This southern-style cornbread recipe is a long-standing tradition in my family. It was passed down to me by my Granny and Papa on my mom's side.
It features a shot of bacon drippings and is cooked in a cast-iron skillet in the traditional southern way. My mom (cookbook author and Fine Cooking contributing editor Pam Anderson) added her own twist to the recipe: a cornmeal mush that makes the bread more moist.
4 teaspoons bacon fat (or 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon melted butter)
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup boiling water
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
Before baking you'll need to render the bacon fat by frying bacon in a pan low and slow. Cooking the bacon over medium-low heat until it's very brown and crispy will yield the most fat.
Pour the bacon fat into an 8-in. cast-iron skillet and put in the oven on the middle rack as the oven preheats to 450 degrees.
Mix the dry ingredients—the cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda—leaving 1/3 cup of cornmeal to the side to be used later to make the cornmeal mush.
In a separate bowl, combine 1/3 cup boiling water with the remaining cornmeal and stir to make a stiff mush. Then stir in the buttermilk and egg.
When the oven is preheated, remove the skillet and add the smoking-hot bacon drippings into the batter and mix. Then quickly pour the batter into the heated skillet. When the batter sizzles in the skillet you know you're in for a good, crispy crust.
Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven and immediately turn the cornbread onto a wire rack to cool.