Secrets to Perfect Cornbread to Serve with Fresh Summer Vegetables

I grew up eating a variety of fresh vegetables all summer long. My mother cooked a big meal in the middle of the day and I looked forward to dinner time. My family was lucky enough to live in a north Alabama farming county where a wide variety of fresh produce was readily available.

Cornbread was the only thing absolutely necessary at dinner time! My mother used Martha White® Self-Rising Corn Meal Mix and a recipe similar to this one for Southern Cornbread. The only difference is that she heated the shortening in the skillet and poured it into the batter. The finished product was thin and moist with a very crisp crust.

The perfect cornbread is the one you love. To me, the cornbread extremes are an unsweetened cornbread made with white corn meal and a soft sweet cornbread made with yellow corn meal and a touch of flour.

If you are still looking for your favorite cornbread recipe, my advice is find someone who makes cornbread you love and ask them to teach you how to make it! Of course, cornbread mixes are a good option, too. Martha White even has a Gluten Free Sweet Yellow Cornbread & Muffin Mix if you are gluten free.

Cornbread tip: dry cornbread usually indicates the batter was too thick. Most basic cornbread recipes suggest that the batter should be thin and pourable – about the consistency of pancake batter.

Entertain with Lowcountry Style

sweet cornbread shrimp cakes

When I hear the word “Lowcountry” it evokes a profusion of colorful images – the graceful architecture of Charleston and Savannah, the charm of the African influenced Gullah dialect, live oaks draped with Spanish moss and, of course,  the glorious Lowcountry cooking.

The Lowcountry is loosely defined as the area along the coastal plain of South Carolina and Georgia protected by a string of barrier islands. Like all regional cooking, Lowcountry cuisine is a fusion of this particular place and the people who have lived there.  Bountiful produce, access to seafood and exotic ingredients that came into the ports were incorporated into the traditions of European and English colonists. But the more adventurous African and West Indian influence gave Lowcountry cooking the flair that made it one of the most distinctive regional cuisines in the country.

Lowcountry cooks are typically passionate about their food and famous for their entertaining.  They take great pride in their culinary traditions and share them in their own personal style – from formal dinners to backyard shrimp boils. Here are a few suggestions about how to entertain in Lowcountry style.

  • Whether you enjoy throwing a fancy dinner party, a festive open house or a backyard cookout, embrace it and develop your own personal style.
  • Use local ingredients and traditional regional or family recipes to celebrate your heritage.
  • Incorporate native flowers, trees and plants into your decorations.
  • Savannah and Charleston are famous for their great parties, but great hostesses know it is really all about the guests. The best hosts and hostesses welcome old and new friends, guests from several generations, and friends from all walks of life with gracious warmth and hospitality.

Although Sweet Cornbread Shrimp Cakes with Mango Salsa is not a traditional Lowcountry recipe, it is a good example of combining native and more exotic ingredients to create delectable flavor.

Jellies, Jams and Preserves

Glass jars lined up with beautiful jewel toned jams, jellies and preserves is an iconic symbol of preserving the fruits of summer. Food preservation is an important part of Southern heritage and a source of pride.

Jellies, jams and preserves are cooked with pectin-gelled fruit products, canned or sometimes frozen for later use. The difference in these varieties is primarily the texture. Jelly is made from juice and has a very smooth finished product. Jams are made with mashed up fruit and may have small bits of fruit with seeds. Preserves typically contain larger pieces of fruit. Selecting the right variety for you is a personal preference.

Blackberry jelly was the spread of choice in my home as a child. We picked wild blackberries and my mother would use them to make her famous blackberry cobblers and enough jelly to last all winter. It was bright purple and perfectly gelled.

Jams, jellies and preserves were also used as a source of sugar and fruit flavor in Southern desserts. The Jam Cake with caramel icing is a classic Southern holiday favorite. Jam filled bar cookies, thumbprint cookies and pies with jam are also favorites.

This Martha White® Almond Raspberry Bar recipe is among one of my favorites and could easily be made with any flavor of preserves.

Your Perfect Lemonade

The image of people sitting on their front porch sipping lemonade is one we likely owe to movies and commercials. Although, we didn’t do that at my house, we did enjoy a cool glass of lemonade on a hot summer day.

The thought of lemonade brings to mind memories of my mother’s family reunions. We met at a geographically convenient location for the Georgia and Alabama relatives. It was always in August at a public park with access to a lake and pavilion. My cousin from Birmingham always brought the lemonade. She served it from a tub with a big chunk of ice and slices of lemon floating on the top.

