Cornbread is a cornerstone of Southern—and American—food tradition: the country’s first bread made without yeast. It evolved from nourishing Cherokee corn-and-bean cakes into simple unleavened ash cakes and pones baked on the hearthstones of frontier cabins, then into portable Johnny cakes and hoecakes that fortified soldiers and farmers alike, and finally into the iconic skillet-baked round we treasure today. Unlike the cakey cornbread of the North, traditional Southern cornbread relies on coarser cornmeal and little or no flour or sugar. If there’s any secret, it’s not so much an ingredient as a technique. Put the fat—melted lard or bacon grease—in a cast-iron skillet, put the skillet into a hot oven while you assemble the ingredients, then pour in the bread batter. The sizzle you’ll hear—and the golden crust that results from it—is what truly sets Southern cornbread apart.