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Hoe-cake

Hoe-cake (hot-water skillet cornbread)Courier-Journal

This essential, elemental cornbread — just corn meal, salt, water and fat — reaches far back into my wife’s history — and even further back into American history. This is likely the kind of “hot corn-bread” that Huck Finn enjoyed while hiding out with Jim on Jackson’s Island.

This is an excellent bread with a summer bean dinner (long-cooked green beans, corn on-the-cob, sliced tomatoes) or with a navy bean soup.

1 cup white cornmeal
1 scant teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon bacon fat or butter

Melted Crisco or vegetable oil for frying, enough to cover the bottom of a 9- or 10-inch skillet to about ½ inch.

Combine the cornmeal, bacon fat and salt in medium bowl. Stirring cornmeal mixture constantly with spoon, pour in boiling water in a slow stream and beat until smooth. Let stand a few minutes.

Heat a 9- or 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat for about a minute, then add enough Crisco or vegetable oil to reach about ½ inch or more in the pan. Heat oil until just starting to smoke, then lower heat to medium.

Using two teaspoons, scoop up a generous spoonful of cornmeal mixture with one spoon, then smooth it off into a dome with the other spoon. Then, carefully slide the cake into the skillet of hot oil. Immediately pat the dough lightly into a flat circle, about 2 inches in diameter. Cook hoe cakes about 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown, turning them with a wide spatula. If needed, add more oil to pan for remaining cakes. Adjust heat so bread does not burn.

Serve hoecakes at once, with butter. These proportions should make about a dozen, enough for four people.

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