Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Country as cornbread

Country as cornbread.  A term to mean that somebody is pretty dang country.  So if I were to describe myself... I'd have to say I'm as country as cornbread... and milk.

Yes, that's right.  Cornbread and milk.  And if I have my druthers it's not just any milk, but rich tangy buttermilk.  And in the absence of buttermilk, I'll settle for sweet milk.  Now for some of you, this may all sound as alien as time warps, black holes and crepes are to me.  So in order to catch you up on what I'm talking about, let's go back to the beginning which is always a good place to start.

As a child, my mama always cooked either biscuits or cornbread for every meal.  As much as I loved her cathead biscuits, my favorite of the two was the cornbread.  I'll eat cornbread with anything.  You could put a gourmet meal on the table in front of me and a plate of cornbread; I'd go for the cornbread first.

Now, as with most food, there is debate over whether white cornmeal or yellow cornmeal is better.  Just like with my grits, give me the yellow stuff.  It may all be in my head, but it just tastes more like corn to me and I like corn and I want my cornbread to taste like it's made from corn.  Makes sense... to me anyway.

Sugar or no sugar.  Again, this is a matter of contention and the basis of arguments as heated as those concerning whether to salt or not salt red ripe watermelon.  To me, the answer is simple.  Do you want your cornbread sweet or not?  I like mine unsweetened, but that's just me and I've eaten it both ways.  Some folks even put honey in theirs... it's just a matter of what you like.  And if other people don't like it, that means more cornbread for you.

Something I refuse to be swayed on is the use of butter or bacon grease.  I've seen cooks use vegetable shortening in their cornbread, and if I wanted my cornbread to taste like white greasy stuff, then I'd be happy with it.  But I want my cornbread to have that buttery or bacony taste that goes so well with cornbread.  Face it... if you make corn on the cob, do you smear it with shortening or butter before eating?  I like mine with butter, so into the cornbread  it goes.  And of course after it's done, more butter spread on the finished product. 

Another thing I will not do any other way is to use anything other than my cast iron skillet for the bread.  There is no substituting for the taste and crust obtained from that heavy seasoned kitchen staple, the iron skillet.  I'm sure there must be an ancient curse for somebody that tries to cook cornbread in anything but this magical cookware.

Once the cornbread is done, some people like to eat it piping hot in their milk.  I like mine cold in cold milk... but I have to say that I do not possess the patience to wait that long.  Crumbling in a bowl or large mug, with the buttermilk poured over the top or if necessary... sweet milk. 

But please... I beg you... if you're going to follow the time honored tradition of cornbread and milk, please don't use blue john.  What's blue john, you ask?  That's the term we used for what folks now call skim milk.  I know we're trying to watch our waists and all the rest of our curvy parts.  Seriously though... you're eating ground corn cooked with gobs of butter, egg and milk.  So do you really want to skimp at the end by offending the cornbread's sensibilities by pairing it with blue john?  Go for it... sweet milk or buttermilk.  It's good for what ail's you... I promise.

Now excuse me.  I need a refill on my bowl of cornbread and  milk.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Is THIS global warming?

It should be plain to any that have read my previous posts that I'm from the South, and you would be most correct.  Born, raised and spoiled to the temperate winters that we're so fond of flaunting to our Northern friends when they're in the grips of deep winter.

Of course, it's not unusual for us to get the occasional flakes and the freezes that we bemoan when it comes for days, not considering those that must endure it for perhaps months out of the year.  But, that's just us... we like our warmth.

So when snow falls... and then falls... and then falls again, we begin to grumble and groan, complain and moan, totally forgetting that when those summer temperatures exceed 100 we'll be repeating those same actions in reverse.

Last week I witnessed more snow on the ground than I have ever seen other than on an Alaskan documentary or a Christmas card.  To people accustomed to it, our two feet of the white stuff was most likely laughable; but to us it was at first a marvel, then an inconvenience and in the end, was a downright pain.

Now I'll admit as long as I'm inside looking out, it is beautiful.  However, when horses, cows, cats and dogs are gazing back with that "and you think you've got it bad" look in their eyes, you just have to sigh with guilt, put on warm clothes and go offer them what comfort you can.  The ducks tried to cross the yard, moving only a couple feet at a time because they were in essence swimming in snow.  Poor furred and feathered children.

After tromping around... and when the snow was up to my knees, it was most definitely a "tromp"... in the cold, with frozen fingers and toes (and everything else nipped as well), it is time for REAL hot chocolate.  No no!  Not that stuff out of a box that tastes like powdered stuff and water.  Honestly, I'd rather just drink the hot water.  No, I mean a sweet rich hot chocolate made with thick condensed milk and cocoa that makes you just say "ahhhh" as you stretch out with your flannel pajamas and a mug of this warming beverage.

Creamy Hot Chocolate

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/8 t. salt
6 1/2 cups hot water
Mini marshmallows is desired

In a large saucepan, combine condensed milk, cocoa, vanilla, and salt, mixing well.  Over medium heat, slowly stir in water, heat through, stirring occasionally.  Before serving, put marshmallows on top.  A good sugar peppermint stick is nice to add as a stirrer.

And that is how you kick up the heat without throwing another log on the fire.

Speaking of logs on the fire... my barbecue pit is waiting sadly for the Spring thaw.