So I’m not actually going to share my recipe for this at this time because it needs work, but I will share some of the information I found in researching it.
I mean, it isn’t completely terrible- it tastes fine when put in the bottom of the bowl to soak up the potlikker from the black eyed peas or collard greens, but by itself… ick. I think that my bacon grease was too salty and it overpowered all the other flavors. I think the first step will be to try using unsalted butter instead of bacon grease in the pan. If it’s still inedible, then I’ll know I need to tweak the actual batter.
So, as we discussed in my post about sweet cornbread, there are two schools of thought on cornbread in this country- sweetened (or “northern” style) and unsweetened (“southern”). The sweetened version usually has wheat flour added, while the southern style is generally just cornmeal.
In my research I came across this article from Serious Eats, about why sugar has no place in cornbread. The short version is that in the mid 20th century big steel “roller” mills replaced the water powered stone mills that had dotted the countryside, and the texture of the cornmeals changed. A small stone mill would have only had one size of screen to sift the meal, so you got a wide range of particle sizes in your cornmeal. The big mills created a more uniform sized meal that behaved differently, so people started adding wheat flour to help hold thier cornbread together. The other change was that they would harvest corn before it was ripe, resulting in a lower natural sugar content which lead to the addition of sugar to cornbread recipes.
Following the advice in that article I purchased some stoneground cornmeal from Anson Mills* . I perhaps should have Anson Mills’ recipe to start with, until I got used to how their meal behaved, but I don’t think that was my problem. I am a little sad that I can’t actually taste the difference between their product and any other cornmeal I’ve gotten recently.
It may be a while before I come back to this, as I’m about ready to move on to other regions and recipes. But cornbread goes well with beans, so I’m sure I’ll come back to this sooner or later.
*I receive no compensation for mentioning this product.