It was a rainy morning in Clayton, Georgia, last Friday when my friend, Mary Ann, and I wandered down the main street looking for who knows what. We were biding time before lunch at the Dillard House, well documented earlier in this blog (and, once again, utterly delicious). And there it was. An old-fashioned hardware store. It had seen better times. The owner died last year and his estate was liquidating the contents.
Amid the tools, fishing gear (including a frog gig!) and buckets was a slim “housewares” section. And I found something I never would have bought otherwise. A cornstick pan. On sale for 25 percent off. I hate kitchen tools that only do one thing. But, as any Southerner knows, there is only one way to get cornsticks and that’s from a cast iron pan fashioned especially for that use. As we checked out, the lady behind the counter asked if we knew how to season a cast iron pan. Slightly offended, I whiffed “yes.” But Mary Ann is smarter than I am. “How do you season a cast iron pan?” she asked. Use Crisco or lard, she said, a good amount. Bake the pan in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour. Then turn the oven off and turn the pan over on a cookie sheet so all the grease runs back out.
I did that when I got home a few hours ago. She was right. It works better.
So tonight I made up some cornbread batter, put a good dab of Crisco in each cornstick holder and put the pan pack in the oven at 450 degrees. Wait about ten minutes until the Crisco is blazing hot and add about two tablespoons of batter. It should sizzle immediately. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
I use the recipe for Southern Cornbread on the back of the bag of Martha White self-rising cornmeal mix. If you can’t find Martha White, then try to mail order it. There’s no substitute, at least in my book. Here’s another thing. Keep the bag in the freezer if you live in the South. Otherwise, critters find their way in and it’s not a pretty sight.