There are a lot of passed down traditions that get thrown out because they are difficult to keep in place, or they just become forgotten through the years. Corn sticks fall into both categories. Everyone’s seen a cornstick pan before, whether it was in grandma’s kitchen or in a thrift store. Seems like you can’t go into a thrift or antique store without seeing an old cast iron corn stick pan, cast away because it takes a little more effort to make than a flat pan of cornbread.
In Columbia, South Carolina corn sticks have a long tradition that date back to the Fountain Room at Tapp’s department store. Established in 1940, the Fountain Room was a restaurant in the basement of the building, and one of their most popular offerings was the corn sticks, shaped like corn on the cob, made in the cast iron pans. When Tapp’s closed in 1995, the family made the recipe available to the public. The original recipe makes 448 at a time, but some nice person scaled it down so that we can make a reasonable amount at home. After coming across this recipe, I went on a (really easy) mission to find one of those old pans to bring back that taste of Columbia.
Of course, used cast iron can be totally gross, as the entire basis of its goodness is in the “seasoning” aka the baked on oils from other people’s food. So yes, gross. To take care of it, I turned to The Kitchn to help me figure out how to clean and re-season my pan. Within an hour and a half I had a ready-to-use pan that was de-seasoned of its last owner and re-seasoned with my own baked on oils. I used lard to christen my pan because I had it in the fridge already.
With the initial baking of your corn sticks, plan on treating the first batch like the first pancake, cause they won’t be pretty. My first batch stuck a little more than I would have liked, so those will be eaten at home. For the second batch, I used a paper towel to remove most of the cornmeal bits and a pastry brush and bacon grease to fill in each kernel crevice with a light oiling so that it would get even more nonstick.
It worked! The second batch popped out much easier than the first, and I look forward to continuing to work on the pan’s nonstick properties as I churn out more corn sticks in the tradition, if not the quantity, of Tapp’s.