Johny Cakes or Hoe Cakes

recipe adapted from Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery (1796), the first cookbook published in America written by an American; there are two versions of this recipe, one for the poor and one for the middling, what follows are the directions for the ‘middling sort’

2 cups boiling water
4 cups stone ground cornmeal
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ to 1 cup molasses

Bring 2 cups of water to boil in a saucepan on the stove; mix that into 4 cups of cornmeal in a large bowl.
Add salt, butter, and molasses; mix thoroughly.
Dough should be quite stiff; if necessary, add cold water by the tablespoon until consistency is right. (If you only use ½ cup molasses, you will likely need to add some water, I used a whole cup of molasses, so didn’t need to add any water.)
Spread dough in thin layer on the bottom of your griddle or frying pan (the smaller 8-10 inch frying pans work better than the larger ones), pressing down to spread out the dough and to make the cake as thin as possible.
Set griddle or frying pan over medium heat.
Prick all over with a fork to aid in cooking the center of the cake.
When the cake begins steaming up through the holes, it is probably cooked on the underside, so loosen it from the pan and  flip it out onto a plate and then slide it back into the pan to cook the other side.
Once finished cooking, these can be stacked on a plate.
You can serve them immediately, or they reheat in the oven or microwave just fine. You may want to cut each cake into two or four pieces.
Johny cakes go well with honey too.


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