinner. I’ve used the recipe on the back of the Quaker cardboard box for years. But Dora called for using self-rising cornmeal, which meant the meal and leavening were included. To that she added oil, sour cream, and creamed corn, but no milk.
Hmm. . . interesting. But lest you think I’m a pushover for every cornbread recipe that flips a crumb my way, let me add that I do have some scruples when it comes to cornbread. It should be crunchy on the outside and moist inside, but not crumbly or overly pale.
The Southern-style cornbread I grew up eating was sometimes dry, I suspect because we used a coarser cornmeal. Northern cornbread is cakier and a bit sweeter, because of the addition of sugar or cream-style corn. I wanted something in between and it looked like Dora did, too. Her recipe was worth a try.
As it turned out, Dora’s old cookbook recipe with the cream corn was quite tasty: not too sweet, not too dry. And it cut perfectly. It hit all the flavor notes for me, in addition to using only 5 ingredients, that I had on hand. The next thing I’m going to do is try the recipe on my family to see if they notice any difference in my cornbread. That will be the real test.
My mother often made cornbread sticks in a cast iron pan, that was shaped to make the bread look like it had kernels, at least, on the underside of the individual sticks. I got one of the heavy, single-purpose pans as a wedding gift in the 50s. I recently noticed that they now sell on line for $15 to $77. I have long since packed mine away, leaving its purpose to be pondered by another generation.
Most often I cook my cornbread in a skillet. It seems like the civilized thing to do. Or if I’m feeling fancy, it goes in a Pyrex dish. I’ve never noticed much difference in outcomes.
Aunt Dora’s Kentucky Cornbread
- 1 cup self-rising cornmeal
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup oil
- 8-oz. sour cream
- 1 small can cream-style corn
Mix all ingredients. Bake in lightly greased 9×9″ Pyrex dish at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes.