Harris: Baked cornbread, Skillet cornbread, with the really hard crust.
Is it hot water cornbread?
Howard: How about Johnnycakes?
Harris: Johnnycakes..kinda like hoecakes.
Howard: I'm Dr. Howard Conyers, on this episode of Nourish, we're talking cornbread.
in Southern cuisine one of the most spirited debates is cornbread.
So today I wanted to get some expert opinions from one of my friends who really understands how to make something call hot water cornbread.
Chef Hardette Harris.
Harris: Thank you for having me and to be here to chat about all things cornbread.
Howard: People have strong feelings on pretty much everything about cornbread.
Preferences for cornmeal?
Is it all yellow?
Is it all white?
Harris: No it can be white.
It can be yellow.
It could be blue.
Howard: Course, stone ground or fine meal and perhaps the biggest question: So is cornbread sweet?
Harris: Cornbread is not sweet, well speaking for the Harris family.
From Mindon, Louisiana, no sugar in our cornbread.
My dad says if he wants a piece of cake he'll have a piece of cake.
Cornbread, was to eat with something that may be why we just didn't even you know, consider eating cornbread that was sweet, because we weren't eating it like a snack.
It went with soup, greens, peas whatever it was, all the time.
Howard: One of the things, I like in cornbread is cracklin's.
Harris: Cracklin's, yes.
Howard: Crackling cornbread, ya'll have that out there?
Harris: No we didn't.
But I have heard of it and I have seen it.
Howard: That's a very old recipe.
So cracklins, when they were slaughtering hogs.
Cracklins come from the skin of the hog.
They render it down slowly so they'll have the lard.
Cracklin' was one of those useful byproducts.
They would mix cracklins into the cornbread to add another flavor to that cornbread.
We got all these things made with cornmeal in the South.
And we have to thank our Indigenous Communities for bringing this ingredient to our southern foodways.
Native Americans first began domesticating wild grasses more than 8,000 years ago.
These varieties became their earliest form of maize.
By the early Colonial period, Corn was staff of life on Southern tables.
An essential companion to every meal.
Harris: When it comes to southern dishes, we don't need a recipe.
And that's kinda, across the board - with southern cooks.
Especially, from North Louisiana.
I've seen people make cornbread - just - almost with their eyes closed.
Howard: Let's do something, a little less familiar, all parts of the south but is still a very popular dish.
Harris: All right!
Hot water cornbread is king in the south.
Baked cornbread has a egg and milk, that's a whole different thing.
Hotwater cornbread is only cornmeal, maybe salt and pepper some other little spices and boiling hot water.
Fried in hot oil, that is it.
Putting Boil hot water in here.
Howard, do you see how smooth that is?
Howard: oh yes.
Harris: this is what it needs to look like.
Using, doing just a little bit at a time.
Some people say why a little bit at a time?
I don't know, cuz that's what my momma did, I guess.
Some people are serious about cornbread.
That it has to have these fingerprints in it.
That's the sign of true southern hot water cornbread.
You have those fingerprints.
Howard: Are you marking your hotwater cornbread?
Howard: Your signature?
Harris: It's just like no one has the same fingerprints right?
Nice, beautiful - golden brown.
They'll go maybe - - three more minutes and we'll be ready to eat.
Howard: Another intense debate surrounding cornbread besides ingredients is: How to cook it.
Harris: We're going to make our Skillet Cornbread.
Just plain cornbread, just regular baked cornbread - there's eggs.
A little salt & pepper maybe, some baking powder not really measuring that Howard.
Harris: But you get the drift.
And some flour.
Howard: I know in the old days flour was not a thing common in the American South.
Howard: If they was using flours making cakes, cakes and biscuits.
So that was a very special thing.
I usually use, just the regular, store-bought cornmeal but today I'm using a specialty coarse - ground, cornmeal.
So I think that it's going to be really neat when it comes out.
So the last thing that goes in - have a little vegetable oil and melted butter.
So this goes into a heated - see how hot and smoky it is?
That's just butter.
So that's going to give it, that nice firm crust.
Beautiful and this goes right in the oven.
Howard: What is a hoecake?
Harris: A hoecake got its name from individuals out in the fields or in campsites or wherever they were.
Were taking cornmeal, warm or hot water and mixing it together and that's it.
And cooking it on the back of a hoe, outside over maybe some fire.
That's a hoecake!
Howard: That's a hoecake!
Harris: And put my batter here.
So I'm cooking it and crackling lard.
Look how beautiful that is.
Got those crispy edges going that nice brown, you can see it smoking.
So, we're getting good use out of our ho cake pan.
So Howard, go ahead, and add that syrup.
I've got some cane syrup going today if you're from the south you know what cane syrup is.
Howard: When people think about Cornbread, what are they thinking?
Harris: First of all they're thinking what to eat it with.
What are we gonna have with our cornbread?
The most important thing it's an abundance of vegetables, meat comes secondary.
We actually eat and cook on a daily basis what we have in our gardens.
Got some mustard greens here ham hocks salt pork smoked neckbones.
Mustard greens go right in.
Howard: These peas look really fresh.
Harris: I got these from my hometown Mindon, from the Tarver family, they have all kinds of peas and these are Korean peas they're actually my favorite.
Someone's asked me before which one's your favorite I'll probably say purple or the cream peas really are my favorite.
I don't know, they just taste really good with the smoked meats and the cornbread, it's just awesome.
So got my tomato cucumber onion salad, this is eaten with your greens and your peas and whatever else you want.
Another thing that goes with cornbread is fried fish.
I have some North Louisiana brim that my mom and I caught.
All we're gonna do is take one, just like this, little cornmeal.
You see we're leaving the head, eyes, tail and everything right in the hot oil.
Ain't that beautiful?
This has to be fried hard.
Wet, soft, limpy fish?
We want a crispy tail right?
Howard: Yeah, because you eat it like a potato chip!
Harris: That's exactly right!
The key is, to get it all on the foot at the same time for exception of the fish.
So I went a little piece of cornbread, I want some peas and I want a little piece of onion and it all goes in at the same time.
Oh my god.
Howard: Your fork look kinda... Harris: weak?
Harris: That's right.
Howard: That's good.
Harris: Or you can always do like my grandmother did, take you some cornbread and some greens and eat it with your fingers.
We won't do that right now, though.
That's a good way to eat it.
Harris: Ain't that good?
Howard: It's good, nice combination.
Harris: I don't look at someone else's plate or their sweet corn bread and say that, 'that's the wrong way.'
This is how we like it.
This is our authentic way I'm really not trying to start a division or any feuds or any cornbread wars.
Howard: But love, as long as it's good that's all that matters to me.
Harris: I agree.
Howard: So how do you like your cornbread?
And what sides are best?
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Howard: How about sugar?
Harris: Howard, don't put sugar in greens, although I know people that puts sugar on top of their greens after they're in their plate but no sugar.
Howard: No sugar?
Harris: No sugar.
The bitter bites fine.
Howard: I mean, I'm not saying your greens should be like sweet, like tea.
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