Making cornbread is a staple of a perfect Southern Thanksgiving. There has been a heated debate for years across the country: Should cornbread be sweet? The answer in our household is a resounding no! Cornbread should never ever be made with sugar, and here is the reason why.
Born and raised in Texas, my great-grandfather for years raised and herded cattle. One of the last cowboys in America before the industrialization of farming, he would ride his horse for miles moving cattle with only what could fit in his side-saddle. He only brought the bare necessities with him when he made camp under the stars.
Cooking for himself, he could not indulge in wasting what little sugar he had to make bread. His coffee was black, and the cornbread savory.
This tradition passed on to my grandmother, who then taught my mother the way it used to be done on the range. She passed it along to me.
When we gather around for the holidays, there are two guarantees: one, that Mom will be making cornbread, and two, that it will completely disappear by the end of the meal.
Another great way you can make your Thanksgiving more Southern is by taking the cornbread and turning it into a delicious cornbread dressing that pairs perfectly with any classic turkey dinner.
Bacon Skillet Cornbread
1/2 pound bacon
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
1 whole egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1. Preheat oven to 450 F.
2. In a cast-iron skillet, line the bottom with bacon. Make sure the entire bottom of the skillet is completely covered. Cook for 15 minutes to partially cook the bacon. Meanwhile, make the cornbread batter.
3. In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, baking powder and salt.
4. Add buttermilk, milk and egg to the dry ingredients. Whisk together.
5. Add baking soda. This is key to creating a fluffy texture to the cornbread. Be careful not to over-stir the baking soda; it will make the final product too condensed.
6. Pour batter into the cast-iron skillet on top of the bacon. The batter should sizzle a little because the pan will be hot.
7. Place the pan on the top rack of the oven and cook for 20–25 minutes.
TIP: The cornbread is done when you see the top crack. To make sure, test with a toothpick near the middle. If the toothpick is dry, then the cornbread is done.
1 full recipe Bacon Skillet Cornbread
1 pound sage sausage
3 pieces sliced sandwich bread, 3 buttermilk biscuits or 2 cups storebought cubed bakery bread
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground sage (optional)
3 large eggs
1 medium onion, diced
4-6 fresh sage leaves, diced or torn into small pieces
2 stalks celery, diced
1/4 cup butter, sliced
2 cups heavy cream
6 cups chicken stock
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large bowl, crumble the cornbread and biscuits (or other white bread slices). Add salt, pepper, ground sage, eggs, onion, cream and chicken stock. Stir until well-combined.
Heat butter in a pan. Add onions, celery and sage leaves. Cook until tender and onions are soft, 1-3 minutes. Add to the bread mixture.
Brown sage sausage and drain grease from the pan. Add browned sausage to the bread ingredients. Stir until combined.
Pour dressing into 2 9-by-13 baking dishes and bake until lightly browned, about 30–45 minutes. Shake the dish lightly to test. If the center of the dressing moves, then the dressing is not cooked through. Continue to bake until dressing is set throughout.