Thanksgiving Prep: Trying Shortening Substitutes

With less than a week until Turkey Day, we’ve had to face the reality that we haven’t been able to find one of the ingredients for our meal.

We have, in the past days, searched high and low for vegetable shortening, or, as many people in the US might know it, Crisco. It’s a disgusting ingredient but one that’s needed to make the homemade cornbread that we use for stuffing. We’ve been making the same cornbread for years and always use a mixture of day-old cornbread and French baguette, also stale, to give our stuffing different textures.

This morning, a little late in the day, we did some online research and found that vegetable shortening does exist in this country, and is normally called Trex. Well, since our grocery order from Ocado has been delivered it was too late, and none of the stores close to us had it.

So we were left with no option but try two different fats and determine the best one to use in the case we don’t manage to find Trex in the coming days. We’re busily making roasted picanha, which made for a delicious dinner earlier this month,  with a morel sauce and mashed celeriac, and decided to add two versions of cornbread to our list.

We’ve been using a recipe from Ree Drummond for cornbread. In fact, The Pioneer Woman, is our go-to person for quite a few of our Thanksgiving recipes, although over the years we’ve started to make a few changes as we became more comfortable in the kitchen. Her recipes tend to be easy and not fussy, but pack a lot of flavor.

Unfortunately we haven’t been able to find cornmeal so instead had to use polenta, which is pretty much the same, but coarser grains. We also didn’t have buttermilk, so we made it using milk and vinegar.

Wow, this recipe is a substitution nightmare!

Our plan was to determine whether butter or suet would make better cornbread. We made the recipe twice and substituted shortening for one of the fats.

The larger cornbread uses butter and the smaller one suet.

The larger cornbread uses butter and the smaller one suet.

Since we don’t have two cast iron pans of the same size, we had to use a larger and a smaller one, which, to be honest, made it easy to recognize which was which. The larger pie is the one with butter and the smaller one uses suet.

The verdict: Honestly, both are pretty good. The butter one has a better taste than the other, but the one using suet had a better consistency. However, the latter’s fluffiness could be due to the smaller pan and therefore more height. We’ll be using the smaller pan for our Thanksgiving cornbread, which will hopefully help us achieve fluffier cornbread.

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If we had to be picky, which we are when it comes to cooking, the polenta didn’t work as well as we hoped. The grains are slightly too coarse giving the cornbread a somewhat sandy feeling. Unless we find smaller grains, we might have to try grinding the polenta to get a finer mix.

But otherwise, we know that butter is a good substitute for Crisco and we won’t have to go without cornbread in our stuffing.

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