This is the simplest of cornbread recipes, and can be made in a hot smoker or oven. Tradition says that this bread should be passed around and chunks broken off rather than cutting it, otherwise it will bring you bad luck. You have been warned! Make sure to cover any gnarly-looking corners with melted butter to soften them down. It’s best to make this in a deep 56cm or 60cm cast-iron frying pan with a handle that you are happy to put in the oven (also called a skillet). Otherwise, make it in a casserole, square or round, it does not matter.
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6, and put your pan inside. You need the pan to be hotter than the sun, so make sure you have a safe heat-proof surface to put it on when you take it out of the oven and a good oven cloth or glove for holding it.
2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients. Stir in the egg, buttermilk and the melted lard. Don’t over-mix the batter – it needs to be moist but not runny. If it is runny, add a little more polenta until you get a good consistency.
3. Using an oven cloth or gloves, remove the hot pan from the oven and put in the remaining 3 tablespoons of lard. Be very careful! The lard should shoot across the pan and almost scream at you. Pour in the batter – some of the melted lard should come above the batter, too. Make sure the batter is evenly distributed in the pan and return it to the oven.
4. After 25 minutes, check the corn pone by pulling it from the edges: it should have a crust that comes away easily. To test whether the corn pone is fully cooked, insert a toothpick or skewer – it should come out clean. If not, put the corn pone back in the oven for 5 minutes.
5. Remove it from the oven and leave it to cool for 5 minutes, then place a large plate upside-down on top of the pan, and – holding the pan and dish tightly together – flip it over to remove the corn pone from the pan.
6. To finish, brush salted butter over the top of the warm bread. Slice into wedges.