Friday, April 11, 2014

J is for Johnny Cake

by Kim Van Sickler

[Kim's posts will all relate to her MG historical fiction novel with a paranormal twist: MuleskinnerHere's the pitch: An extraordinary canal dog gives twelve-year-old mule driver, Clay, the conviction to fight against a highly suspect Indenture agreement his pa supposedly signed...right before Pa was found swinging from a tree above Lonesome Lock.]

Johnny cake is fried flattened cornbread and was a staple of the old Ohio Canal.

The following johnny cake recipe appears in

Johnnycake Recipe
Recipe Type: PancakeBrunch & BreakfastCorn Bread
Cuisine: New England
Yields: 4 servings
Prep time: 10 min

1 cup white cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup milk [but canalers probably skipped this ingredient]
Bacon drippings

In a medium bowl, place cornmeal and salt.
In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring water to a rapid boil; remove from heat. With the saucepan in one hand, let the boiling water dribble onto the cornmeal while stirring constantly with the other hand. Then stir the milk into the mixture (it will be fairly thick, but not runny).
Generously grease a large, heavy frying pan (I like to use my cast-iron frying pan) with the bacon drippings and heat. When pan is hot, drop the batter by spoonfuls. Flatten the batter with a spatula to a thickness of approximately 1/4 inch. Fry until golden brown, turn, and brown on the other side (adding more bacon drippings as needed).
Serve hot with butter, maple syrup, or applesauce.
Makes 4 servings.

The name johnny cake may originate from journey cakes, so called because they could be made ahead of time and packed for trips. Or they might be the slurred derivative of Shawnee cakes, a recipe the Indians shared with the Pilgrims. Still another school of thought is that the word comes from the American Indian word for corn cake or "janiken".
File:Lock 27 Johnny Cake Lock.jpg
Lock #27, Johnny Cake Lock, Ohio Canal
Lock number 27 on the old Ohio Canal is nicknamed Johnny Cake Lock because at one time at least one canal boat not well stocked with food was stuck in the mud there for days. The passengers had nothing to eat during that time but johnny cakes.


  1. Now I know what johnny cakes are.

    1. I also live by a Johnnycake Ridge Road...

  2. Fascinating history. I love learning about the past, and I'm an avid cook, so knowing how people used to make things with limited appliances, etc. has always interested me. Might have to try these camping...we always have bacon, something we try to avoid in our normal diet. Try.
    Tina @ Life is Good
    A to Z Team @ Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2014

    1. These would be fun to make on a camping trip. Quick and easy trumps nutrition when camping every time. (I do the same thing.)

  3. I've eaten those before. Maybe the creator was named Johnny?

    1. Ha! Easy conclusion to come to, but no evidence that is the case.:-)

  4. I didn't know what they were! Thanks for sharing!!

  5. Very interesting and informing post. I love reading about history and the recipe for the Johnny Cakes sounds delicious! New follower to your stories.

  6. I've had Johnny Cakes! They are good. Next time I'll try it with hot applesauce. :)

  7. I definitely remember reading about Johnnycakes during my 19th century phase. There might've been a recipe in The Little House Cookbook as well.

  8. Interesting detail about the lock!

  9. Never knew what Johnny cake was. Thanks for the history--very interesting. Your novel sounds interesting too.

  10. Living in the south, I've heard of Johnny cakes, but I'm not sure I've ever actually eaten one. And I had no idea why they were called that, so it's interesting that there are several possibilities.

    Hope you’re having fun with the A to Z challenge,