Last week Presidents Day got me thinking about cornmeal pancakes. What, you weren’t thinking the same thing? Called jonnycakes or hoe cakes (because they were cooked on a hoe over a flame), cornmeal pancakes were a staple of colonial America and a favorite of the man himself, George Washington. They were popular from New England to the South. I don’t know how wheat-based pancakes came to supplant them, but I suspect it has to with German immigration. They’re still regionally popular, especially in Rhode Island, but I these tasty cakes are long overdue for a comeback everywhere else.
Cornmeal pancakes aren’t as sweet as ordinary pancakes. You can still serve them with syrup or compote (as we did here) to have a sweet breakfast, but their savoriness gives them greater versatility. You could serve these anywhere you might serve cornbread–with chili or baked beans for example.
We made a quick blueberry-pear syrup to serve with these and it was fantastic. With just a hint of maple syrup, a fruit syrup can be a healthier option. Besides that, everyone will enjoy the big blueberry flavor, and purple stained teeth that come along with it.
Cornmeal Buttermilk Pancakes with Blueberry-Pear Syrup
for the pancakes (adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison)
3/4 cup corn meal
1 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (or 1 1/2 cups milk plus 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice set aside for 5 minutes)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Combine the cornmeal and boiling water, stir, and set aside. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs and stir in the buttermilk or milk and lemon mixture. Next, add the all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Finally, whisk in the cornmeal until smooth.
Heat your skillet over medium heat. Use a pat of butter for each round of cakes. Cook each side for about 3 minutes, until golden. Place a platter in a warm oven to warm the cooked cakes.
for the syrup
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries
1 pear, cored, peeled, and chopped
1/4 cup maple syrup
Combine the fruit in a medium sauce pan and cook over medium-high heat. The fruit will turn watery, and then vigorously bubble and start to thicken. Stir frequently and cook for 15 minutes. The sauce can easily burn, so turn down heat if needed. Once the sauce has thickened, add the maple syrup, cook briefly, and remove from heat to cool.
Serve cakes stacked with a pat of butter, and a few spoonfuls of blueberry syrup.