Last Tuesday, I came back to what Rudyard Kipling called my natal shores of Albion, to whit, Berkshire County, to prod along the sale of my family's house, hike and sweat less. I took the cookbook with me, of course. Tuesday and Wednesday were hot, but things cooled off considerably on Thursday, and I undertook a baking project. I had carefully assembled the ingredients beforehand, including caraway seeds and buttermilk.
This recipe comes from New York State, so it might have come from Philipsburg Manor in Tarrytown, NY, a 300 year old house built by a family of Anglo=Dutch merchants. Since Philipsburg Manor has a grist mill, and the recipe calls for water ground corn, it is possible that the recipe originated there. There does not seem to be a Philipsburg, N.Y., at least according to Google.
I am staying in the same place I stayed last year, a large, one room apartment furnished with the furniture of the early twentieth Century that looks out on a field. The cooking equipment has been augmented by me, out of my sister's house, after I got rid of most of her kitchen equipment, so in places it is a little odd. What I use for kitchen knives are two bright, stainless steel Gerber carving knives. Gerber's ad campaign in the 60s involved naming each knife after a sword in literature. There was Excalibur, the legendary sword of King Arthur, and Durandal, the sword of the French hero, Roland, and so on. I loved those ads. One thing it doesn't have is a square baking pan.
The stove probably dates from the 1940s. It is a small four burner gas stove with pilot lights for the burners, but without a pilot light for the oven. My mother had a stove like that. I used to light the oven with long fireplace matches, my youthful desire to cook being stronger than my fear of being blown to bits by the exploding gas.
The apartment, not having a fireplace, also lacked fireplace matches. It did have two boxes of kitchen matches, which are longer than paper matches, easier to light, and stay lit longer. I turned on the gas, juggled the kitchen matches, got one lit, and stuck it in the hole designed for the purpose. Nothing. It burned down until it singed my fingers. I chucked it into the sink and lit another. WHOOMP!!! The stove was lit, and in the air was a peculiar smell which I traced to the stubble of smoking hair on my arms.
This cornbread is in the way of being a science fair project. When my children were in elementary school, I delighted in the science fair. I never actually came up with a project that enabled them to win, although I still think What property in Monopoly do people land on the most should have won. (It's one of the red ones.)
The question here is, what happens when you put caraway seeds into corn bread? Caraway seeds go in rye bread, cabbage, and pickles. They have a distinctive taste. This recipe called for a lot of them, three teaspoons. The answer is, you get a taste you don't associate with cornbread, but it's okay. It is possible to bake cornbread in a loaf pan. You just have to cook it longer and keep testing it for doneness by sticking a fork into it.
Philipsburg Waterground Cornbread
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups waterground yellow cornmeal
3 teaspoons caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
5 tablespoons melted shortening or bacon drippings
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add the corn meal, caraway seeds and nutmeg.
3. Stir in the eggs, buttermilk and shortening or bacon drippings. turn into a greased nine-inch square baking tin and bake twenty-five to thirty minutes. Makes six to eight servings. (I gave half my loaf to my friend Cathy. )