Nov 2009

Old Fashioned Cornbread


The first time I ate cornbread down South, I was convinced that someone in the kitchen hadn’t performed their job properly. The texture was coarse and crumbly, while the taste was plain and bland. Up until that point in my life, I had only consumed sweetened Yankee cornbread and was completely unaware of the savory Southern variety. Even though it wasn’t love at first bite for unsweetened cornbread and me, I eventually learned to appreciate its rustic quality after a few more tries. While I still prefer the sugary stuff that I grew up on, old fashioned corn bread appeals to me in a different way.

This recipe was clipped from a package of cornmeal years ago by The Astronomer’s mother, a native of Tennessee. While the recipe specifies that butter or shortening can be employed, The Astronomer’s mother insists on using only bacon fat because it yields a gorgeous golden crust and an unbeatable smoky taste.

  • 2 tablespoon bacon fat, butter, or shortening
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk
  • 3 slices of bacon, cooked but not crispy (optional)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spoon the bacon fat into a cast iron skillet and place it into the preheated oven. While the skillet is in the oven, whisk together the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the honey, egg, buttermilk, and bacon (if using) into the cornmeal mixture and incorporate well. Lastly, add the heated bacon fat into the batter and pour the batter into the heated skillet.


Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and crusty. Serve warm with butter and honey.

Serves 4 to 6.

[For Printable Recipe Click Here]

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17 thoughts on “Old Fashioned Cornbread

  1. Uh…awesome. Thank *you*.

    I grew up in SC, and I have to say I hate sweet cornbread. Coarse, salty, greasy cornbread is the way to go. If it’s baked in a pan that makes the pieces look like little ears of corn: so much the better.

    Cornbread is a subject that brings out the grump in a lot of people, including me. I’m just set on the way I like it, I guess.

    So thanks for this recipe: it looks just right and Charles will be happy that it contains the magic ingredient (hint: pig).

  2. Agreed, if you didn’t grow up on Southern cornbread, it may not be love at first bite but delicious never the less. I love the picture as well, reminds me of pacman.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. I agree that this is a tender subject. My dad and his family are from SC as well, and the cornbread his mother made was definitely sweet, but not as sweet as the northern variety. After years of coveting her recipe, she finally revealed that she’d been using the recipe off the Albers corn meal box for decades, which calls for a 1/4 cup of sugar. I mean, she was the classic Southern cook; fried chicken, collards, pinto soup, the works. She’d also put a huge glob of Crisco in the preheated skillet to make sure the crust was as crispy and golden as possible, but I think we can pretend that never happened.

  4. Secret confession of the D takes a B kind… I really like the cornbread muffins at Kenny Rogers. They are sweet and have kernals of corn in them. I probs not mind if they had bacon in there too.

  5. Gorgeous shots! This northerner has tried a similar recipe out of Jean Anderson’s Southern cookbook but never had it come out quite right. I’ll have to give your variation a try. Maybe all I was missing was the bacon…

  6. Yay!! So, glad I waited a few extra nights to make cornbread. This looks like the perfect recipe, and very forgiving. I bet it would be just as delicious with jalapenos and cheddar, in place of the bacon.
    Well…nothing is AS delicious as bacon, but I bet it would be a close second.

    Thanks for the post.

  7. I would like to stipulate that bacon fat is the secret to most outstanding dishes. But I think men might have a special affinity to pork products- my father keeps little cups of pork fat in the fridge “just in case”.

    Martina from The Foreign Kitchen

  8. I grew up in Alabama. The secret to southern style cornbread is good buttermilk, lots of either butter or bacon fat (you can use Crisco shortening too but not oil), and most essentially, a very well-seasoned cast iron skilled or cornbread pan. If your cast iron skillet is seasoned well enough, the bread just falls right out when it is done. Just turn it over onto a plate.

    Most southern cooking is best done in very well-seasoned cast iron, btw. I have two skillets and two dutch ovens.

    I like the idea of adding the bacon. I’m going to have to try that!

  9. C’mon, we know The Gastronomer totally did the Pac Man homage on purpose! I can hear that “waka” sound effect now and am craving cherries and various other marching, high-scoring fruit!

    I am torn on the cornbread battle. I grew up in Texas, so that’s not really the south. I don’t like it too sweet, but I do like it fluffy. I tend to make the sweet kind (Trader Joe’s) and add extra kernels of canned corn, bacon and jalapenos to make it more savory.

  10. mmm bacon fat! I just made the Pioneer Woman’s corn bread and I too was shocked by how bland it was, but after the first slice I realized I really enjoyed this honest version of corn bread! The South has some great food!

  11. Last post of the day, I’ve been on your blog all day! thank you. PAcman Nom Nom

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