Tagged ‘oats’

Jonnycakes, or what’s in a name

November 6th, 2013 by KM Wall


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.


Flint corn is now either yellow or white….although the mufti-colored corn was not uncommon in 17th century New England

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.



Corn meal and boiling water

Corn meal and boiling water…

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.


Bacon drippings....

Bacon drippings….

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.

Cast iron skillet - well seasoned it's non-stick with the nonstick surface issues

Cast iron skillet – well seasoned it’s non-stick with the nonstick surface issues


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!

Chapter VII

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

Llyod Bridges, Sea Hunt

Lloyd Bridges, Sea Hunt



Flip and keep cooking. They take their own sweet time. These are NOT pancakes.

Flip and keep cooking. They take their own sweet time. These are NOT pancakes.


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.

-  Yaniqueques  (sound it out...) from the Dominican Republic

– Yaniqueques (sound it out…) from the Dominican Republic

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).

plimoth grist mill prodcut

Where there’s a MILL there’s a way!

A Good Friday Pudding

March 29th, 2013 by KM Wall


A ‘good Friday’ pudding


‘Also of these grits [oats] are made the Good Friday pudding, which is mixed with eggs, milk, suet[1], pennyroyal[2], and boiled first in linen bag, and then stripped and buttered with sweet butter.’

- Markham, Gervase. Best ed. The English Housewife, p. 203.

[1] suet is the fat from neat or sheep (neat are bovines)

[2] pennyroyal- a/k/a ‘pudding grass’ -  is an herb in English gardens. It also has a purging quality…..it’s a member of the mint family (Mentha pulegium); there are other mints that aren’t purging, just refreshing…..

pennyroyal - it gets this bloomy late May/early June

pennyroyal – it gets this bloomy late May/early June


What’s so ‘Good Friday’ about this pudding? It never really says…it could be the pennyroyal, which could be part of a seasonal purging….this recipe is in the Oats chapter of The English Housewife, and not in with the other recipes in the Cookery section.

Yes, Oats have their own chapter.

Bag Pudding (OED)   [f. BAG n.1 + PUDDING.]

1. A pudding boiled in a bag.
1598 in FLORIO. 1600 HEYWOOD 1 Edw. IV, Wks. 1874 I 47 Thou shalt be welcome to beef and bacon, and perhaps a bag-pudding.

1641 W. CARTWRIGHT Ordinary II. i, A solemn son of Bagpudding and Pottage.

2. fig. ? Clown. Obs. (Cf. jackpudding.)

1608 DAY Hum. out of Br. II. i. (1881) 25 Farewell, sweet heart.God a mercy, bagpudding

Jack pudding is also a song and a dance.

Pudding Bag (OED)

A bag in which a pudding is boiled. Also transf. and fig.

c1597 T. DELONEY Jack of Newberie (1619) iv. sig. G3, The other maide..with the perfume in the pudding-bagge, flapt him about the face. 1626 in NARES (Halliw.), [A piece of Sail-cloth] about half a yard long, of the breadth of a pudding-bag. (first reference to ‘pudding cloth’  – 1853.)


Bag Pudding (redacted)

soaked  oats

½ C milk

3 eggs

4 T butter (If you can find human food grade suet, by all means use that. Chop it fine first.If you can just find the mouldy, nasty bits they set out for bird feeders, use butter as the alternative grease. Grease is good!) )

pennyroyal (or better yet, some  other herbs)*


Boil the oats  until soft. Add the milk, 1/3 of butter. When cool enough add the eggs. If you choose herbs, add a sprig or two of that.

Tie it up in a buttered cloth (the ‘floursack’ towels make great pudding clothes. You’ll want something maybe 15′ all around, hemmed and washable.)  Put the pudding in a pot of boiling water – arrange it so that it doesn’t touch the sides or bottom. Think pasta pot – you want plenty of water boiling all around the pudding. Tuck the ends of the cloth in the water so they don’t burn.

Boil until firm – ½ – 1 hour. Add more water to keep covered if necessary during boiling. Keep the water boiling and move it from time to time to keep it from sticking.

Remove from water, drain. Place on serving plate and take cloth off. Butter the top and serve.

* Pennyroyal notes: Pennyroyal is now considered to contain ” a highly toxic volatile organic compound affecting liver and uterine function. “  Use some other member of the mint family to flavor your pudding! Yes, people used to eat it – they also died young pretty frequently.

Pottage without herbs

February 22nd, 2013 by KM Wall







Gerard Dou - Woman eating Porridge - 1637

Pottage without herbs.

Others desire to have pottage without any herbs at all, and then you must only take oatmeal beaten, and good store of onions, and put them in, and boil them together; and thus doing you must take a greater quantity of oatmeal then before.

- Markham, Gervase. The English Housewife. Michael Best, ed. McGill-Queens University Press: Montreal. 1986. pp. 74-6.


Oats and onions? What could be simpler…..rolled oats simply will not do, though. Whole oat groats (whole food store or horse trough. Just joking about the horse chow…..but those are what real oats look like)

Onions in traces - Allerton house, August 2012


assorted sizes of oat groats

whole oat groats with husks

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