Here in Texas, we pride ourselves on our barbecue sides, not the least of which is a good batch of cornbread. But were you aware of where the beginnings of this delicious recipe were founded? Thanks to the teachings of Native Americans, this morsel of deliciousness has found its way to our tables. Cornbread gets its modest beginnings with the Indians with whom North America’s European settlers first came into contact. Although, they were making it well before that time, having perfected the recipe to sustain their own families.
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To this day, corn is considered a mainstay in the Native American diet and was a major source of sustenance back in the day when settlers were first arriving on the continent. Having ground the corn into flour and meal for years, they were considerably creative in its use. While white settlers soon became dependent on things that could also be found naturally and grown locally, they soon learned to make use of corn and embraced the art of making cornbread. Due to the fact that corn has natural elements to it that eliminate the need for yeast for leavening, it became known as a quick bread.
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Fast forward to the time of the American Civil War and cornbread was thrust into the limelight. Corn was considered a fairly inexpensive commodity and there were lots to be had. Subsequently, meals which were easy to make with it became quite popular at this time. Cornbread was one of the recipes that could feed many on very little. As a result of the fact that a number of varietals of corn were grown throughout the continent, the types of cornbread made with it tends to vary by region. The south was known for white corn, the southwest for blue corn, and the northern regions grew yellow corn. Likewise, the recipes for and preparation of cornbread also varied. From the outset, when various ingredients weren’t yet available, the Native Americans made their cornbread using a basic mixture of cornmeal, water, and salt. Eventually, various sweeteners were added to the northern form of the recipe, including such things as molasses, honey, and finally, sugar. To the south, the mixture was less likely to be sweetened and more often mixed with lard or bacon grease.
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To this day, home cooks continue to make cornbread from scratch, although there are quite a few companies that have churned out ready-made mixes for purchase at local grocery stores. At one time considered a staple in the American household, it has quickly laid claim to the role of Texas dinner accompaniment, going well with almost every meal you can think of, skillet-fried or skillet-baked!