Tag Archives: cornbread

National Cornbread Festival, South Pittsburg, TN

Cornbread is king in this Tennessee town known for producing cast-iron cookware that’s perfect for baking cornbread.

by Bakery Boy

My skillet, made by Lodge Cast Iron in the 1950s, still serves my needs just fine. Photo by Bakery Boy

Ah, cornbread. If ever there was a staple food with as many uses as there are cultures using it, it’s cornbread.

Maize-growing Native Americans ate versions of cornbread long before Europeans reached the hemisphere. All across the South it goes naturally with barbecue and chili. Cowboys in the West pair it with pinto beans and ham hocks. In the Southwest adding jalapeño peppers creates a hot Hispanic edge. It’s a cornerstone of African American “soul” food. Whether doused with butter or honey or molasses, specked with diced onions or bacon bits or cheese, thinned with whole-wheat flour or fluffed up with eggs, cornbread is a crowd-pleaser in all its many forms. It can be deep-fried into hushpuppies, stewed into a pudding popular in colder climes, boiled into Italian-accented polenta, or molded around hot dogs on sticks to become county-fair-standard corndogs.

But the absolute best way to make cornbread is to bake it in a cast-iron skillet. And one of the best ways to experience that is to attend the National Cornbread Festival held at the end of April in the only place in the United States that still produced cast iron cookware: South Pittsburg, Tennessee, the home of Lodge Cast Iron and its perfect-for-cornbread cast-iron pans.

ALL ABOUT CORNBREAD

Young Danny's cooking skills earned him a blue ribbon. Photo courtesy of the National Cornbread Festival.

On April 30th and May 1st somewhere around 50,000 people will pour into South Pittsburg, a population 3,300 town 25 miles west of Chattanooga, for the 15th annual National Cornbread Festival (admission: $5 per day). They’ll all have one thing on their minds—cornbread.

South Pittsburg, which also dubs itself the “Tidiest Town in Tennessee”—community volunteers do clean the place up really well after such events—overflows with cornbread-themed everything during the festival. Bakers and cooks compete in a National Cornbread Cook-off sponsored by Martha White, Lodge Cast Iron, and FiveStar Range (top prize: $5,000). Entries range from the most basic recipes to attention-getting innovations such as adding smoked Gouda, sundried tomatoes, strawberry yogurt, sliced apples, peanut butter, hot dog chunks, M&M candies, or other ingredients.

Wholesome entertainment highlights this small-town event. Photo courtesy of the National Cornbread Festival.

At a series of tables on a downtown lane renamed Cornbread Alley for the occasion, you can taste samples of nine cornbread recipes ranging from “pork puppies” and “chipotle cornbread” to “chicken–and-chive flaps” and “tutti fruity cornbread balls.” Your $2 ticket for the tasting supports the nine local non-profit groups doing the cooking.

Like at any good small-town festival there will be a carnival, a food court, music, artwork, crafts, the awarding of blue ribbons to cook-off winners, the crowning of a Miss National Cornbread Festival beauty queen, and more.

ALL ABOUT CAST IRON

Sturdy Dutch Ovens are great for baking and cooking over campfires. Photo courtesy of Lodge Cast Iron.

Lodge Manufacturing Company has been making cast-iron skillets, griddles, and Dutch ovens in South Pittsburg for 115 years, a line that has gradually expanded to include deep fryers, grills, kettles, woks, pizza pans, muffin pans, and more. Naturally the company has a lot to do with putting on the festival, and most of what gets baked or cooked for the occasion gets baked or cooked in cast-iron.

You can see first-hand how Lodge Cast Iron is made during half-hour tours through the foundry on Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. during the festival. There’s also a well-produced 11-minute video about the process on the company’s website. Click the “How Lodge Is Made” button on the www.lodgemfg.com home page to see how raw pig iron and recycled scrap metal—moved around by giant magnetic cranes and heated to an impurities-removing molten state in a 2000-degree furnace—becomes some of the highest-quality cast-iron cookware in the world.

