Kitchen Improv

I’m terrible at following recipes. I learned to cook from my grandmother who owned exactly zero cookbooks. Her recipe collection consisted of a few tattered notecards for family traditions and a head full of ideas. She was a master of flavor improv. I try my best to be like her. 

I do have cookbooks. Quite a lot of them. But I get them mostly because I like to read them as books. Food writers are fun people! I also pick up ideas from other cultures. And I just can’t bring myself to wing it on canning. I might play with the contents of the jar, but sealing that jar is by the book.

However, today is a typical flight of fancy. I had a few ears of corn left and a powerful craving for corn bread — which I usually make with whole kernel corn as well as corn meal. But I also had these blueberries… and most of a pint of roasted green chile… and there is no milk in the house today, but there is hard cider… thus…

Corn Bread Deluxe

A few minutes after coming out of the oven. I did not plan on it smiling up at me.


3 eggs, beaten frothy
1 cup dry hard cider (I used Safety Meeting from Stowe Cider for the hops in it.)
1/4 cup corn oil or melted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
3 TBS maple sugar (or some sweetener of your choice)
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground allspice
3/4 cup whole corn kernels
1 cup green chile, peeled, roasted & chopped
1 cup fresh blueberries


Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place 1/2 tsp of cooking oil or melted butter in a cast iron pie pan or skillet (about 9-10” diameter, deep is better). Spread the oil over the whole interior surface with your fingers. If there is extra pooling in the nooks & crannies, that is good. I usually preheat the pan in the hot oven. Today, I didn’t because there is more sugar in this recipe than usual. It might have been fine. It might also have been charcoal crusties.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs until they are frothy but not firm. Add the cider and beat well. Let it rest a couple minutes to allow the mixture to foam up further. Then add the oil and mix all the liquids.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, maple sugar, baking powder, salt, and allspice.

Pour the liquids into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Some small flour lumps are fine.

Add the corn, blueberries, and chile. Then mix into the batter.

Pour the batter into the greased baking pan. 

Bake for 30 minutes in a 400°F oven, or until top is golden and a wooden toothpick inserted in the bread comes out clean.

Let cool a bit in the pan.

Slice into wedges and serve warm with butter, fresh ricotta cheese, or crème fraîche. Maybe all three. And pair with more cider.

©Elizabeth Anker 2021