Corn Pone, a Pioneer Staple

corn pone recipeCorn Pone is a form of cornbread normally made without milk or eggs. It is normally baked or fried. Where corn pone came from is contested in the history books. It is well documented that it was used by both armies during the Civil War, so both the North and the South at least agreed on one thing! It’s also something that was cooked and eaten by pioneers.

Most of the modern recipes we see for corn pone use milk and eggs. This is really just corn bread. Older recipes for corn pone leave out the milk and eggs. The people were poor and often just scraping by.

Here is an old corn pone recipe.

4 cups ground white or yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon salt
2-3 cups of very hot, but not boiling, water
Up to 1/2 cup bacon grease or other oil

corn poneIn a large bowl, add the hot water to the corn meal and mix into a thick batter. Cover with a dishcloth and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes. The batter should still be soft enough to mold into a small cake about the size of the palm of your hand. If not add a bit more water. Take your cake and shove three fingers into the middle, if the batter holds the fingerprints, the batter is just right. If not, adjust the water or corn meal as necessary.

Take your cast iron skillet and put it over a medium heat on the stove or over your fire, add the bacon grease or oil. When the oil is hot lay the cakes into the pan. Cook them until they are browned on one side, this should take about 3 minutes. Turn each and brown on the other side. Drain the fat and serve.

Corn pone can be fried as above or baked in a Dutch oven. If you have ham, bacon, or chili peppers, they can be added as an option. I love it with chopped up jalapeno peppers mixed in the batter.

As one old boy said, “This was a get-by recipe, when you had nothing else. If you were lucky enough to have butter or jam it tasted plenty good.” In the days of the Great Depression, sometimes this would be a meal in itself.

Howard

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24 Responses to Corn Pone, a Pioneer Staple

  1. dead2theworld says:

    Excellent, this adds another item to the teotwawki menu. ‘Little things’ like this can and will have a ‘big big’ impact on prospects for survival once shft comes along (If people will just heed your advice). I’m going to try it with olive oil instead of bacon grease and will let you know the results, if you are interested. Blessings and keep articles like this coming. thanks

    • admin says:

      I would like to hear how it comes out
      Thanks Howard

      • Mike says:

        WE actually serve a variant of this at my VFW post for Saturday breakfasts. It’s popular with the older folks and I was told it was a “depression era” food. We call it “Mush” but it is basicallt presse corn meal. I live in Ohio though, so I’m not sure what itmay called in other places.”

  2. Ed Harris says:

    Pangiallo [“Yellow Bread”] is traditional in the Veneto region of Italy. It was less expensive than other breads, so was known as “Il pane dei poveri” or “the bread of the poor”. Polenta or corn meal are commonly substituted for finely ground corn flour. The proportions of cornmeal to other flour vary, but this recipe I found sounds very much like what I ate: http://www.theartisan.net/pane_di_mais.htm

  3. Iowasue says:

    Just the same as fried mush, except made into patties instead of poured into a breadpan, chilled and sliced before frying. We were raised on it, excellent with sorghum or molasses and with bacon fat for frying it. We didn’t know it was poor folks food, as we weren’t, but our dad had been as a child.

  4. PrepNow says:

    Thanks for the recipe. I can appreciate these type of “few ingredients” and easily made food items. Hardtack is another easy to make (and long shelf life) foods we all should know how to make.

    Think I’ll try my pone with bacon grease, sounds like it would add more favor.

  5. wolfy says:

    Love the corn pone and served it at an outdoor party as dessert with a variety of home made jams and honey.was a big hit. Next time will try with mashed beans as a anemic an Indian variation of bean bread.

  6. Darla White says:

    We ate a lot of cornbreads growing up. Mom would put bacon or sausage drippings (with some crumbles in each pancake) in a pan and put peppers and onions in the batter then fry like pancakes or pour into a real (hot cast iron skillet) for that nice crispy crust. 🙂 Oh my. Or she would make a sweet batter for sweet muffins or sweet cornbread for a dessert. We didn’t have much but we always had home cooked food and that was the best. 🙂

  7. Ed Harris says:

    Darla, your Mom’s recipe sounds wonderful!

    Along with the peppers and onions, add a catfish or Bluegill nugget cut up about 3/4″ size, putting one fish cube into a soup spoon full of batter and fry up as little cakes in the cast iron pan or deep fry, as for hush puppies. I have also had these with crawfish, shrimp or Andouille sausage bits substituted. All good. A dash of Tabasco or Chulula adds a kick if you like it. Serve with “dirty rice” or refried beans, or whatever as is your family custom.

  8. Debra Simpson says:

    Thanks for this authentic recipe. This is how Cherokee make it. It is never made with milk or eggs like the white settlers added in.

  9. Dawn says:

    Please be sure to keep in mind that having corn and corn products as the main ingredient in your diet can lead to PELLAGRA, a potentially fatal disease caused by dietary deficiencies. Corn does NOT contain everything your body needs to be healthy. Be sure to have beans or corn, or both in the dietary mix. Don’t take my word for it. Google Pellagra. You will learn about some pretty horrible bits of American history. Very sad stuff.

  10. darren says:

    We have made variations of this. We put it on top of extra thick chili, or regular stew, then bake it.

  11. In colonial times there was a thing called ‘thirder’ bread made from equal parts of wheat flour, rye flour, and Indian (cornmeal). I have made my own version of this using whole wheat sourdough starter that includes cracked wheat, plus cornmeal, and course ground rye. After mixing the ingredients, I let the batter set over night in a covered bowl on the kitchen counter. In the morning I fry it like pancakes. I find the course texture to be very satisfying and I don’t get hungry for quite a while after eating it. I serve it with a variety of toppings including: butter or a buttery spread, unflavored yogurt, unsweetened applesauce, blackstrap molasses, maple syrup, and grated sharp cheddar or jack cheese.

    The use of cracked or coarsely ground grains makes life much easier if you are grinding them using muscle power rather than electricity.

    Hangtown Frank

  12. Sensible says:

    It’s just polenta!!

  13. Vernon Dodge says:

    I make something like this all the time. My mom made it all the time when I was growing up. We were kinda poor back then. My moms recipe is just a little different, but it is delicious!
    For every cup of cornmeal you use, add 1/3 cup flour, add salt (and a little black pepper if you like) to taste, and add boiling water to make dough. The water needs to be boiling to ‘cook’ it. Form into patties and fry in hot oil, preferably bacon grease, till browned on both sides. