When I was growing up, we had a very kind and patient lady who watched me and my five brothers and sisters after school while our Mom was at work. Mable made hoecakes for us almost every afternoon. We would come home from school and she would have a plate of delicious hot and crispy hoecakes waiting for us. Not only did we love them, but also many of the other children in our neighborhood always found excuses to either come home with us or to stop by to gobble up her famous hoecakes. Unfortunately, I never thought to ask Mable for her recipe and I have tried numerous times over the years to recreate her delicious treats with varying degrees of success. After a number of tries, I think I have finally hit on a recipe, which most closely matches hers, and I hope she would approve.
According to food lore, Hoecakes got their name because they were traditionally cooked on a hoe over a fire. That myth, however, has been debunked and now it is thought they got their name from the griddle pan they were cooked in, called a hoe. Back then, corn was one of the main staples of a Southern diet and it was used to make all kinds of dishes including grits, cornbread mush, and yes, even moonshine.
Depending on the region of the country you are in, hoecakes are also called cornmeal pancakes, johnnycakes, journey cakes, Shawnee cakes, corn pones, corn cakes and even johnny bread. But no matter what you call it, this staple of early America is basically a type of cornmeal pancake that is quick and easy to make. It’s also frequently served with southern peas and greens to “sop up their pot likker.” For those of you that don’t know, “pot likker” is a Southern term for the liquid that greens and peas are cooked in.
If you would like to try your hand at making these versatile little yellow miracles of deliciousness, gather the ingredients, which are self-rising flour, self-rising cornmeal, eggs, sugar, buttermilk, and vegetable oil.
Add the flour, cornmeal, and sugar to a large bowl. Add the eggs and buttermilk to a smaller bowl and whisk well. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients along with ¼ cup of vegetable oil and ½ cup of water. Mix well to combine all ingredients but don’t over mix. The batter will be thick. If you think it is too thick, add a bit more water, about 1 tablespoon at a time until it gets to the consistency you like.
Add ¼ cup of vegetable oil (I use peanut oil, but any kind will do) to a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the batter using a large spoon or small ice-cream scoop. About two tablespoons of batter will make a hoecake about 3 inches across.
Cook the hoecake about 1-2 minutes on each side, or until each side is brown and the edges are crispy. Use a pancake turner or spatula to remove the hoecakes and drain them on a paper towel.
Hoecakes are best when served immediately. They are delicious any time of day straight out of the pan, but for breakfast, they ascend into the stratosphere of deliciousness with the addition of blackberry or maple syrup. Leftover batter will keep in the refrigerator for about 2-3 days.