The South does a lot of things right. Their catchy country music, family-style potlucks, and delicious BBQ to name a few. We believe Southern cornbread deserves a place on the list of Southern bests. Just what is it about the Southern version of this popular comfort food that makes it so much better than other versions? We can give you a hint. Sugar is definitely not the secret ingredient!
Considering the South’s love for mouthwateringly sweet, sweet tea, it might come as a surprise that Southern cornbread is not sweet. It’s more savory. The reason for the lack of sugar can be answered by taking a peek into the past. Culinary historian, Michael Twitty, explains that historically, no bread made with cornmeal was sweet. “Why would you put sugar in something?…It was a valuable commodity. They didn’t need to put sugar in it, they used molasses on everything. That was the poor man’s condiment. Quick energy, quick carbohydrate, and a source of iron in the diet” (via The Charlotte Observer).
The key ingredient for Southern cornbread
Now that we can count sugar off the list, can we get a drumroll for the secret ingredient please?
The reason Southern cornbread is a flaky golden yellow crumb above the rest is because of bacon drippings! That’s right, the sizzling aftermath of your bacon cooking can be put to excellent use. According to Simply Recipes, adding bacon drippings to your cornbread keeps it from sticking to the skillet and gives your cornbread a drool-worthy bacon flavor.
So when is the best time to add the drippings? According to South Your Mouth, to achieve crispy edges, you must add the bacon drippings to a scorching hot skillet and return it to the oven until the grease starts to sizzle. The website also claims bacon grease gives an added level of smokiness to the cornbread. So next time we get a hankering for cornbread (like now!), we know the secret that will leave us feeling like a southern pro in the kitchen.
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