Hoecakes DSC9653

Hoecakes

Have you ever had a hoecake? On a Saturday in October, I found myself in Oxford, Mississippi and that’s what I had for breakfast—hoecakes.

I was attending the 11th Annual Southern Foodways Symposium. The theme was drinkways and true to form, that morning there were on offer cool jugs of thick, tart buttermilk dotted with flecks of butter. But it was the hoecakes that held my attention and left me craving more.

Hoecakes, at least where I’m from, aren’t that common. My great-grandma Blanche used to make them, but she was the last one in my family to prepare them on a regular basis. In Oxford, we were eating them for breakfast, smothered in sweet sorghum syrup, but my great-grandma used to serve them instead at lunch and dinner in place of cornbread.

It’s said they are named hoecakes because field workers cooked them on their hoes hovered over an open flame. They’re also known as Johnnycakes, ashcakes or hot-water cornbread, as my great-grandmother called them. But no matter what you say, cornmeal is the key to hoecakes. There are countless recipes for hoecakes, but at their most basic they are made with just cornmeal, hot water, and salt.

Hoecakes are crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Sometimes, they come stuffed with chewy cracklin’s, as were the ones I ate in Oxford. I’ve also heard stories of people adding green onions, corn or chiles to their hoecakes. I, however, prefer mine plain topped with a spread of sweet butter and a sprinkle of salt.

The best thing about hoecakes is their economy. They cost little to make but yield large returns for both the mouth and the stomach. A hoecake’s simplicity is a palliative for these complex times.

Now, if you’re like me, you’re excited by next Tuesday’s election. But as thrilling as this election may be (whichever side wins, history will be made!), it’s also been exhausting. I knew long ago who I was voting for, but I still insisted on devouring every debate, speech, interview and article I could find. And considering that I’ve been following this road to the White House ever since Obama gave a speech in Austin in March 2007, it’s been a long journey indeed.

In honor of next Tuesday’s election, I’ve decided to make a batch of hoecakes except I will be calling them instead, hope cakes.

Hoecakes | Homesick Texan

So, let’s hope that whoever is elected will be a good steward of our trust and bounty. Let’s hope that whoever is elected will make wise decisions regarding our relations with the world. Let’s hope that whoever is elected will fight for justice. Let’s hope that whoever is elected will promote the dignity and freedom of every person.

And, perhaps most important of all, let’s hope that whoever is elected will restore our nation’s equilibrium—so we no longer think in shades or red or blue but instead one glorious shade of purple.

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5 from 1 vote

Hoecakes

Course Bread
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings 8 hoecakes
Author Lisa Fain

Ingredients

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons bacon grease
  • Butter, for serving

Instructions

  • Stir together the cornmeal and salt, then pour in the boiling water and stir until a thick batter is formed.
  • Allow it the batter to cool for 10 minutes or until it thickens. Working with your hands, form 8 patties out of the batter.
  • On medium heat, melt the the bacon grease in a skillet. Working in batches, add the patties to the skillet and cook for about 4 minutes, turning once, or until the edges are crisp and browned
  • Serve warm with butter.

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55 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Being a homesick Dallas, Texan in Chicago, I made these Saturday night for my friends (one from Iowa and the other from the Southside of Chicago)…one of which never had soul food. Anyhow, I made these, black-eyed peas, and collards. They were so delicious. I couldn’t believe it!!! You must make them if you never have. You won’t believe how tasty and simple they are.

    So, my aunt makes these, and she calls them Hot-water cornbread. My aunt and my mom are from Maud, TX (East Texas) and fabulous cooks. Anyhow, she’s always made them for my mom, but my Aunt can’t seem to tell her how to make them. In my family, you can’t get a recipe out of us to save your life, and even just last night my mom called me asking how to make one of HER dishes she made when I was growing up.

    So, I was absolutely thrilled to see this recipe on your sight. I immediately called my mom to tell her how to make them. My mom recalls that my Aunt also added chile powder to hers. So thank you! This recipe will now be one to pass down to future generations!

    Allison

  2. I read this just in time – the day before I heard hoe cakes referred to in True Blood which is set in Louisiana and I laughed because thanks to you I knew just what they referred to!

  3. Thanks for the recipe HT – I made these along with purple eye peas (from Mexia, Tx) to eat while watching election returns. They were wonderful – and the hoecakes were great, too!

    Also – made your gpa’s pancakes yesterday AM (with pecans of course) and they were the best. We raised a glass of fresh squeezed grapefruit juice to his memory.

  4. LOVE these. So creative! I’m amazed at how you made these letters…
    I posted the NYTimes Obama front page — check it out!! 🙂

  5. Anonymous says:

    I will be in Oxford this weekend! Love that place! and no, the Gin and Rebel Deli are long gone, Dangit!
    The Gin had the best plate lunches(MEAT AND THREE). And Rebel Deli had these great steamed sandwiches. Smoked Turkey and Hot PePPer Cheese on Onion roll. Oh Yea.