Sampe Fest 2013 was a great hit!
Sampe, of course, is course ground corn meal, the best being from Plimoth Grist Mill. Cornmeal, fine ground and course were the backbone of the New England diet in the 17th century, both Wamponoag and English.
Jonnycakes were at one time common all along the Eastern seaboard, and even into the Carribean. They look like pancakes, but they act like bread.
They start with fresh ground whole corn meal…..after this. the variations/disagreements begin…
In Rhode Island, the last bastion and fiercest defender/supporter state for the jonnycake they insist on Flint Corn and flint corn alone. Flint corn is one of several varieties of corn – Zea mays indurata – and was the commonest kind of corn grown in New England until the 1930′s.
Now, with the freshly ground corn, you have to choose- water or milk as the liquid. Either is right and either is wrong.
I picked water.
The real secret is that it is HOT milk or boiling water. It really does react with the cornmeal and improves the whole process.
Start with 1 cup corn meal to 1 – 1 1/2 cups boiling water. Add a pinch of salt. Some will add a little sugar, and arguments will ensue. Mix well.
Now – to bake or to fry? According to one source, proper jonnycake is baked in front of an open fire on the center red oak plank of a flour barrel…..or fried in a pan, with either butter or bacon drippings. For Saturdays demonstration I used bacon drippings.
A cast iron pan is best, because you want it hot. According to some sources the proper size for a proper Rhode Island jonnycake is “3″x3″x1/2″ in size” – I didn’t measure mine…..and they were probably too thin.
The first recipe for jonnycakes shows up in Amelia Simmons American Cookery of 1796 . She is from Connecticut and not Rhode Island. Then she moves to New York, which is also not Rhode Island. :
Johny Cake, or Hoe Cake
Scald 1 pint of milk and put to 3 pints of indian meal, and half pint of flower — bake before the fire. Or scald with milk two thirds of the indian meal, or wet two thirds with boiling water, and salt, molasses and shortening, work up with cold water pretty stiff, and bake as above.
1796. Amelia Simmons. American Cookery. Hartford (Dover reprint edition) p. 34.
SOOOO – who is Jonny (however you might spell his name) and how does he rate his own cake?
There are several theories……
Jonny is short for journey….or Jonakin or jannock…and who has mentioned jannock before?????
Why, none other then our dear friend Gervase Markham!
The excellency of oats, and the many singular virtues and uses of them in a family
The virtues of oatmeal.
…..:also with this small oatmeal is made in divers* countries six several kinds of very good and wholesome bread, every one finer than other , as your annacks, janacks, and such like. Also there is made of it both thick and thin oaten cakes, which are very pleasant in taste, and much esteemed: but if it be mixed with a fine wheat meal, then it maketh a most delicate and dainty oatcake, either thick or thin, such as no prince in the world but may have served to his table;…
1631. Gervase Markham. The English Housewife. Michael Best, ed. p. 202.
* divers in this instance means diverse, not
And how do you serve them ? Hot, hot, hot. Some say with butter and maple syrup. Some say with butter and honey. Some say you can’t eat them cold …..but I have, with cranberry sauce, and I’m none the worse for it.
They smell and taste better then I’m able to make them look.
I met people from Maine who were fond of jonnycakes, and people from Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, as well as one woman from Bermuda….in the South they call them hoe-cakes ( a hoe being a kind of a pan, not the garden instrument).