When it comes to great lemonade, you only need 3 ingredients – sugar, water and freshly squeezed lemon juice.  Determining the right balance of ingredients makes all the difference in the final outcome. It’s a personal preference, so experiment to make your lemonade suit your taste.

Most lemonade recipes begin with equal amounts of sugar and lemon juice. Begin by making a simple-syrup with 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water. Heat mixture until the sugar melts.  Chill. Once chilled, add 1 cup lemon juice and water. Makes 2 to 3 cups.  Tweak the recipe as needed by adding more water and/or lemon juice to make Your Perfect Lemonade. If you want to dress it up, add a sprig of mint.

Little Martha’s Birthday!

Many people are not aware that Martha White was a real person. Her name and sometimes likeness have appeared on Martha White® products since 1899. Her father, Richard Lindsay, was the owner of Royal Flour Mill right here in Nashville, Tenn., and decided to name his best-selling family flour after his baby daughter Martha White Lindsay. To Mr. Lindsay, this decision signified his dedication to making the best product possible – one that would be good enough for his beloved child.

To continue this tradition of excellence, Martha White continued to introduce products that were both dependable and made baking easier for home cooks. Realizing that many of its Southern consumers were making biscuits and cornbread daily, self-rising flour and corn meal were added to the product line. Leavening (similar to baking powder and soda) and salt were blended into the flour and corn meal. The addition of these simple ingredients in the correct proportions insured good biscuits and cornbread, and simplified the measuring of ingredients for cooks.

Later, convenience mixes were introduced. The first were a line of Southern breads including biscuit, pancake and cornbread mixes called BixMix and FlapStax. Later a variety of fruit muffin mixes became favorites and to this day they carry the name of the baby who inspired her father over 100 years ago.

On May 31st, we celebrate Martha White Lindsay’s birth and give thanks for the line of baking products that have been used by Southern cooks for generations. Happy Birthday, Martha!

Southern Holiday Traditions

Southern holiday traditions are probably a lot like holiday traditions all over the country or the world for that matter. They vary from region to region and family to family, but that’s what makes our own traditions dear to our hearts. We value them because they are ours and we share them with those we love most – our families and friends.

Most of our holiday traditions are a reflection of our family’s heritage, ethnicity and the place they lived. My Alabama and Georgia roots are what I think of as deep inland South. My ancestors were primarily farmers who lived off the land. Fruits and vegetables were dried and canned, meat was cured, nuts were gathered and root vegetables stored to get them through the winter. Since those were the things they had to cook, some of our traditional holiday favorites are deeply rooted in that soil. Recipes like jam cakes, pecan pies, country ham biscuits, sweet potato pie/casseroles, greens, cornbread dressing, cheese grits have all been part of my family’s holiday tables for generations.

For those of you who are rooted in Appalachia, the low country, or along the Southern coast, your traditional favorites probably take on a more regional flavor reflecting the seafood, game and produce from those areas of the South. I would love to hear about your traditional holiday favorites and how they reflect your family heritage.

Here is a jam cake that has been a Martha White Kitchen favorite for many years. It does take a little shortcut with the traditional caramel icing, by using brown sugar. But if you are a pro at making the traditional icing made by caramelizing white sugar, you should make that. And while you are at it, teach someone else to make it. That is an art that should not be lost.

Little Martha’s Birthday!

Many people are not aware that Martha White was a real person. Her name and sometimes likeness have appeared on Martha White® products since 1899. Her father, Richard Lindsay, was the owner of Royal Flour Mill right here in Nashville, Tenn., and decided to name his best-selling family flour after his baby daughter Martha White Lindsay. To Mr. Lindsay, this decision signified his dedication to making the best product possible – one that would be good enough for his beloved child.

To continue this tradition of excellence, Martha White continued to introduce products that were both dependable and made baking easier for home cooks. Realizing that many of its Southern consumers were making biscuits and cornbread daily, self-rising flour and corn meal were added to the product line. Leavening (similar to baking powder and soda) and salt were blended into the flour and corn meal. The addition of these simple ingredients in the correct proportions insured good biscuits and cornbread, and simplified the measuring of ingredients for cooks.

Later, convenience mixes were introduced. The first were a line of Southern breads including biscuit, pancake and cornbread mixes called BixMix and FlapStax. Later a variety of fruit muffin mixes became favorites and to this day they carry the name of the baby who inspired her father over 100 years ago.

On May 31st, we celebrate Martha White Lindsay’s birth and give thanks for the line of baking products that have been used by Southern cooks for generations. Happy Birthday, Martha!