Another cool morning here in Central Missouri! This spring, we’ve had remarkably warm weather remarkably early, so these brief “cool-downs” have been especially welcome. And it makes one hungry for a warm, hearty breakfast!
I’ve been dipping into some small-time, down-home Ozark-cookin’ cookbooks, and Sue and I have given our Jane Austen reading a rest, in favor of reading more of the colorful folk tales Vance Randolph collected from southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. Plus, last weekend was the Big Muddy Folk Festival in Boonville . . . so I had a hankerin’ for something, well, “indigenous.”
You can’t get more indigenous to the Ozarks than corn (and ham, and greens), and old-fashioned sorghum molasses is a regional treat that those poor, deprived people in big cities rarely get to have. But it was our breakfast today, and you can’t ask for anything more delicious at the breakfast table.
Recently, my favorite recipes have been coming from the sixty-year-old Good Housekeeping Cook Book, edited by Dorothy B. Marsh (New York: Rinehart, 1949). I love it because it provides tons of basic, foolproof recipes without much reliance on premade, frozen, boxed, canned or “glassed” foods. The following formulation is a golden example.
I’m completely paraphrasing this; the original appears on pages 443–44 of the book and is a variation of the basic “step-by-step” Griddlecakes recipe.
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup corn meal [not too coarsely ground; also, I prefer yellow because it’s so pretty!]
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons melted butter, margarine, vegetable oil, or other fat
Instructions: I’m not going to retype the book’s method, because I’ll bet you know what to do to heat the griddle or skillet to the right temperature, to know when to flip the cakes, etc. And you know how to mix the batter, too: Combine the dry ingredients and set aside; beat the eggs and beat in the rest of the liquid ingredients; then combine all together with as little stirring as possible.
The cakes will be about 4 inches in diameter; this recipe makes about 12 cakes.
The jug of sorghum we’re currently enjoying is from a Mennonite producer, Daniel Hoover, in Bates County, Missouri. You can order it here!
Notes on the Cakes
I recommend making a double recipe of these corn cakes, so you have plenty of leftovers!
You can also make up your own convenient “corn cakes mix” by combining all the dry ingredients and putting them in a jar; all you have to measure out in the morning is about 1 1/4 cup of the mix plus the liquid ingredients.
Corn, in all its forms, is the official grain of the Americas, and leftover corn cakes are more versatile than regular pancakes when it comes to having with a dinner:
—They can go with anything down-home, like with greens and ham, say, or with a bowl of bean soup. Use them like cornbread.
—They can also go Mexican—topped with salsa and sour cream or guacamole, next to some huevos or refried beans; treat them like pudgy corn tortillas.
—Eat them with a bowl of chili!
—Or travel vicariously to South America, serving them beside grilled steak, roasted bell peppers, and a chimichurri sauce.
—They also make good breakfast sandwiches, filled with a fried egg and a couple pieces of bacon, and topped with some maple syrup. (Mmm! Maybe if we have a couple more of these cold mornings—!