Cornbread is a Southern staple, but by adding bacon and Cheddar, it is sure to please any crowd.
The secret to any good cornbread is fresh cornmeal. You can easily add store-bought cornmeal to this recipe, but the flavor is enhanced dramatically by cornmeal that is fresh and contains no preservatives. Cornmeal retains freshness just like a regular ear of corn, so the longer it's been on the shelf, the less your cornbread will have that distinct flavor. Try a local organic grocer, or for the best quality, try a place like Anson Mills that mills their corn and ships it the same day.
This cornbread can be made in advance but it should be reheated a bit before serving, otherwise the cheese will not maintain the same consistency.
For vegetarians, you can also follow this recipe exactly, just omitting the bacon.
Preheat the oven to 375. Cook the bacon in a skillet until thoroughly cooked. Let cool and drain on a paper towel and then dice into pieces. Reserve the bacon drippings or melt the butter instead.
Spread the fat of your choice across an 8-inch round pan. Place the pan in the oven to heat up.
Combine the diced Cheddar and the dry ingredients together in one bowl. In another, add the milk and eggs. Beat the eggs into the milk and then add the liquids to the dry ingredients. Fold together, being careful not to overmix.
Remove the pan from the oven, add the mixture, and then place back in the oven. Let cook for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
Serve immediately so that the cheese remains melted.