Southern Style Cornbread
4 tsp bacon drippings OR 1 tsp vegetable oil plus 1 tbsp melted butter
1 cup (approx. 5 oz) cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt/
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup rapidly boiling water
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 450°. Set an 8-inch cast-iron skillet with bacon fat (or vegetable oil and butter) in the heating oven.
Measure 1/3 cup of the cornmeal into a medium bowl. Whisk the remaining cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda together in a small bowl; set aside.
Pour the boiling water all at once into the 1/3 cup cornmeal; stir to make a stiff mush. Whisk in the buttermilk gradually, breaking up lumps until smooth, then whisk in the egg. When the oven is preheated and the skillet is very hot, stir in the dry ingredients into the mush mixture until just moistened. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven. Pour the hot fat from the pan into the batter and stir to incorporate, then quickly pour the batter into the heated skillet. Bake in the oven until the bread is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and instantly turn the cornbread onto a wire rack; cool for 5 minutes, then serve immediately.
Southern style cornbread is differentiated from Northern style in a number of ways. First off, white cornmeal is preferred. Northern style is cakier and sweeter, while Southern style is denser and more savory. Making it in a cast-iron skillet will produce a crisp exterior, another Southern hallmark. And most of all, it’s the process of starting with cornmeal mush, adding the hot fat, and then immediately baking that signifies Southern style cornbread.