Jalapeno Cornbread

I once dated a guy who didn’t like cornbread. Can you imagine?

No wonder it didn’t work out.

Jalapeno cornbread was a staple in our house, along with regular cornbread, which Mom usually poured into her cornpone cast iron pans, shaped like little ears of corn. Mom always made fresh cornpone when we ate anything in a bowl – vegetable soup, chili, pinto beans, and black-eyed peas, and sometimes just to go along with whatever we were having for dinner — but with bowl dinners, in particular, there seemed to be an unwritten rule that cornbread would be served.

After dinner, Daddy liked to sop his cornpone in a fat puddle of sorghum that he’d mix up with a piece of butter with his fork until it was a thick sugary paste. This seemed like a good idea, so I picked up the habit, too. (These days, I’m substituting with French honey of the forest, which my father would definitely not approve of.)

Daddy didn’t do this with jalapeno cornbread, which is the fancier, cakier version of the cornbreads, loaded with cheddar cheese, onions, and jalapenos — so there’s enough going on already. This cornbread requires nothing at all, or perhaps just a tiny schmear of softened fleur de sel butter.

Even with its bacon-grease assisted crust, there’s an elegance to this cornbread that elevates it to the category of divine, not-to-be missed Southern foods. My mom makes this for me every single time that I’m home.

The other day, because I was making black-eyed peas for dinner – just a big fat bowl of the little cuties – I knew that I needed to make Mom’s jalapeno cornbread, too. Because to have black-eyed peas on their own – or god forbid, with a baguette – would be so wrong.

This is Mom’s recipe, and you’ll see that she likes the Morrison’s mixes – which I import via my well-worn Samsonite to Paris – but there’s a note at the bottom that gives you the particulars if you don’t have Morrison’s mixes in your area, or don’t feel like running to the store if you do.

Main thing is to use cast iron skillets, which give the cornbread its crunchy brown crust. I used two small skillets instead of one large one, which is what mom usually does (and this is why her baking time is 50 minutes or more). My cornbreads were done in 30 minutes flat, so I’d recommend using two skillets for this recipe instead of one. Mom says that the cornbread freezes pretty well if you make too much. I like to slice them into big chunks and use them as salad croutons, or slice pieces and toast them, and slather a bit of you-know-what on them. This is all assuming that you might have any leftover.

Jalapeno Cornbread

2 packages Morrison’s cornbread mix*
⅔ cup sweet milk
2 eggs
1 can cream style corn
¼ cup bacon drippings
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3-5 jalapenos (pickled)
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven 400.

1. Mix cornbread mix, milk, eggs, corn in a medium bowl.

2. Then add onion, garlic, jalapenos and cheese.

3. Put bacon drippings in iron skillet in oven for about ten minutes or until hot.
Add to cornbread mixture and pour batter into skillet.

Bake for 50 minutes or a little longer if necessary. (The cooking time will vary, depending on the size of the cast iron skillet that you use. Mom uses one large one, so it takes longer. I used two small ones, and it only took 30 minutes.)

*Morrison’s mix is 6 oz, and has baking soda in the mix. If you don’t use Morrison’s mix, use 1 1/2 cups corn meal and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Also remember to use a bit of salt.