Essentially, hot-water cornbread is the same as hoecakes, a cornpone that can be traced back to Indian societies in the South and to our Colonial ancestors. Eventually the bread became more complex, as leavening, milk, and flavorful fats were added to the batter and better cooking equipment was made available. Today, nothing is loved more in Southern farmhouses or rural cafés than hot water cornbread served with sorghum or molasses. To produce the right dense crust and tender interior, it’s almost obligatory to cook the bread in very hot oil, in a heavy cast-iron skillet that maintains even heat.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, salt, sugar, and baking powder and stir till well blended. Add the milk and bacon grease and stir just till the mixture is moistened but still a little lumpy. With a wooden spoon, gradually add the boiling water, stirring constantly till the batter is the consistency of boiled grits.
In a large cast-iron skillet, heat about
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