In the earliest days of the American colonies, ground cornmeal was used as a substitute for harder-to-find wheat flours. Native Americans taught the Europeans how to combine it with boiled water to make a simple batter, and they, in turn, added milk, molasses, and butter for various cakes and puddings. Johnny cakes (also spelled jonnycakes) were one of those variations. Every October, Kenyon’s Grist Mill in West Kingston, Rhode Island, hosts a festival celebrating this heritage food.
Note: For thin, crisp cakes, omit the boiling water, increase the milk to 1-3/4 cups, and reduce the cooking time to 3 to 4 minutes on each side.
Yield: 12 cakes.
- 1 cup white flint cornmeal
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1-1/2 cups boiling water
- 3 tablespoons whole milk
- 3-4 tablespoons unsalted butter
In a medium bowl, whisk together cornmeal, salt, and sugar. Whisk in boiling water until mixture has the consistency of loose mashed potatoes. Whisk in milk. The batter will thicken as it cools.
Melt butter on a skillet over medium-high heat. Pour large spoonfuls (about 3 tablespoons each) of batter onto the skillet and brown, about 5 minutes on each side.