It all starts with a good cornbread recipe. Corn ... the staple of farmers for their animals and for their families. Corn ! Fresh and dried, soaked in lye to make hominy, pounded in various gritty grindings to make flour, grits, and coarse polenta. Boiled and buttered when its fresh off the stalk, grilled and cut from the cob to add to salads and custards. It's such a versatile grain !
As I embark with dozens of other fans of The Little House on the Prairie books and television series on this journey with The Little House Cooking Club, our first cooking challenge is to make a cornbread in homage to Ma Ingalls. I took my recipe from Melissa Gilbert's cookbook that honored her days on the series. 'Half pint' has grown up and moved on, but she still credits the series with giving her a firm foundation in home cooking and she's gathered some fine recipes together to honor the series and farm cooking.
This is a fun book. Photos of the days of creating the television series, beautifully photographed recipe offerings, and memoir-like reflections by Ms. Gilbert about the series, her acting partners, and about cooking for her family once she grew up and settled down.
So, while I mixed up the cornbread batter I also had a big pot of corn and ham chowder that I think Ma Ingalls might have made for her family. The ingredients are all readily available to farm families. I'll include the recipe along with the cornbread recipe.
Melissa Gilbert's Cornbread with Scallions
adapted from My Prairie Cookbook's recipe
1 and 1/3 c. all purpose flour
1 c. coarse stone ground yellow cornmeal ( I used 1/2 c coarse polenta and 1/2 c. fine cornmeal)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
pinch black pepper
1 and 1/4 c. milk
2 tbsp. honey
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 c. corn oil
8 scallions, white and green parts, sliced thinly ( I used 4 scallions and added 2 oz. grated Cheddar cheese)
Making the Dish:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a cast iron pan (12 inch) or other cast iron molds that you might have.
2. Place the flour, corn meal, baking powder, salt, pepper in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
3. Beat the eggs into the milk measure in a large measuring cup. Add the corn oil ( or butter) and whisk to combine.
4. Pour all at once over the dry ingredients and add the honey. Stir briskly just to combine into a shaggy batter., bringing the dry ingredients up from the bottom of the bowl and turning it into the batter.
5. Add the scallions (and cheese if you wish) and gently fold into the batter.
6. Turn the batter into the prepared pans and bake for about 30 minutes for the 12 inch skillet and perhaps a bit less for smaller pans. Keep an eye on things. Cornbread is done when the top surface is golden and the edges near the pan are a gentle brown. Use a cake tester to poke the center and take it out when the tester comes 'clean'.
7. Cool in the pans for about ten minutes and then turn out onto a pretty platter. Serve warm with butter and honey or dunk pieces in soup or stew. Yum !
Now, about that soup .... this is a simple recipe. My mother always called Corn Chowder 'Poor Folk Gruel'. The five Miller kids gobbled it down, though. Cheap cans of corn and evaporated milk went a long way to fill bellies. Having ham in it after we'd had a big Sunday ham was an added bonus. It seemed that this soup was made for this post for The Little House Cooking Club. I hope folks get the opportunity to make it sometime soon !
Corn and Ham Chowder
4 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces
3 stalks celery, fine dice
1 small onion, small dice
2 cloves garlic
1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. dried marjoram
1/2 tsp. black pepper
4 c. reduced sodium chicken broth
1-15 oz can evaporated milk
3 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
1- 15oz can creamed corn
1- 15 oz can golden corn, drained
2 small ham steaks - enough to make 2 cups diced pieces
Making the Dish:
1. Chop the bacon and place in a deep soup pot. Brown until fat is rendered and the bacon bits are crisping up. Remove the bacon and place on a paper towel-lined plate.
2. Leave the fat in the pot and add the prepped celery and onion. Sauté for about five minutes, then add the minced garlic cloves. Stir for about a minute and then add the flour and spices, stirring to make a roux.
3. Add the chicken broth and stir to begin thickening. Add the evaporated milk and stir to combine with the broth-y soup. Add the creamed corn and the corn kernels, potatoes, and ham cubes. Stir everything together and simmer the soup until the potatoes are softened.
4. Add half the bacon bits back to the soup and use the rest to garnish bowls when you serve the soup.
So, there you have it ! Cornbread and Corn and Ham Chowder for the first entry to The Little House Cooking Club. Enjoy !
Folks down here in the south might argue with the honey in the cornbread. I've been schooled on this since moving to Georgia. Apparently sweet cornbread is anathema. Having said that, both of these recipes sound wonderful to me. Might sub cream or half and half for the evaporated milk since it's what I usually have.ReplyDelete
Oh this looks SO delicious! I can't wait to try the soup recipe.ReplyDelete
I love both types of cornbread...sweet or not. Sweet cornbread and onions is delicious with butter!ReplyDelete
Thanks for the recipes!