Tessa’s Cornbread

Laura Frantz Uncategorized

In my newest novel, An Uncommon Woman, our heroine, Tessa Swan, is quite a hand at the hearth. Our hero benefits from her rustic culinary skills so she’s something of a colonial kitchen diva. Her cornbread recipe is the one I grew up with and still make regularly to this day, a family favorite over many generations.

Recently a reader and I had a robust discussion on cornbread. She’d gotten some excellent cornmeal from Beckman Mill, a restored mill in Southern Wisconsin. The better the meal the better the cornbread or hoecake as it’s sometimes called. I use cornmeal and grits from Anson Mills in South Carolina. We have the Indians to credit with this amazingly versatile and nutritious recipe which then passed to settlers and thankfully is still enjoyed today.

I grew up on cornbread. It was made for dinner at 11:30 a.m. Supper was in the evening and consisted of leftovers from the big dinner. Cornbread often had to be made again because there usually wasn’t any left. It’s that good! Here’s our family recipe which resembles George Washington’s hoecake recipe back in the day, only George liked his hoecakes in the morning. With honey.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix 1 large egg with 1 cup buttermilk. {I used to love the big, chipped crockery bowl my granny used. We also used an antique hand-beater to mix with.} Then add 1 cup level white, self-rising cornmeal. {Granny always said, “Add a pinch of soda if the buttermilk’s real sour.” This made me smile as buttermilk was the sourest thing on earth to me.} Mix cornmeal in well and add 2 tablespoons melted bacon grease. Vegetable oil will do in a pinch but it’s not as tasty. Pour all into small, greased cast-iron pan. {Or in our case, the 100 year old blackened oblong pan that was my great-grandmothers.}

Bake for 20-25 minutes till golden. Turn out onto a plate upside down. Slice and serve and slather with butter.

History in the tasting!