Chicken Coop Chatter©
Johnny cakes and Hoe cakes were similar to Ash cakes, and the Ash cake may actually been derived from the Johnny cake. Once again, history is obscured so there's no confirmed data on the origins. One thing is certain, each was derived out of need and survival, using what was available; not only ingredients but cooking vessels.
It is believed that the term Johnny was a skewed name for what was Shawnee cake. A cornmeal bread made by the American Indians. Hoe cakes, being similar, were baked on the metal of the hoe in an open fire, and the Ash cake was baked in ashes as it implies, but each used the same or similar ingredients even though the baking methods were different, which also may have had more to do with what was available for cooking.
A Johnny cake could either be made from a thin batter or a thickened batter, fried in a cast iron skillet, in lard or bacon grease, similar to a fry bread.
The basic ingredients were stone ground cornmeal (white or yellow), water and salt. Once fried or baked, they may have been drizzled with a bit of molasses or honey as a dessert or eaten plain with butter to accompany any meal.
If other ingredients such as flour, milk, eggs, cream and butter were available, these may have also been used to make the cakes, but for pioneers with basic supplies, they would have reserved what they had and made very basic recipes with the minimum of ingredients to make them palatable. The main object was survival and conserving supplies for their long trek over the prairies.
The Johnny cakes, Hoe cakes and Ash cakes would be great youth campout projects, using minimum supplies and cooking utensils.
Chicken Coop Chatter©
1 Cup Stone-ground cornmeal (white or yellow)
1/2 Cup water (or just enough to make a thin or thick batter)
pinch of salt
Bacon grease or lard about 1" deep in skillet
Mix the ingredients together to form a thick batter. Drop by spoon into hot bacon grease or lard. Turn as needed. Serve warm with butter or a drizzle of honey or molasses.
For making Ash cakes refer to my link: http://justfowlingaround.weebly.com/stories/ash-cake
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