I seem to have embarked on a never-ending quest to season my new collection of cast iron pans and skillets. It’s bordering on an obsession, trawling over forums, watching youtube demonstrations, emailing friends in the States. All to find out the best way to season, maintain and clean my cast iron. You have no idea how much conflicting information is out there…
My friend Russ has been a most helpful ally in the battle to achieve seasoning glory, being ever so patient with my barrage of questions and emailed pictures with the accompanying subject line “WTF did I do wrong!?”. Russ suggested the best way to continue the seasoning process is to make cornbread in my skillet, since baking it helps form the non-stick surface. So I asked him to share his recipe, and got to cookin’.
It ended up being even better than I had expected. If I thought it was good at dinner time, man, it was even better for breakfast.
Russ is a genuine Good Old Boy from down South, living in Alabama and hailing from a family who can trace their lineage back to pre-Civil War Georgia. So as you can see, this recipe comes with an impeccable provenance. This recipe precedes grocery stores, and thus most of the ingredients are items that many rural folk grew or made themselves.
As Russ tells it: ”back in the day you had to grow your own corn and send it to the local grist mill that used a water wheel (or mules walking in a circle if you were not near a river) to power the grinding stones, hence “stone ground”. They also kept cows for milking, churned their own butter, made their own cheese and cream. And of course they had plenty of chickens (for eggs or for frying).”
Naturally, the recipe has no doubt changed and been tweaked as it’s been passed down through generations, and out of respect for such a historic recipe (remember, you can never give the EXACT family secrets out!), I changed it up slightly myself.
Ingredients:1-1/2 c. stone ground cornmeal (or polenta if you’re in Australia and can’t get cornmeal!) 3/4 c all purpose flour
1) Preheat oven to 450f/230c degrees
2) Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl, mix lightly.
3) Cook bacon in a 10″ skillet on medium heat (I’ve been told high flames are bad news for cast iron skillets). Make sure you cook it so it develops great colour and crispness.
4) As the bacon comes close to being done, add egg and most of the buttermilk to the dry ingredients. Mix. The consistency should be very thick, but pourable. Slowly add more milk as needed to achieve this consistency.
5) Add the jalapeños and the bacon from the pan, making sure you leave at least half of the bacon grease in the skillet. Stir.
6) Pour the whole mixture back into the skillet, use a spatula to push the mix evenly in the pan, then pop the whole thing in your preheated oven.
7) Bake for around 20 mins, or until you have a lovely colour developing on top of your pone. (Yup, “pone” is the correct term for a “loaf” of cornbread!)
Allow to cool, remove from skillet, slice and eat with LOTS of butter.
You could also of course make this in a regular oven proof dish. It’s just not gunna be the same