Makes 6 to 8 servings
Ideally in the South, cracklin's are made by rendering nuggets of fresh pork fat at hog-killing time in the fall, and then used to flavor any number of stews, vegetables, and breads, like this popular skillet cornbread. While there's nothing like fresh cracklin's (I can eat them out of my hand like peanuts), practicality almost demands that you substitute either fatback or salt pork, both of which are widely available in most markets. (Even if you can find them, I do not advise using packaged, store-bought cracklin's, which can have a strange artificial flavor and texture.) This cornbread can be made with either butter or lard (the former providing more flavor, the latter a lighter texture), but by no means prepare it in anything but a heavy cast-iron skillet, which maintains steady, even heat like no other equipment.
1. To make the cracklin's, cut the fatback into small cubes, arrange the cubes in a small cast-iron skillet, and barely cover with water. Bring to a boil, cook till all the water evaporates, and continue cooking till the pieces are totally rendered of fat and are crisp, taking care not to burn. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
3. In a bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisking, gradually add the buttermilk till well blended, add the egg, and stir till well blended. Add the cracklin's and stir till well blended.
4. In a 9-inch cast-iron skillet, melt the butter over moderate heat, pour about half into the batter, and stir till well blended. Scrape the batter into the hot skillet, place on the center rack of the oven, and bake till golden brown, about 35 minutes.
5. Serve the cornbread hot in wedges.
In 1976, the Southern supermarket chain Winn Dixie ran an ad for "An Easy and economical way to have your own neighborhood or family pig pickin': Whole Pigs—Ready to Eat—36-46 lb. Average—99 Cents Per Pound."
This page created September 2010
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