covered wagon

Pioneer Cooking:
Johnny Cakes

Johnny Cake, Journey Cake, Corn Pone … they are all basically the same thing. This bread is most commonly called corn bread today. Corn and corn meal (ground, dried corn kernels) was a staple of the early American diet. Corn products are still very important today. Here is a simple recipe for making cornbread from scratch.

The iron skillet isn’t the center of kitchen ware like it once was; however, if you have one in your home, you can use it to make a traditional cornbread loaf. Alternate directions for this is at the bottom.


1 cup cornmeal (white or yellow)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water
˝ cup milk


1. Grease a non-stick skillet or griddle or frying pan with a little butter, margarine, oil, or non-stick spray. Do this even if you are using a “non-stick” surface to make the cakes easier to flip.

2. Put the frying surface on a medium heat setting or burner.

3. Mix the cornmeal and salt together.

4. Add water, a little at a time, stirring constantly until cornmeal is smooth. (It will remind you of the southern USA dish called grits except thicker.)

5. Add milk and stir again.

6. Drop spoonfuls of batter onto the hot frying surface just like you would for pancakes.

7. Cook like you would pancakes, flipping when the side against the griddle has browned.

8. When both sides have cooked, remove from the pan and keep warm until meal time.

You can eat these “cakes” with butter, jam, molasses, etc. They also are very useful when cleaning that last bit of food/gravy from your plate! Yum yum!

Alternate Directions for using a cast iron skillet:

Being from the south, cornbread is a regular part of my weekly menu. Here is how I fix cornbread. First, I put a little cooking oil into my iron skillet and then put the skillet into the oven to hit up as I preheat my oven. Then, I take a bag of self-rising cornmeal and follow the directions on the package. Generally, the directions call for milk and an egg which is slightly different from the ingredients listed above. When the batter is mixed, I carefully remove the iron skillet with its hot grease still in it and set it on a heatproof surface. I then poor – carefully!! – the prepared cornmeal batter into the hot grease in the skillet. Then I return the skillet, with its content, to the oven to bake for the length of time suggested on the package of cornmeal. I keep an eye on it to make sure that it doesn't over brown. When the cornmeal is a nice golden brown, I remove the skillet from the oven and immediately turn the cornbread loaf out onto a dinner plate or platter. I do this by turning the skillet upside down and the loaf should come out without any assistance. You need to be careful because the skillet is still very hot and the combined weight of the cast iron skillet and the cornbread loaf can be quite heavy. I cut this round loaf the same way you would cut a pie.

You can also make cornbread in the oven in other kinds of baking dishes or pans; however, you don't have to preheat these in the oven like you do a cast iron skillet.

Have fun and enjoy this tasty, traditional early American dish.

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