Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pone Cornbread

We call it "pone cornbread" in my family, but Wikipedia calls it corn pone: "a type of cornbread made from a thick, malleable cornmeal dough and baked in a specific type of iron pan over an open fire (such as a frontiersman would use), using butter, margarine, or cooking oil. Corn pones have been a staple of Southern U.S. cuisine, and have been discussed by many American writers, including Mark Twain. The term "corn pone" is sometimes used to refer to one who possesses certain rural, unsophisticated peculiarities ("he's a corn pone"), or as an adjective to describe particular rural, folksy or "hick" characteristics (e.g., "corn pone" humor). The term is sometimes intended as a pejorative, often directed at persons from rural areas of the southern and midwestern U.S."

[If you know me at all, you know that I hate Wikipedia. But this time I actually enjoyed the definition I found there when I set out to learn more about this unusual—and, quite frankly, unappetizing—bread.  I particularly like the reference to Mark Twain. But as usual, I have no idea if this definition is correct since Wikipedia arrogantly revels in its rampant inaccuracy. But I digress.]

This is one of those recipes that my mother had never written down, so last Saturday I observed the process firsthand and wrote and took pictures as she prepared it. She literally had to measure the amounts that she would have normally done from "feel" so that I could have something to write down other than, "Just throw some of this in until it feels right." I have to say, the process is very easy. The cast iron skillet is REQUIRED, so guess I'll have to go out and find one of these. The one my mother uses has been in the family for eons, I'm sure, and is so perfectly seasoned, you would think a frontiersman actually did use it at some point.

I wish I could say this stuff is delicious, savory, moist, adaptable...anything positive. But really, unless you absolutely drench it in butter (maybe some honey), you might as well put a handful of concrete in your mouth and attempt to chew it. I guess it could be used to soak up some Red Eye gravy when you're eating a good Country Ham. Or maybe as a weapon. You decide.

Pone Cornbread / Corn Pone
1 cup white corn meal (not yellow, very important!)
3 heaping Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup buttermilk

Mix dry ingredients with a spoon or fork. Grease cast iron skillet with oil. Add vegetable oil to the dry ingredients, slowly. Mixture should be coarse and dry. Add buttermilk, which will create a thick consistency to mold into pone shapes. Cook in oven on skillet at 400 for 1/2 hour til browned. Makes about a dozen, um...pones.

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