HOECAKES OR JOHNNYCAKES
Corn is first dried and then crushed, commonly in a mortar and pestle into a cornmeal. Very thorough crushing could pass the resulting cornmeal as a corn flour but that is very time consuming and will never reach the fineness of similarly treated wheat into wheat flour. First the corn kernels are crushed into "cracked" corn; further pounding results in corn grits or cornmeal. Of course the finer grind the better.
Ingredients are the cornmeal and water plus salt if available. This differs from hardtack in that it is usually fried in a bit of oil and eaten same or next day after being cooked. The oil crisps the edges and avoids sticking to the metal upon which the hoecake is cooked. This metal could be simply that of a common hoe but more commonly a griddle or skillet. (the word hoe was a colloquial term for griddle dating back to at least the 1600s in parts of England).
Hoecakes celebrate the flavor of corn without fanfare. Once you get the hang of making them, they are a tasty, no-nonsense response to hunger, as they always have been.
To ensure your hoecakes make it out of the pan intact, it’s essential to use boiling water in the cornmeal mixture. Not only does it encourage greater release of flavor from the cornmeal, it ensures the cornmeal will soak up the water properly; otherwise you’ll be dealing with a loose slop that’s prone to break apart in the pan.
1. Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Put 1 cup of cornmeal and 1/4 tablespoon salt (optional) in a large bowl, and whisk in about 1/4 cup of the boiling water. Let rest about 10 minutes.
2. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the oil (optional but recommended). The mixture should be just pourable, but thick enough that you’ll need to use a spoon or spatula to help spread it out once it’s on the gridiron or skillet. If it seems too thick, add another tablespoon or two of hot water.
3. Put 2 tablespoons oil in an 8- to 12-inch skillet over medium heat or paint the gridiron. When it’s hot, spoon in about half of the cornmeal mixture, and, using a spatula or the back of a spoon, spread it into a round about 6 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick. Cook until the hoecake is golden around the edges and looks set throughout, about 10 minutes, then begin to loosen the edges with a spatula. When you’ve fully released the hoecake from the pan, gently flip it. Cook another 8 to 10 minutes, then transfer to a plate. Serve warm. If you should be so lucky as to have honey or molasses, apply as warranted.