Last night, we decided to have chili and a variation of my Grandmother’s jalapeno cheddar cornbread. After the visit from my cousin, it had me thinking of my family, especially my Grandma who seemed to be the glue of our family most of the time.
A placard beside my Grandparent’s back door read “back door guests are best.” Through the first threshold was a mudroom area where you took off your shoes. You did not dare wear your shoes on my Grandma’s hardwood floor. Grandma was meticulous. She lived her life by the motto that there was a place for everything and everything was in it’s place.
When you entered through the second threshold you were greeted by my grandma, hair in curlers and her signature third person conversations. “Hey there, Baby! You give your Grandma a hug! Grandma has missed you so much!”
You were also greeted with the smell of salty fatback and black eyed peas simmering on the stove. Hot peanut oil in an old black cast iron skillet crackles and spits as a super thin mixture of corn pone spreads across the oil in a lace shape for a quick fried, crispy cornbread cake. As soon as Grandma moved them to the paper towels to drain, she had to make another batch because all of her “grandyoungens” would grab the hot cornpone, dancing them between our hands and making the guttural sounds of exhaling burning hot air from our mouths. Every piece of raw skin hanging from the roof of my mouth was worth the salty crunch of that crispy fried deliciousness. My love for cornbread started then. I could eat it by itself, but it has to be made properly, meaning in a smoking hot pan with fat in the bottom, so the underside of the bread gets a crunch that can not be replicated.
Growing up, we always had jalapenos in some form be it canned or fresh, so this cornbread was born out of that tradition. Now that I keep fresh red bell peppers around because my husband loves them, I incorporate that into the mix too. Last night, I instead of onion, I threw in scallions, because I had them on hand, but whatever you love and have on hand can be added to the basic mix.
Basic Cornbread Mix
¾ cup cornmeal
1-1/4 cups all purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Mix well in large bowl.
Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread
1 piece bacon, raw
1 can (regular) cream corn
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
2 small peppers (jalapeño) or mixture of jalapeno and bell pepper
1 ½ cups cheddar cheese
1 medium onion, chopped
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place a piece of raw bacon in the bottom of cast iron skillet (equivalent to 8-9 inch round pan) and let sit in preheating oven. Blend all dry ingredients. Stir in remaining ingredients until dry ingredients become moist. Take cooked bacon out of bottom of pan. Chop up and add to batter. Pour batter into heated skillet and bake for 45 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Makes about 9 servings. For best flavor serve warm with whipped butter or margarine.