December 16, 2010
Photo by Tristan F

(Photo by Tristan F)

½ cup cornmeal

¼ cup sugar

½ cup flour

¼ cup melted butter

1 tsp soda

2 eggs

½ tsp salt

1 cup sour milk (milk with a splash of vinegar)

Mix cornmeal, flour, sugar, and salt together in a bowl.  Add melted butter and eggs and stir.  Add soda to milk, then add to mixture.  Beat briskly for about one minute.

Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

For most of the 19th Century, the most plentiful crop in Indiana was corn.  When European settlers first started moving into Indiana, they discovered that the soil was so rich that in many places, corn was the only thing they could get to grow – the rich nutrients were so plentiful in the soil that they would overwhelm other seeds.  Also, corn was easy to plant and care for, and could yield far more in the fall than wheat or rye.  So, it’s not surprising that food made from corn was a staple of the average diet in 1836.

However, eating ‘corn on the cob’ like we do today would not have been a common thing in 1836.  Many folks would have harvested some corn while it was still soft – in the ‘green’ or ‘milk’ stages, as they would call it – and cut the corn off the cob to make pudding and other dishes.  But the average Indiana settler’s teeth were far too weak and rotten to be able to comfortably eat the corn right off the cob. Instead, most corn was let to dry in the fields and then ground into meal and used for baking.

Cornbread was especially popular because it was so easy to make and required relatively few rare ingredients.  Milk and eggs were also plentiful at most times of the year on an average farm, and the small amount of sugar could come from the store, or from maple sugar or honey raised on the farm.  The recipe is called a ‘quick bread’ recipe, since it relies on the baking soda and sour milk to make it light and fluffy, instead of yeast, which can take an hour or more to rise.  Because it’s quick, tasty, and makes use of the things you already have on hand, it’s not hard to see why cornbread was a favorite go-to recipe for all those busy pioneer moms who had to get three meals on the table in the midst of all their other daily chores!

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