Say what you will about whether corn bread should be sweet or savory, but the apotheosis of cornbread is the corn pone. To make a proper corn pone, though, you’ve got to have the right corn meal. That coarse stuff from the grocery won’t do. You need fine (or better yet, extra-fine) stone ground cornmeal. When we lived in Georgia, we could get Alabama King brand corn meal (made in Tennessee), but now that we’re in Alabama, it’s not available. Go figure. The best corn meal for pones, though, is from J.T. Pollard Milling Co., 3431 N. Highway 123, Hartford, AL 36344, 334-588-3391. They do mail order, but you’ll have to buy a case (and pay more for shipping than for the corn meal!)
To make corn pones, preheat the oven to 425F, Then put 2 cast iron skillets in the oven to preheat while you mix the dough.
Combine 2 cups of corn meal and 2 tsp of salt, then mix in just enough water to make a loose dough (stiffer than pancake batter, looser than bread dough). Take the skillets out of the oven one at a time and add some oil or shortening to the bottom. Then, with wet hands, make small balls of dough and flatten into pones, filling the skillet with about half the dough. Repeat with the other skillet. After about 20 minutes, put a pat of butter on each pone and then cook until golden-brown, about 20 more minutes. Remove from the oven and eat while hot.
Corn pones are sublime when fresh–hot, crispy, and buttery on the outside, creamy and smooth on the inside, and salty throughout. The next day, they’re rubbish. The outside becomes rubbery, and the inside dries out. Eat ‘em while they’re hot!
UPDATE! Though fine, stone-ground cornmeal appears to be utterly unavailable in the grocery stores here in Tuscaloosa (Publix has an especially bad cornmeal selection), <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masa”>Masa</a> is available. It’s a fine ground cornmeal used for making tortillas, and may even be better than traditional fine cornmeal because it has <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nixtamalization”>been treated with lime, making the niacin more available</a>. The pones also seem creamier inside, but I haven’t done a side-by-side comparison yet.