Chili demands cornbread, the side dish with a purpose. Cornbread is an excellent sop for spicy chili. Judges at chili championships use it to clear their palates.

Chili demands cornbread, the side dish with a purpose.

Cornbread is an excellent sop for spicy chili. Judges at chili championships use it to clear their palates.

Today’s recipe adds two components not normally found in Southern-style cornbread: bacon and buttermilk. The bacon adds a smoky hint while the buttermilk creates a tang not unlike sourdough, sans the bother.

Traditional cornbread is always made in a greased, cast-iron skillet, which imparts a slightly iron flavor. In the South, cornbread baked in iron is called pone. If you don’t have an iron skillet, use a baking dish.

Sifting the dry ingredients creates a light and fluffy bread. Don’t worry about little clumps of flour in the batter –– over-mixing creates tougher bread.

JIM’S BACON CORNBREAD

3 strips bacon

1 cup yellow cornmeal                 

1 cup flour                              

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon honey

1 cup buttermilk

1 large egg

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup cheddar cheese (optional)

Paprika

Fry the bacon in a cast-iron skillet, drain on paper towels and crumble. Lightly beat egg and honey into buttermilk. Sift together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Add bacon, milk and egg and lightly beat until batter just forms.

Pour into the iron skillet with 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. The bread is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Optional: Dust the top with paprika before baking. After baking, top with cheddar cheese and return to warm oven to melt.

Cut into 12 wedges. Serve with butter and apple butter.