Mary Randolph’s Cornbread Recipe

“Our breakfast table was as large as our Dinner table; … we had tea, coffee, excellent muffins, hot wheat and corn bread, cold ham and butter,” recalled visitor Margaret Bayard Smith. Jefferson’s notes allude to raising corn for bread and Martha Jefferson Randolph referred to the family being “fond” of Indian, or corn, meal. This is Mary Randolph’s recipe, and almost certainly one of the breads served on Jefferson’s table. Its traditional taste is sure to be a hit with family and friends this holiday season.

Thomas Jefferson and his family ate only two meals a day at Monticello: breakfast, typically at eight, and dinner, in the late afternoon.

Mary Randolph’s Cornbread

1 ½ cups whole milk

¼ tsp active dry yeast

1 tbs lukewarm water

2 large eggs

1 tsp salt

2 ounces unsalted butter

10 ounces fine stone-ground white cornmeal

  1. Scaled the milk over medium heat and let it cool to 110 degrees. Dissolve the yeast in the water and let it proof 10 minutes. Break the eggs into a separate bowl and beat together until smooth, and then beat in the milk, yeast, and salt
  2. Rub the butter into the cornmeal with your fingertips until it is evenly distributed and resembles fine crumbs. Make a well in the center, pour in the liquid ingredients, and quickly stir until the batter is fairly smooth (a few small lumps won’t matter). Cover and set in a warm place until slightly risen and thick with small air bubbles, at least 1 hour and as long as 2 hours.
  3. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 12-cup standard muffin pan and divide the batter among the cups, filling each about three-quarters full. Bake until puffed, golden brown, and set, about 35 minutes. The bread will begin to separate from the edges of the pan when it is done.

monticello-fruit-butter-gift-basket-202Serve this delicate and delicious bread with Smithfield Virginia Country Ham, a real southern favorite. This cooked country ham is aged and smoked, but for only about half the curing time. Tender and lean, each mouthwatering bite leaves a mild, smoky and less salty taste on the palate. If you prefer a sweeter pairing, Monticello Sweet Potato Butter goes wonderfully with cornbread. This delicious, creamy spread is made of sweet potatoes, sugar, spices and citric acid, with no preservatives. It’s made for us in Frederick County, Virginia at a family-owned farm and cannery started in 1828.

diningatmonticelloFor more historic recipes, check out Dining at Monticello. An inviting view of the renowned hospitality offered at Thomas Jefferson’s table. Ten essays discuss topics such as the groceries and wine imported from Europe, the recent kitchen restoration and the African Americans who participated in Monticello’s rich food culture at every stage. Seventy-five delicious recipes from Jefferson family manuscripts, updated by Editor Damon Lee Fowler, are authentic to the period and accessible to today’s home cook.


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