Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cooking the Books with K: Little House Cornbread

"Almanzo ate the sweet, mellow baked beans. He ate the bit of salt pork that melted like cream in his mouth. He ate mealy boiled potatoes, with brown ham-gravy. He ate the ham. He bit deep into velvety bread spread with sleek butter, and he ate the crisp golden crust. He demolished a tall heap of pale mashed turnips, and a hill of stewed yellow pumpkin. Then he sighed, and tucked his napkin deeper into the neckband of his red waist. And he ate plum preserves and strawberry jam, and grape jelly, and spiced watermelon-rind pickles. He felt very comfortable inside. Slowly he ate a large piece of pumpkin pie."  –From Farmer Boy

K loves the Little House books. They were the first series of "big kid" books she read to herself, sometime in kindergarten. I fondly remember sitting in bed with her one night, as she read Farmer Boy and I read a Robert Parker Spenser mystery. I don't have a photograph as it was just the two of us at home with the cat, but it is a moment I can picture clearly in my memory, flannel pajamas and all.

A few thoughts from K on the books: 
"I remember that I liked the first one so much my Grammy got me the whole set." 
"I read them all the time and I even got the Little House Cookbook." 
"I liked that they were actually real life and they were exciting, most of the real life ones are boring."  
I found out that there were other Little House books and I looked for them every time I went 
to a library. I checked out like 50 books when I went to Grammy's and that included the extra Little House books." "Laura when she is younger is my favorite character, because she is a kid she is mischievous and she is kind of like me."

The Little House books are full of food, some of it very appealing as in almost all of Farmer Boy, a book that was my favorite in the series as a child. When I asked K what she should make, her first choice was apple pie. But, as it is Halloween weekend and the pre-sugar rush has already set in,  I suggested she try something a bit more savory. Her instant response "Cornbread, they eat that all the time."

The Little House Cookbook has two cornbread recipes, one with simply fat, cornmeal and salt and a second that includes butter, eggs and buttermilk. The second seemed the one to try, though we skipped the cracklings, as I did not have any on hand. We also added a small amount of sugar. Note that this is a recipe a 9-year-old can do essentially alone, though I'd suggest an adult help with pouring the batter into the warm skillet.

"Farmer Boy" Cornbread

1/4 cup butter, melted, plus more to grease the pan (or be more authentic and use bacon grease)
2 cups stone ground cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 T sugar (optional)
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 425. Grease a cast iron skillet with butter or bacon grease and put it in the pre-heating oven while you make the batter.
In a large bowl mix cornmeal, salt, baking soda and sugar. Stir in buttermilk. Beat eggs in a small bowl and add them to the batter. Finally, stir in the melted butter. Pour batter into the greased cast iron skillet and bake about 30 minutes, until the  brown edges pull away from the pan and the center of the bread bounces back when pressed. Cut and remove from pan before the bread cools. Serve warm.

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