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~ Johnnycakes -- Precursor to the American Pancake ~

6a0120a8551282970b0263e99930b2200bMy first experience with Johnny cakes was in 1992  We decided to take a tennis vacation and headed to the Killington Ski Resort in Vermont.  During the Summer, Killington offers tennis packages and first-class accommodations.  We drove nine hours, along winding, two-lane interstate and country roads looking at truly picturesque mountains and greenery.  It was idillic, and, we had enough free time for sight-seeing, shopping in country stores and eating in local restaurants too.  I ate my first Johnny cake at the resort for breakfast before hitting the courts on our first day.  I liked them so much, I ordered them every morning for the rest of the week.

Dating back to the early 1600's, Johnny cakes are said to be the precursor to the pancake.  The origin of the name is a mystery, and, likely has nothing to do with the name John.  We know they were originally called journey cakes because they were packed into saddlebags to take on long trips.  They were sometimes called ash cakes, because they could be baked or reheated in the hot embers of a fire, and, hoe cakes, are ash cakes that are placed on a hoe and also cooked over a fire.  Corn cakes were first made by Native Americans,  who called them janiken, and that sounds suspiciously close to Johnny cake to me. They used ground corn as an ingredient in a lot of their food, and some historians believe it was the colonists who slurred the words "Shawnee cakes" into "Johnny cakes".  It's no surprise that these cornmeal cakes are associated with New England, as it was the Native Americans who taught the Pilgrims how to grind corn (because their supply of wheat flour had spoiled during their voyage from England) back in 1620.

6a0120a8551282970b026bdec67eab200cIn their purest form, Johnny cakes are made from yellow or white corn meal, boiling water, salt and sugar.  The corn meal gives them their unique, kinda gritty dense texture, but, they get most of their flavor from what they are cooked in, so, bacon drippings or butter, combined with some oil are always used.  The batter has the consistency of loose mashed potatoes, and, while many versions contain milk and egg, unlike pancakes. they don't contain any leavening (baking powder or baking soda), which is great because you can mix 'em in advance.  Like pancakes, you can top them with more butter, fresh fruit, syrup and or honey.  I recommend butter and a good douse of Vermont maple syrup.

Try my ~ Johnny Cakes -- Jonnycakes -- Journey Cakes ~:

6a0120a8551282970b0263e99930b2200b"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)


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