Sunday, June 7, 2015

Historical Food Fortnightly Bonus Challenge 

"Breakfast Foods"

The Challenge: Breakfast Foods
I had all kinds of plans for this challenge but unfortunately I'm without an oven so I had to go with Plan B.

The Recipe: Johnny Cakes
1886, Rhode Island

Johnny Cakes are a type of cornmeal pancake made with Indian cornmeal and water spread thin on a board and cooked on an open fire. The early English settlers learned how to plant and cook Indian corn from their native neighbors. Supposedly the name comes from Journey because they were easy to make on a long journey. The legend goes that travelers carried cornmeal in their saddle bags and mixed the cornmeal with their water supply and cooked the cakes over an open fire on a rock, a board, a hoe, whatever was around. This recipe is a Rhode Island tradition. The special white cornmeal is stone ground at a local mill. It's probably more refined than the cornmeal used back in colonial days. A Google Books search reveals numerous anecdotes about how inedible these early Johnny cakes are and later recipes tried to improve them by adding sugar, eggs and flour. I stuck with the tried and true local recipe.  

1 c. stone ground white cornmeal
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. boiling water
fat for frying

Mix cornmeal, sugar and salt together in a bowl. Boil water and pour over cornmeal mix. Stir to a thick batter. Grease a frying pan or griddle and cook one side for exactly 6 minutes. Do not peek or turn over. Flip and cook for 5 minutes. Serve warm with butter, apple butter, honey or maple syrup.
Makes about 10 small cakes

Wash them down with some coffee milk and you have a true Rhode Island meal!

Common Griddle Cake
A quart of indian meal, a pint of warm water, a level tea-spoonful of salt. Sift a quart of indian meal into a pan. Make a hole in the middle, and pour in a pint of warm water, adding the salt. With a spoon mix the meal and water gradually into a soft dough. Stir it very hard for a quarter of an hour or more, till it becomes light and spongy. Then spread the dough, smooth and evenly, on a stout, flat board. A piece of the head of a flour barrel will serve for this purpose. Place the board nearly (but not quite) upright, and set a smoothing-iron or a stone against the back to support it. Bake it well. When done, cut it into squares, and send it hot to table, split and buttered. You may eat molasses with it.
Eliza Leslie, Miss Leslie's Lady's New Receipt-book: A Useful Guide for Large Or Small Families Containing Directions for Cooking, Preserving, Pickling ..., A. Hart, late Carey & Hart, 1850. 

How Did You Make It:
I followed the recipe on the box. I fried in butter instead of drippings or lard. I cooked them in round cakes which is the traditional way. They're not light and spongy the way Eliza Leslie describes.

Time to Complete:  half an hour or so

Total Cost: $4.66 for the cornmeal. I had salt, sugar and butter on hand.

How Successful Was It?:  Very successful.This isn't the first time I've made them. I don't do it often enough to count it as a specialty. 

How Accurate Is It?:
100% except I fried in butter and I don't have any local raw honey on hand right now so I topped with grocery store honey. I didn't make the apple butter but it did come from a local  orchard.  (I find coffee milk really gross so I skipped that part of the tradition.)