Johnnycake, also known as journey cake, johnny bread, hoecake, shawnee cake or spider cornbread, is a cornmeal flatbread, a type of batter bread. An early American staple food, it is prepared on the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland to Jamaica. The food originates from the indigenous people of North America. It is still eaten in the West Indies, Dominican Republic, Saint Croix, The Bahamas, Colombia, Bermuda, Curaçao and Puerto Rico as well as in the United States and Canada.
The modern johnnycake is found in the cuisine of New England and is often claimed as originating in Rhode Island. A modern johnnycake is fried cornmeal gruel, which is made from yellow or white cornmeal mixed with salt and hot water or milk, and sometimes sweetened. In the Southern United States, the term used is hoecake, although this can also refer to cornbread fried in a pan.
Origin of Johnnycake
Indigenous peoples of the Americas using ground corn for cooking are credited with teaching Europeans how to make the food. It is also claimed that johnnycakes were made by the Narragansett people as far back as the 1600s.
From this culture came one of the main staples of the Southern diet: corn (maize). Corn was used to make all kinds of dishes from the familiar cornbread and grits to liquors such as whiskey and moonshine, which were important trade items. Cornbread was popular during the American Civil War because it was very cheap and could be made in many different sizes and forms. It could be fashioned into high-rising, fluffy loaves or simply fried for a fast meal.
To a far greater degree than anyone realizes, several of the most important food dishes that the Southeastern Indians live on today is the “soul food” eaten by both black and white Southerners. Hominy, for example, is still eaten … Sofkee live on as grits … cornbread [is] used by Southern cooks … Indian fritters … variously known as “hoe cake”, … or “Johnny cake.”… Indian boiled cornbread is present in Southern cuisine as “corn meal dumplings”, … and as “hush puppies”, … Southerners cook their beans and field peas by boiling them, as did the Indians … like the Indians they cure their meat and smoke it over hickory coals.
- 2 cups stone ground cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons boiling water
Cream the cornmeal, salt, and butter together. Add the milk and enough water to make a moist but firm batter.
Drop by large spoonfuls onto a hot greased griddle, and flatten slightly with the back of a spoon. When brown, turn and cook the other side.
In Australia, a “johnny cake” is a bread usually known as damper, but cooked as smaller, individually-sized portions, and often pan-fried, rather than as a loaf. It is uncertain if this name was influenced by the term for North American cornmeal bread. However, Australian johnny cakes are made with wheat flour rather than cornmeal; the cakes are baked in the hot coals of a fire or fried in fat in a frying pan (skillet).
In the Bahamas, “johnny cake” refers to a bread made with flour, sugar, butter, and water. After being kneaded, the bread is baked until lightly browned, and has a soft and malleable middle. This bread is usually eaten with soup or on its own. The common bread consumed in the Bahamas in 1725 was made of corn and flour. According to Mark Catesby, an English naturalist who visited North America and the Caribbean in the early 1700s, “Their bread is made of Maiz, or Indian Corn, and also of Wheat; the first they cultivate but not sufficient for their consumption. Wheat is imported to them in Flower from the Northern Colonies.” The Boney M music disco group sang about Johnny Cakes in their song, “Brown Girl in the Ring”, eating fried fish and Johnny Cakes on Saturday night.
Yaniqueques or yanikeke are a Dominican Republic version of the johnnycake, supposedly brought over in the nineteenth century by English-speaking migrants (possibly of Afro-Caribbean descent). These cakes are made with flour, baking powder, butter and water; they are typically deep-fried. They are a popular beach snack, especially in Boca Chica.
Johnnycakes refer to flat discs of deep-fried bread dough in Curaçao, other Dutch overseas territories and areas with significant Dutch Antillean communities. It is usually leavened with baking powder or soda and generally does not contain cornmeal. It is usually eaten filled with a slice of Gouda cheese or salted cod.
Johnnycake is a traditional staple across the island. Some people call these fried dumplings whilst others say fried johnnycakes. Recipe incorporates flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, margarine or butter and water or milk. Once kneaded, the dough is fried in cooking oil.
The modern johnnycake is a staple in the cuisine of New England, and New Englanders claim it originated in Rhode Island. A modern jonnycake is fried gruel made from yellow or white cornmeal that is mixed with salt and hot water or milk, and sometimes sweetened. In the Southern United States, the same food is referred to as a hoecake.