Monday, June 16, 2014

Prairie Kitchens - Johnny Cake

Cornmeal was sold in general stores in rural Saskatchewan, however, fresh corn was generally not grown until new varieties were developed that could mature in our short dry growing season. After that, just about every country garden had corn.

Homemakers were creative with corn in the kitchen, making corn bread, corn fritters, corn soup, corn pudding and, of course, fresh corn on the cob. The Manitou Pioneers Museum Centennial Cookbook includes a recipe for making imitation maple syrup by boiling corn cobs and brown sugar, concluding: "One can hardly tell the difference from genuine maple syrup. The corn cobs give it the maple flavour."

In the days before pharmacies, cough syrup was made by boiling corn kernels with honey and drinking the liquid. Old timers swore by it, as did this writer in the cookbook A Taste of Time: "It seemed to work. We survived whooping cough and many other illnesses."

Not everyone ate corn. My father recalls a hired man from Germany who refused to eat corn, disdaining it as pig food. No one seems quite sure where Johnny Cake got its name, but one thing is sure: many variations were found in old Saskatchewan recipe boxes.

Johnny Cake
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 tbsp melted butter

Mix cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk egg with milk and butter. Pour liquid into cornmeal mixture and stir together. Spread in an 8 inch greased baking pan. Bake at 375F for 25 minutes. Serve with gravy, syrup or homemade jam.

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(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)

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