A few weeks ago I rendered some duck fat. And then I rendered some pig fat. And I saved the cracklin' pieces that remained after the rendering and sprinkled them with salt to keep them crispy. And then I turned them into cracklin' bread.
The first time I heard about cracklin' was from a farmer named Frank Griffith in East Tennessee. I was standing inside a smoked ham shop with a bunch of farmers, who were grazing in the entrance, swapping stories and waiting for sides of bacon. They told me about their ancestors in their slow molasses voices, barely audible above the drone of the meat slicer. And they told me about their favorite foods — and all the ways to make the best gravy, and the best cornbread, and what was it like to eat a lobster anyway?
We talked for quite a few hours and they told me about cracklin' bread — bread studded with the crispy pieces of rendered fat. You'll read about those farmers and the hog smoker who has a special place in my heart in a few months when my book comes out. But in the meantime, while we wait for the printing machines to spit it out, we can eat cracklin' bread.
The key to good cracklin' bread (and good corn bread) is a preheated skillet. And as always, you can experiment with flavorings — some jalapenos perhaps, or whole corn kernels or molasses. The important part is that you've used every last bit of the animal, from rendered fat, to cracklins and in this case you can use both the fat and its cracklins in the same recipe. That is the beauty of honing your pioneer skills.
1 cup cracklins, chopped into small pieces
1 small onion or half a large one, finely diced
3 tablespoons duck fat or pig lard or butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons baking powder
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a skillet, sweat the onion in the fat until soft and golden brown. Remove from the skillet and put into a large bowl. Place the skillet in the oven to heat.
2. Add the cracklins to the onion mixture along with the flour, cornmeal, salt and baking powder, and mix well.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the egg, buttermilk and honey and whisk together. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until fully incorporated.
4. Remove the skillet from the oven and turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees F. Add the mixture to the skillet. If you have a small skillet, distribute the mixture evenly throughout, if you have a large skillet, just fill one half of it with the mixture.
5. Place in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown on top. Serve immediately.
MAKES 4-6 WEDGES