Even if you miss the Cornbread Festival, you can still find Lodge cookware anytime at Lodge Factory Stores located in…

• South Pittsburg, Tennessee (504 South Cedar Avenue; 423-837-5919)

• Sevierville, Tennessee (105 Knife Works Lane; 865-429-1713)

• Commerce, Georgia (165 Pottery Factory Drive; 706-335-4875)

• Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (100 Legends Drive; 843-236-7849)

SING IT WITH A TWANG

Tennessee is known for music, so Tennessee-based Lodge Cast Iron designed a guitar-shaped skillet good for making cornbread, biscuits, scones, and more. See other cast-iron options at the online catalog at http://www.lodgemfg.com.

A country music song, the kind that gets stuck in your  head, accompanies a slide show on the National Cornbread Festival website. Among lyrics about pinto beans, cornbread, clowns, car shows, fun-runs, concerts, and the cook-off—delivered with deadpan honesty by local baritone singer and songwriter Neil Bennett—is this refrain that’s been repeating in my mind for days now:

The last weekend in April / There’s just one place to be / The National Cornbread Festival in / South Pittsburg Tennessee

See you there!

______________________________

National Cornbread Festival

April 30–May 1, 2011

Festival details: www.nationalcornbread.com

Lodge Cast Iron details: www.lodgemfg.com

South Pittsburg details: www.southpittsburg.com

For more about traveling in Tennessee: www.tnvacation.com

______________________________

Click here to see a separate Bakery Boy Blog post with sample recipes from the National Cornbread Cook-off.

______________________________

RECIPES Cornbread Recipes from the National Cornbread Festival

Here are three popular recipes shared during past National Cornbread Cook-offs, part of the National Cornbread Festival held the last weekend in April in South Pittsburg, Tennessee.

Click here to see a separate Bakery Boy Blog post about the National Cornbread Festival.

______________________________

BERRY CORNMEAL MUFFINS

Submitted by Boy Scout Troop 63

1 cup flour

¾ cup cornmeal

½ cup sugar

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

2 cups chopped fresh strawberries

1 (8 oz) container strawberry yogurt

¼ cup butter, melted

1 egg

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, sift together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl gently toss strawberries in ½ cup of flour mixture. Whisk together yogurt, butter, and egg. Stir yogurt mixture into flour mixture just to moisten. Fold in strawberries. Spoon batter into prepared cast-iron pan. Bake 25 minutes.

______________________________

MEXICAN CORNBREAD

Submitted by Richard Hardy Memorial School Athletic Club

1 cup Martha White Yellow Self-Rising Cornmeal

1/3 cup melted butter

1 cup Mayfield sour cream

1 (8 oz) can cream-style corn

2 eggs

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese or Mexican blend cheese

1 (4 oz) can chopped green chile peppers, drained

Heat oven to 375°. Grease an 8- or 9-inch skillet; place over medium heat while preparing cornbread batter. Stir melted butter into cornmeal and add sour cream, corn, and eggs, blending well. Spoon half of the batter into the greased hot cast-iron skillet. Sprinkle batter with cheese and chile peppers; cover with remaining batter. Bake for 35 minutes, until nicely browned.

______________________________

BROWN SUGAR CORNBREAD

Submitted by the Christian Women’s Job Corp

1 cup unsalted butter

2 2/3 cups Martha White Yellow Cornmeal

2 cups Martha White All Purpose Flour

2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar

2 cups Mayfield milk

4 large eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease two 9 x 4½ loaf pans and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together yellow cornmeal and flour. Heat butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat just until melted and whisk until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat; whisk in milk and then eggs. Pour into dry mixture, stirring just until blended, and divide evenly between prepared pans, smoothing the tops. Bake in the middle of the oven until loaves are golden and cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

______________________________

Recipes reprinted with permission from the National Cornbread Festival and Lodge Cast Iron.

______________________________

NATIONAL CORNBREAD FESTIVAL

April 30–May 1, 2011

Festival details: www.nationalcornbread.com

Lodge Cast Iron details: www.lodgemfg.com

South Pittsburg details: www.southpittsburg.com

For more about traveling in Tennessee: www.tnvacation.com

______________________________

Click here to see a separate Bakery Boy Blog post about the National Cornbread Festival.

______________________________