Throwback recipe: cornbread dressing like Grandma used to make
November 20th, 2012
12:15 PM ET
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The Southern Foodways Alliance has a pretty solid collection of community cookbooks in their office—and many more in their staffers' home libraries. And the holidays seem like the right time to whip them out and share some choice recipes with you, our readers. So fix yourself an eggnog, pull up a seat, and check back often between now and New Year's for their Holiday Throwback Recipes.

Today's Cookbook:
The NEW Lovin' Spoonfuls
By John and Ann Egerton and family
published in 1980; 1982; 1984; 2009

In 1980, Southern Foodways Alliance founder John Egerton and his wife, Ann, came up with a much better holiday dispatch than the much-mocked Christmas letter: a hand-typed, spiral-bound cookbook of some two dozen recipes from their family and friends. That was the first edition of The Lovin' Spoonfuls, and the Egertons published volumes 2 and 3 in 1982 and 1984, respectively.

Twenty-five years later, they bundled the original three Lovin' Spoonfuls with an all-new fourth edition. The NEW Lovin' Spoonfuls boasts some 100 recipes, from civil rights activist Rev. Will Campbell's "All-Purpose Sauce" to the late Hap Townes's famous stewed raisins.

We dig the charming, funny stories that accompany many of the recipes, but the best part of the whole thing is the introduction to the 1984 volume, which hints at the publication of the book that would become Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History:


"This may be a good time to tell you about our grander plans for 1986. If all goes well, Alfred A. Knopf of New York will publish that fall or the next our volume of collected wisdom about food in the history and culture of the South. The working title is Southern Food: An Entertainment. We'd love for you to help us. If you know of any rare old cookbooks, magazine articles, recipes, great places to eat, memorable quotes, funny stories, wise people, etc., that we need to be acquainted with, send us word."

We think it's safe to say that all went well on that front! Now pass the cornbread dressing, please.

Grandmother White's Cornbread Dressing (from the 1980 Lovin' Spoonfuls)

There is no telling how far back this prize recipe goes; John has been eating it for over four decades, and it was a venerable specialty in his family long before he took his place at the table. Grandmother white, and after her Rebecca, John's mother, passed the recipe down in a cryptic shorthand that only wise cooks could understand. Here it is, with as much interpretation as we can add for clarity. Mix together:

2 cups white cornmeal
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp soda
1 tbsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp pepper
2 eggs

Add enough buttermilk to give the mixture the consistency of cornbread batter; pour into a black skillet greased with hot bacon grease; bake in 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until crispy brown—like cornbread (which, in fact, it is). When done, take out and dump on rack to cool.

When the bread is cold, crumble it up thoroughly. Then saute a little onion and celery (how much, you may wonder; enough to make their presence felt), add them to the bread, and sprinkle on a little sage to suit your taste. Moisten the mixture with turkey broth, making it sticky enough to shape by hand into patties about the size of large eggs. Lay these onto a cookie sheet and run into a 350 degree oven until they're piping hot, well-browned, and crusty (about 30 min).

(If you prefer, you can stuff the dressing into your turkey, but we seem to like it better served in patties alongside the sliced meat and mashed potatoes, where it can be generously doused with gravy.)

This recipe should make enough dressing to serve four hungry holiday diners. We routinely double it, and have been known to triple it. Whether fresh or left over, hot or cold, it is superb, and never in memory has a single crumb of it gone begging at any house or in any generation of our clan. We would consider a turkey without this dressing to be indecently exposed. Properly prepared, it is more to be sought and savored than the big bird itself. Grandmother White attained greatness with this one.

Okay, now it's YOUR turn. Tell us all about your stuffing and dressing traditions in the comments below and we'll share our favorites in an upcoming post.

More from the Southern Foodways Alliance and all our best Thanksgiving advice and recipes

soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Vickie

    My Moms cornbread dressing~~It's the best! No one can make it like she does!!! She always had to make two pans of it, because my Dad didn't like a lot of sage in it, but the rest of us did!

