Lauren Woods, fourth-grader from Black Fox Elementary School, was selected as the winner from Bradley County in February. Her recipe came from a family friend, Joe Higgins, and is called “Maggie Bread.”
Cornbread has been called a “cornerstone” of Southern United States cuisine. This comfort food satisfies one’s hunger and the National Cornbread Festival, held in South Pittsburg every year, is a must-attend for cornbread lovers nationwide.
Fourth grade 4-H Club members across the nation are invited to enter an original cornbread recipe for the Youth Cornbread Cook-off held at the National Cornbread Festival. Recipes must include at least one cup of Martha White Corn Meal or one package of Martha White Corn Meal Mix, and must be cooked on Lodge Cast Iron brand cookware.
In March, Woods was selected as a finalist for the national contest and Woods said, if she won the money, she would “spend half of the money on things I want and give the other half to the local animal shelter.” On April 26, Woods traveled with her family to South Pittsburg to make her “Maggie Bread” in front of a crowd of people and a panel of judges. She competed against nine other youth with a variety of recipes.
The competitors had one hour to create their recipes and answer judges’ questions. At the end of the event, Lauren says “It was worth all of the hard work.” She was the first-place winner in the national competition, winning $500 in prize money, a basket of promotional items, and a 24-karat gold Lodge Skillet Medallion.
She was “so thrilled!” Since winning the contest, Lauren has bought some items for herself but is true to her word and plans to buy cat food and dog food with the rest of the money.
“Even if I lose, this has been a great experience for me, and I am so thankful I was able to do it. Thanks to Lodge Cast Iron and Martha White for doing this contest,”
Woods said moments before the contest results were announced, her mother, Monica, said, “Going to the festival reiterated what we try to teach our kids — practice, hard work, and determination make anything possible. The experience at the Cornbread Cook-Off has given Lauren that extra boost of confidence and memories that she will never forget.” She said as a parent, “it was wonderful to watch the excitement, nervousness, and anxiety of being in front of that many people pay off for her. Lauren was so excited when she realized she was in the top three nationally and then to win! Excited doesn’t even begin to describe what she felt.” She added, “The Lord has given her a heart for animals and for her to be able to do something that she enjoys and be able to help animals — it was a perfect fit!”
Woods’ national winning recipe:
1 stick butter (melted)
1 cup sour cream
2-3 eggs (beaten)
11/2 cups Martha White yellow corn meal mix (can substitute this for 1 pack of the Martha white sweet cornmeal mix by omitting the shortening and sugar)
1/8 cup Crisco Shortening (softened)
3 tbs. sugar
1 c plain or creamed corn
1/2 lb. sausage (cooked)
1/8 cup jalapenos
2 cups mild or medium cheddar cheese (shredded)
4 oz. (about 1/4 cup) of chopped pepperoni
Grease cast iron skillet. Preheat both oven and skillet to 350 degrees. Combine butter, sour cream, eggs and softened shortening. Mix together and set aside.
Add cornmeal mix, sugar and corn to wet ingredients. Cook 1/2 lb. sausage; drain and set aside. Chop 4-5 forkfuls (about 1/8 cup) of pickled jalapenos.
Remove hot skillet from oven. Add 1/2 of the cornmeal mixture. Add 1/2 of the shredded cheese and sprinkle over the top of the cornmeal mixture. Sprinkle sausage on top of the cheese. Add remainder of cheese on top of the sausage. Add the remainder of the cornmeal mixture to the top of the cheese. Add chopped pepperoni on top of cornmeal mixture.
Cook 45 minutes to 1 hour— until golden brown and set. (if you shake the skillet and the center of the bread moves, it is not done). Cool for 5 minutes and transfer to plate. Serve hot and enjoy.
For more information about the 4-H Cornbread Cook-Off or for other 4-H programs, contact Lynne Middleton at 728-7001 or LMiddle2@utk.edu. For more information about the National Cornbread Festival, go to: www.nationalcornbread.com.