And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. — Genesis 18:6
Hoe-Cakes or Corn Pone
- 2 cups whole grain cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups boiling water
- fat for frying–margarine, bacon grease, shortening, vegetable oil or a combination
First put your tea kettle on to boil. While it’s heating combine the cornmeal and salt in a medium bowl. When the kettle whistles measure the boiling water in a metal or heat-tempered glass measuring cup. If you use plastic measuring cup it will crack and possibly melt. Pour the boiling water over the cornmeal and stir it up with a fork. The cornmeal will swell up as it absorbs the water, forming a thick mash. Set the mixture aside until it’s cool enough to handle comfortably.
To Make Hoecakes
Heat your fat in a large skillet over medium high heat. The fat gives your hoecakes much of it’s flavor, so choose a flavorful fat if you can. Half margarine and half bacon grease is my family’s favorite. I use about 1/4 to 1/3-cup of fat (total) for each large skillet. When I don’t have bacon grease, I use half margarine and half vegetable oil because margarine tends to burn if used all by itself.
Scoop up spoonfuls of cornmeal mash and shape it into a small patty. I used to use 1/3-cup of mash for each hoecake, but now make them smaller. I use about 2 to 3-tablespoons for each and the smaller size seems to be both easier to cook and more appetizing to my family. There is no right or wrong. Make the patties a size that seems right to you. If the mash is sticky then get your hands wet before shaping the patties. Wet hands won’t stick to the cornmeal mash.
Plop your hoecakes into the hot fat as you shape them. Continue until you have a panful. Allow the hoecakes to fry in the hot fat for about 5-minutes or until the underside is golden brown. Flip and continue frying until the second side is browned. It takes about 10-minutes for each batch. If I use a 12-inch skillet, then this recipe makes 2-batches.
To Make Corn Pone
This is the baked version of hoecakes. Prepare your cornmeal as directed. When you’re ready to cook it turn your oven onto somewhere between 375° and 425°. Oil or grease a large cookie sheet. Lay your patties onto the sheet. Brush or drizzle each piece with a little melted margarine or vegetable oil. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until browned and crusty to your liking.
Originally, Native Americans cooked these on hot rocks in an open fire. They were commonly referred to as Ash Cakes. Later on, settlers from Europe adopted the recipe, cooking the cakes on the blades of their hoes in the fireplace. This is where they get the name, “Hoe Cakes”. Of all the recipes in my collection, this one is the oldest, the cheapest, and just about the tastiest of all. Serve Hoe Cakes with a meal as a bread, or by themselves for breakfast with maple syrup or molasses. They also make a nice accompaniment to main meals, especially when fried in margarine or bacon grease. In the summertime, when you want a hot bread, but don’t want to heat up the oven, hoecakes are the best choice. They cook right on top of the stove, without heating up the entire house. Good for camping and back packing too.
When times are really hard, a batch of hoecakes served along with a can of vegetables makes a hearty and satisfying meal. As a teenager this was a meal I prepared for my sister and I more than once. Do not underestimate the value of cornmeal in filling a hungry tummy.