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VOL. 38 | NO. 31 | Friday, August 01, 2014

Versatile cornbread: From salad to milk glass

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Cornbread salad in summer is like chili in winter – a must-have. It’s like a cool garden salad with Southern charm. It’s also a potluck favorite.

If you’ve never tried cornbread salad, I have a great recipe for you, and this is the best time of the year to try it.

My mother and grandmother taught me to make cornbread, although I’m not sure who taught me first. Maybe I just picked it up from watching both of them.

Regardless, cornbread was a staple in our house. We ate it almost daily – and for good reasons: it’s good and fairly inexpensive.

I had a few favorite meals with cornbread. One was (and still is) pinto beans and fried potatoes with cornbread.

Another was (and still is) white beans and cornbread with freshly sliced tomatoes and onions – and by “fresh,” I mean straight from the garden. This is the stuff I was raised on, and I love it to this day.

Cornbread

4-6 slices bacon, fried and drained (reserve bacon for garnish)
1 tablespoon butter, plus 2 tablespoons bacon drippings
1 cup self-rising cornmeal
3/4 cup self-rising flour
1 cup cream-style corn
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Add the butter and bacon drippings to a cast iron skillet. Preheat the pan either in the oven or on the stove over medium-high heat.

Mix the ingredients together in a large bowl, stirring until combined. Remove skillet from oven, and pour hot drippings into batter. Stir well.

Pour batter into preheated skillet. Bake approximately 30 minutes, or until brown.

One of my childhood memories is of my dad, who would usually wander into the kitchen a few hours after dinner, crumble a piece of leftover cornbread in a glass, and then pour in enough milk to cover it. After adding a teaspoon or two of sugar, he had one of his favorite comfort foods.

Cornbread Salad

1 batch cornbread cut into one-inch cubes (see recipe above)
1 (14.5-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups fresh corn, cut off the cob
1 medium Vidalia onion, finely chopped
2 cups grated sharp cheddar
1 (8-ounce) bottle ranch dressing

In the bottom of a large glass bowl, layer in order: cornbread, beans, fresh corn, onion, tomatoes, and cheese. Pour ranch dressing evenly over cheese. Crumble reserved bacon over top. If you need to double the recipe, make two layers. Cover, and refrigerate two hours.

Another one was with white bread, a banana, and some milk. Tear a slice of white bread into pieces and put it into a glass. Slice some chunks of banana on top of that and then add a bit of sugar. Cover the whole thing with milk, and you have a perfect banana-milk-bread snack. These were two of my dad’s favorite after-dinner desserts.

I’m not sure where the recipes came from, and I’m not sure how good they are. I Googled them, but came up with nothing. I guess they were such a “way-back” Southern thing, most people knew nothing about them. Maybe they have no history. Or maybe they were just something people down on the farm did. I don’t know, but both recipes are a part of our family history, and have a lot of memories attached to them.

Has anyone reading this ever had these or know about these after-dinner gourmet snacks? Just wondering. I haven’t tried them as an adult; I’m afraid my memories would be spoiled.

My oldest sister tried it, though, and her remark was, “Yuk! Don’t spoil your memory!” OK, I won’t ...

Both my mom and my grandmother made cornbread the same way: the Southern way.

Heat the pan and bacon drippings to “sizzling,” pour the bacon drippings into the cornbread batter, mix it really fast, and then pour the batter into the hot skillet. This method creates a deep, golden brown and crunchy crust!

We don’t eat a lot of bacon unless I’m fixing breakfast for visitors (my grandchildren). They love bacon, and we can go through quite a bit of it.

So, when I do fix bacon, I always allow the drippings to cool some, and then I pour them into a mini-cube ice tray and set them in the freezer. Later, I pop the cubes out of the tray and seal them in a zip-lock bag.

When I need a teaspoon or two of drippings, I grab a few out of the bag and let them sit a few minutes to thaw.

I realize people don’t use bacon drippings in much anymore because of the fat content, but, seriously, using some bacon drippings occasionally isn’t that unhealthy.

Anyway, whether you save the drippings or not, try this salad – it’s delicious.

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