OLE STUFF AND SUCH: CHORES ON THE FARM Down by the ‘ole mill stream II
By Frances Lowery Garner
Some folks would have the white corn to grind and this would make a pretty white meal.
Of course, all of the meal was plain and that was the only kind known to country folks at that time.
They all used a standard buttermilk corn bread recipe that was hard to beat.
The meal had to be sifted (I liked to do the sifting) with a metal sifter and the husks from the meal was thrown to the chickens.
A good thick iron skillet was a necessity for some good thick oven cooked cornbread. It was placed in the oven of a good hot wood stove with server spoons of bacon grease in the bottom or pure lard.
When the grease was sizzling, the corn meal batter would go into the skillet and back into a very hot oven.
It would bake until nicely browned and then turned out on a good side dinner plate and the smell in the kitchen would beat any of our modern candles deodorizers.
Mama always knew how much meal it would take to make a good size pan of bread and always just put in the right amount of soda, salt, fresh eggs and buttermilk.
An extra pan of bread was made for Daddy’s coon dogs. This would be a 3-4 inch thick baker of bread that would last the dogs for 2-3 days.
The family seldom had left over cornbread. A good thick hunk always made a good snack for the children coming in from school.
If some was left over from dinner and supper, the dogs would get it with some clabber over or sour buttermilk. Neighbors would always share their buttermilk.
Sometimes the family cow or cows would not be furnishing enough milk to have plenty of “sweet milk’ to drink and also have enough buttermilk for the daily biscuits and cornbread. This was a must for the hard working farm family.
During some of these times, the cook would make ‘corn pone.’ This was made with adding just water and salt to the corn meal and mixing it thick before making it into pones and cooking in a hot oven.
These came out good and were better when eaten hot because it would get hard when cold. At other times, there was ‘hoe cakes’ made on top of the stove.
The meal would be mixed with salt and water and place in a hoe cake fryer which was flat with very little grease and turned when one side browned and the other side would brown. These were usual thin and real tasty, a real supper treat in the winter time.
This was done in much the same way that we make pancakes today; only a hoe cake would cover the bottom of the fryer.
Another favorite was “crackling bread.’ ‘Cracklins’ from the hog killing were saved and some ground for corn bread and some left whole for seasonings.
The crackling bread was made by the standard recipe and baked in the oven until browned. Many families had this for breakfast with homemade syrup if they were out of flour.
Grits was not a daily staple like the cornbread. They were course and took a lot longer to cook than the store brought instant grits we eat today.
However, when they were buttered up with good fresh cow butter and fresh scrambled eggs paired with fried cured ham from the smokehouse and hot biscuits, it was breakfast for royalty.
Good corn bread is not served in a lot of households today or restaurants.
Water grist mills are almost obsolete and many quick breads have taken the place of this staple which in the olden day was not only healthy (no additives) but also very filling and satisfied a healthy appetite.
The wood stove days are gone and not a lot of time is spent in the kitchen. We are blessed with a great selection of food choices and grocery stores within our reach any day of the week.
We live today in a society where waste is prevalent, obesity is rampant, and exercise is in the gym or if you can afford it, a personal trainer.
Oh yes, I forgot to mention that nothing was wasted in those days.
The cobs from the corn, although rough as a cob is, they were transported to the outhouse along with the Sears and Roebuck catalogue where they were put to good use.