Sunday, February 21, 2010

Grandma's Sweet Buttermilk Cornbread in a Pressure Cooker

There are hundreds of different cornbread recipes, and each family has their own cherished version, so you've probably been baking cornbread for years. Me too!

There was a hot pan of cornbread on our supper table almost every night… except that ours might have been cooked in the pressure cooker just as often as in the oven. It's one of the recipes that didn't make it into my cookbook. Judging from all the requests I get for about cooking cakes and bread in the pressure cooker, its time to correct that.

I learned how to cook standing on a chair beside my grandmother in her big farm kitchen. As with so many of the foods she prepared, there was no written recipe and the ingredients often varied according to what she had on hand, and cornbread was no exception.

Use a large enough insert pan to allow plenty of extra
room for your cornbread to rise.

This type of quick bread is very popular throughout the United States, and if you're like me, you have lots of good memories of eating warm, buttery cornbread with the big bowl of hot soup or beans on cold winter days. Depending on where your roots are, cornbread recipes may have a mixture of flour and cornmeal or only cornmeal, many include buttermilk, and then there's white or yellow cornmeal, and bacon drippings or butter, and the endless debate about sugar.

There's serious dispute amongst cornbread connoisseurs about the origins of sweetened, cornbread… and even if such a concoction should be called cornbread or corn-cake. Self-styled experts claim that "real" Southern style cornbread has no sugar, and that it was "them dang Northerners" that adulterated the purity of genuine cornbread with the horrid addition of sugar.

The lid transforms the insert pan into a mini oven within the
pressure cooker when it is elevated above the waterline.

Now, my family has deep Southern roots, and my crotchety old kin folks were great authorities on the local lore, the quaint old customs and the odd bits of historical trivia. "Pshaw!" grandpa Gaylord said indignantly. "We always made sweet cornbread cuz we had tons of cheap sugar. North of the Mason Dixon line, they made cornbread plain 'cause they couldn't get sugar until after the Civil War."

There you have it; sweet cornbread is indeed a fine old Southern heritage recipe, and it must be true cuz my elderlies say it's so!

The lid also protects the delicately crisp crust on the cornbread
from droplets of condensation that form as the pressure cooker
cools during the Natural Release cycle.

If I remember my grade school geography lessons, I suspect that my grandpa was right. Since the pre-civil war days, sugar cane has always been a vital crop in the South. With sugar so cheap and plentiful, naturally it would have been used in great quantities in southern kitchens, but perhaps not so much in the North where it had to be imported and shipped at some considerable expense. Sugar would have become quite scarce as the war between the North and South raged on, so it's probably unlikely that it would have been a common ingredient in Yankee-style cornbread.

Back in the 50s, my grandma would often entertain us younguns with stories about the 'olden days'. She maneuvered around her kitchen like a commanding general, brandishing her big old wooden spoon as she went about tasting, stirring, and learnin' us cookin' while dispensing lessons in life along with the colorful oral history about our family roots. Her recipes reflect many favorites of Southern cuisine, and they document a long-standing -- and insane -- love affair with sugar. Anyone who's ever sampled Southern cooking knows that vast amounts of sugar is poured into everything from Sweet Tea, to sticky barbecued foods, and its even sprinkled on corn on the cob and watermelon!

Cooked without any additional zero-pressure steaming period,
my finished cornbread has nearly doubled in height,
rising high despite cooking at 15psi.

Now that I've settled the great debate about sweet cornbread, let me show you another great cooking technique for the pressure cooker: BAKING. This recipe uses the PIP (Pan In Pot) cooking method to actually bake the cornbread. I rate this recipe for Intermediate pressure cooker users. If you are already using my PIP recipes, then you'll have no problem trying this. Okay, lets get us some cornbread cookin' in that pressure cooker!
Start by pouring the cornmeal batter into a greased metal pan that will fit inside your pressure cooker. You can also cook this recipe in a silicone baking pan, but a metal pan will give the cornbread a light, delicate crust that I really like.

Let's get on with the recipe:
Related Posts with Thumbnails