I grew up in the South, and no self-respecting Southerner puts sugar in their cornbread. We eat cornbread as a bread
, not as a dessert. We eat it with stews and soups, so it's supposed
to be savory. Corn muffins, on the other hand, are supposed to be sweet, so you eat them when it's appropriate to eat sweet stuff, like at breakfast or for a mid-afternoon snack with your coffee at Starbuck's. You wouldn't eat a blueberry muffin with your beef stew, so why would you eat sweet cornbread with your barbeque?
I used to make a great savory cornbread from a cookbook my brother gave me a long time ago called White Trash Cooking
by Ernest Matthew Mickler. This type of cornbread is an acquired taste, as it's savory (no sugar) and dry (no flour), and you eat it by crumbling it into whatever else is on your plate or in your bowl. (And the cookbook is a classic!). White Trash Cooking Cornbread Recipe
Then I married a Yankee who didn't like my Southern cornbread. That took a bit of getting used to. If he didn't like my cornbread, what kind of future did we really have? I got over that useless bit of navel-gazing pretty quick, and started hunting for cornbread we could both like.
It took some searching, as most cookbooks out there feature sugar, and a lot of it, in their cornbread recipes. Even the usually reliable Cook's Illustrated
published a cornbread recipe they called Southern that was way too sweet. I finally found the solution in the Joy of Cooking
, and it's become my everyday cornbread recipe.
It's got a tablespoon of sugar, just enough to appease the my good husband's cornbread sweet tooth but not enough to detract from the savory taste. Cooking the batter in bacon fat in a cast iron pan helps keep it authentic for me. I'll chop of two slices of bacon and fry them in the cast iron, then scoop out the bits and drain almost all of the fat from the pan, leaving a scant tablespoon. I'll add most of the bacon to the batter, and sprinkle the rest on about halfway through cooking. It's good cornbread and a great compromise.
One last thing - cornbread freezes really well. Each batch makes six pieces, and we can never eat them all at once. I'll wrap each individual piece in heavy freezer wrap, then put all the pieces in a freezer zip-storage bag, then I can pull out however many pieces I need later on. They thaw in about 90 minutes on the counter, then I put a pat of butter on each piece, wrap them in foil and put them in the toaster over to warm for 15 minutes or so.