In Helvetia, a Swiss enclave in West Virginia's eastern panhandle, corn bread is made with white cornmeal (yellow works too) and salt, not sugar. For the crispest crust, use an iron skillet greased liberally with bacon fat.
Mary Hicks's Corn Bread
From the Hicks's kitchen in Helvetia, West Virginia, this corn bread is as rustic as it gets.
Yield: serves 6-8
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1⁄2 cups coarse cornmeal, preferably white
1 3⁄4 - 2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten
2 tbsp. rendered bacon fat, butter, lard, or Crisco
Preheat oven to 400°. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add cornmeal and stir to combine.
In a small bowl, beat together 1 3⁄4 cups of the buttermilk and the egg. Add to dry ingredients and stir until just combined. If batter is too thick, add more buttermilk. Take care not to overmix.
Melt the bacon fat in a 9" or 10" cast-iron skillet over high heat. The skillet should be very hot. Pour batter into the skillet and bake in oven until the top is golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.