I have honestly put off posting a recipe for skillet cornbread, because it seems any discussion of cornbread brings out strange things in people. Each region of the country seems to have their own ideas about cornbread. Is it sweet or is it just savory, does it have flour in it or does it just have cornmeal? Is that cornmeal supposed to be white or yellow? Do you use oil, bacon drippings or shortening to grease your skillet? Believe it or not, does it have eggs in it and do you use one or two? It can get downright ugly when the 'Cornbread Wars' begin. I have seen just glimpses of it when I post the recipe for Hoe Cakes, which was in and of itself creates a very 'interesting' debate at times. Some folks didn't even know what a hoe cake was and some just knew they were pancakes and I don't think they understand to this day that they are not!
When I first got married and I was going to have my in-laws over to dinner, I couldn't decide what to cook, so my husband told me to just cook 'country food', because that was what they really liked and would appreciate most. I cooked a big pot of pinto beans with ham in them and a big skillet of cornbread. I am sure I cooked some other things to go with that, but I can't remember what it's been so long. I do remember how they went on and on about my cornbread. They just had never had cornbread that tasted like that before and my mother-in-law wanted to know the secret. She kept saying this is almost like cake, it's so high and light. She couldn't believe that I put as much flour in cornbread as I did cornmeal and two eggs on top of that. She said no wonder it's like cake. She was taught to only use cornmeal and if eggs only one and no bacon grease. Those little things make all of the difference in the world in cornbread.
We do not really make our cornbread sweet in this area of the South. If you do add sugar, it's just a spoonful...nothing more. Now, if you like sweet cornbread, add sugar to this recipe and it will be great. That is just not how we make it. This recipe is how my mother taught me to make cornbread when I was just a teenager at home and it's how we both make it still. This is what you will need:
1 cup self rising flour
1 cup self rising cornmeal
1 cup buttermilk (can use regular milk also)
1 tsp. bacon grease (optional)
1 Tbs. sugar (optional)
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil or shortening
If you cannot buy self rising flour and cornmeal in your area, add 1 Tbs. baking powder, 1 tsp. baking soda and 1/2 tsp. salt to the all purpose variety. If you can buy the self rising, buy some for cornbread, it just makes it much better.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place oil or shortening in an iron skillet preferably or an 8"x8" baking dish and place in the oven to get hot. If you are using the teaspoon of bacon grease, add it to the skillet also. It's just enough to give the cornbread that good bacon flavor, but you don't have to cook it in all bacon grease. To me there is nothing better than shortening for cooking cornbread in an iron skillet, but I know some of you are terrified of it (which I don't really understand) and the oil works well also.
Mix all of the other ingredients together. Take the skillet out of the oven when it is sizzling hot. Be very careful if using an iron skillet, that grease can pop. Add about a tablespoon of the hot oil or shortening to the batter. The batter will be well combined but still have a few lumps. Don't over beat it, because it makes your cornbread crumbly.
Pour the batter into that hot grease in the pan. It should sizzle. This is how you get that crispy crusty outside and tender cake like inside that is key to good cornbread. The iron skillet is perfect for this, but you can get almost the same effect in a glass baking dish also. Iron just conducts the heat so much better. Notice how the grease comes up over the edges of the cornbread. If it doesn't, you don't have enough in your pan. Don't skimp on it.
Place back in the oven on the middle rack for 30 to 35 minutes. A sharp knife inserted in the center should come out clean. Remove from the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes. You can cut it out of the pan or if it's baked in iron skillet you can flip it out whole onto a plate and cut it in wedges.