Get Your Chin Good and Greasy
Cornbread has long been a staple in our diet and as youngsters on many an evening at supper time, cornbread and milk were what we ate and if there was any left overs from the noon meal those were special and only added to the meal. My grandmother could make the best to ever pass through the lips and gums in her old wood cook stove. She used a cast iron fry pan and made up the batter with her two hands using fresh ground corn meal that did not have the preservatives or additives in those store bought packages of today. I loved mine with buttermilk and a good onion for that extra flavor.
During the winter months we sometimes ate cracking corn bread. My daddy called it "fatty bread" because it was made using the "cracklins" from the hog lard that had been rendered. After hog killing time mama would use the excess fat cut from the hogs that had been slaughtered and cook all of it down. The rendered lard was then stored in a churn or in jars as were the crackling. A special treat for us were those skins mama baked after trimming away the fat to be rendered. Much like the pork rinds we enjoy today, those real pork rinds sure tasted good and if you weren't right careful, you'd have a greasy chin underneath that big old smile after eating them. The rendered lard was then used in much of the cooking. This was quite a change from today's kitchens where vegetable shortening like Crisco or some other more healthy ingredients as Canola or Olive oil are now used when baking or frying. For many of us here in the mountains of Western North Carolina rendered lard was all we ever knew and the pork seasoning only added to the flavor for so many of the foods we ate.
The following is a recipe from the web for "cracklin" cornbread. Cook time is about 30 minutes.
- 1 1/2 cups white cornmeal
- 3/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup diced cracklings
Mix dry ingredients; add milk, stirring until smooth. Fold in cracklings; shape into 8 to 10 flat, oblong cakes. Place cakes onto greased baking sheet. Bake at 400° for about 25 to 30 minutes.
Makes 8 to 10.
Crackling is the crisp remains of rendered lard or salt pork or crispy skin after cooking.
With so much today about healthy eating and avoiding excess fats, "cracklin" corn bread might not be the healthiest bread to eat but once in a while can add an option for diverse tastes. Cracklin corn bread goes good with dried beans and cabbage (boiled or fried). We always had a good supply of cracklings each year and mama didn't make this style of corn bread all the time. Today cracklings may be found in most grocery stores in the meat department. They are usually plentiful this time of year and soon those great "jowls for New Years will be appearing in the meat coolers.
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