Some 18 years ago, the small town of South Pittsburg, Tennessee decided to put on a festival
celebrating that most America of breads: cornbread. It helps that Lodge Manufacturing is headquartered there, and annually turns out thousands upon thousands of cast iron skillets, cornbread pans, cornstick pans and other products used to cook the delectable mixture of cornmeal, milk, eggs, and oil.
Partnering with Martha White, a venerable name in flour and corn milling that is headquartered in Nashville, the two day festival features a cornbread recipe cook off competition, musical entertainment, a carnival and numerous opportunities for schools and other non profits in the small town to raise funds for worth causes.
This year the weather was perfectly beautiful as you can see, and the crowds thronged the streets of South Pittsburg, tripling the population of 3,300.
Anyone who thinks that small town America is moribund, should make their way to the banks of the Tennessee river the last weekend in the month of April each year.
Toddlers clapped with excitement. Festival goers feasted on loads of different foods, including many exotic cornbread recipes, but along with other treats such as deep fried pickles, fried Snickers bars and fried Moon Pies–a dessert still baked in Chattanooga, about a half hour west of South Pittsburg.
The first place winner in the 2011 competition was Jennifer Beckman of Falls Church, Virginia who wowed the judges with her recipe for cornbread soup. Just to read the recipe is almost enough to make one drool.
By permission we include the recipe below.
FIRST PLACE WINNER
8 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
3 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pound Swiss chard, stems removed, sliced into 1/2-inch strips
1(15.5 oz.) can white beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 cups low-sodium beef stock
4 cups water
1(6.5 oz.) package Martha White® Yellow Cornbread Mix
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup milk
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Heat Lodge® 5-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook bacon until crisp. Remove with slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Add onions and sugar to bacon drippings. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add chard, white beans, bacon, vinegar and red pepper. Add beef stock and water. Bring to a low simmer over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper.
Heat oven to 400° F. Mix together cornbread mix, egg, butter and milk until blended. Fold in cheese cubes. Spoon over simmering soup. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with metal spoon, breaking through cheese crust and scooping soup and cornbread into deep bowls.
Makes6 to 8 servings Preptime: 35 minutes
Cooktime: 40 minutes
Readyin: 1 hour 15 minutes