    November 25, 2013 at 10:36 am |
  2. Laya

    I like a stuffing with some substance, chewy and crunchy on the edges. I use whole wheat maza farfel, which is the whole wheat matza broken into i/8 inch pieces. I saute onin, carrots and celery, season with salt, pepper, and chicken stock, and then mix in the matza farfel to soak up the juices. I bake this in a casserole dish, or in hollowed out zucchini boats, and serve along side the turkey. the matza farfel that is wet gets soft, but doesn't melt like soft bread, and the surface bits are nice and crunchy. This is a favourite for Passover and for Thanksgiving.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
  3. pohakulua

    Mrs. Cubbisons cubed white bread herb stuffing mix, Onions, Celery, Sage, garlic powder, salt, Pepper, butter, applesauce broth from cooking neck and giblets ( toss the giblets after boiling, chicken broth if needed.

    November 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  4. Rod

    We do our dressing very simply. Over the course of the year, we freeze leftover scraps of homemade bread, sourdough, white, wheat, no knead, etc. the key is it has to have some structure, not like soft store bought bread. Tear the bread up, add celery, onion, turkey, salt and pepper and thoroughly mix, then add egg and broth. I don't know amounts on any of it, just what looks good, then bake and eat. (leftovers are awesome put in a toaster oven to put a little crunch on the edges.

    November 21, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  5. Eddie Murphy


    November 20, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  6. Etta Cornbread

    Please don't forget the thanksgiving b eer.

    November 20, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Campstove Jack

      There's gotta be a recipe that has cornbread and beer in it somewhere.

      November 20, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
      • ™©JbJiNg!eŚ®™

        Why yes, there is! This one looks pretty good, but Google beer cornbread stuffing and there is quite a few.

        November 20, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
        • Campstove Jack

          Direct Hit! That one is on the mark and will hit our table too. I'll look around a bit but this one has cornbread, beer and nuts – what else could be missing? Thanks

          November 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  7. Etta Cornbread

    Please don't forget the thanksgiving beer either. (Polish potato vodka is an acceptable substitute). mmmmmm.

    November 20, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  8. Truth™

    It has to be Stove Top, cornbread variety, cooked outside of the bird. Anything else, and it ain't Thanksgiving, and you obviously hate America.

    November 20, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • ™©JbJiNg!eŚ®™@Truth

      StoveTop chicken or turkey or regular, enhanced with fresh onions, celery, extra sage, extra butter. Stuffed in the bird and some cooked outside. That's the was we roll in my house...

      November 20, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
      • Truth™@JBJ

        That actually does sound really good...

        November 20, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
        • ™©JbJiNg!eŚ®™@Truth

          We just made it Sunday and had the leftovers last night, it was super tasty. I like the added crunch the fresh veggies add, although I saute them in the butter first before adding the chicken broth instead of water. Like I said yesterday, it was a semi-homemade turkey dinner... :)

          November 20, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
      • Jerv@JBJ

        Exactly how my Pops does his dressing. I like how you roll!

        November 20, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
        • ™©JbJiNg!eŚ®™@Jerv

          I like pops. Dressing though? Stuffing in my house. :)

          November 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
        • Truth™@JBJ, Jerv

          I like Stovetop so much that sometimes I will just cook and eat an entire box on my own. I like your extra butter idea. I may have to try that...

          November 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  9. GiGi Eats Celebrities

    Sorry to bust everyone's Thanksgiving but......... That ain't healthy. Grandma has no clue what white flour = no nutritional value. HA, whoops.

    November 20, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Etta Cornbread

      Thanksgiving isn't about nutritional value. It's about America and family and giving thanks. It's the one day a year it's ok to eat and eat. GOD Bless America and turkeys and dressing and mashed potatoes and gravy. And sweet potato soufflé and pumpkin pie. mmmmmmm. And beer.

      November 20, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
      • GiGi Eats Celebrities

        Ha Ha! That's most important, giving thanks! :)

        November 20, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
      • Jerv@Etta Cornbread


        November 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  10. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    HEY! Don't forget chopped jalapenos in the cornbread!

    November 20, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Jerv

      Or green chilis, so darn good.

      November 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Sir Biddle

      Gotta go easy on the spicy on Turkey Day. That's the last day you want to get a case of the whistles!

      November 20, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
      • Campstove Jack

        No worries, if you feel a southerly gale a coming you can share the company of the smokers on the back porch.

        November 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
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