I went to Arkansas' first Cornbread Festival over the weekend and had a blast. It was so well done...such fun! A fabulous day, The Bernice Garden showing off its fall splendor and beautiful new roof, toe-tapping music, lots of great vendors, fun shops and yummy restaurants along South Main Street...couldn't have been better. I love that part of our town. Feels like a village, the kind of city living I adore. And, even more to love, I saw lots of my pals and neighbors there, too. Check it out here cornbread festival and don't miss it next year! Combine people and food and I am in!
Both professional and amateur chefs showed off their best and everything cornbread was ready for tasting...from Granny Penny's Cornbread (no relation!) to cornbread that was firecracker hot, ice cream sweet, cracklin' and fruited. The greens from Ashleys @The Capitol Hotel were sublime...oh my! And, so were some of the gorgeous vintage cornbread skillets and pans. Just beauties.
Not coming from a family with a cornbread tradition, here is my prior cornbread culinary experience: Thomas' Corn Toaster Cakes (yeps from the English muffin folks), cornmeal mush (you may know it in its gentrified glory as polenta. I know it as "mush": sliced, fried and covered with butter and maple syrup for breakfast), and I-could-eat-by-the-bowlsful, Indian Pudding.
In my bread making days, I also used cornmeal to dust my loaves with a little extra crunch and did actually make a de-lish corn-type bread in Mexico. Hmmm...maybe that recipe is festival worthy!
Anyway, it is safe to say that Saturday, just sampling, I ate more cornbread in one day than I have eaten in my entire life. Made a meal of it actually. Leaving, my eye caught another booth, tucked away in the garden, serving Johnnycakes. Oh...add those to my short list. I do remember having them as cornmeal pancakes. They are really yummy and can be sweet or savory. I think I will make some up tonight to go with some fabulous beans I have simmering.
Johnnycakes are a culinary legend in their own right, too, and there are separate Johnnycake festivals, just in case you are wondering! Like they say, one good thing leads to another.
Not having a family recipe, I snagged this one from the official Johnnycake site: Johnnycakes. Hope you'll flip for them and mark your calendars for next year's Arkansas Cornbread Festival! See you there!
1 cup white cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup milk
Bacon drippings (or not...you know my choice!)
In a medium bowl, place cornmeal and salt.
In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring water to a rapid boil; remove from heat. With the saucepan in one hand, let the boiling water dribble onto the cornmeal while stirring constantly with the other hand. Then stir the milk into the mixture (it will be fairly thick, but not runny).
Generously grease a large, heavy frying pan (I like to use my cast-iron frying pan) with the non-bacon drippings (!) and heat. When pan is hot, drop the batter by spoonfuls. Flatten the batter with a spatula to a thickness of approximately 1/4 inch. Fry until golden brown, turn, and brown on the other side (adding more non-bacon drippings as needed).
Serve hot with butter, maple syrup, or applesauce or use to sop up "pot liquor" from beans.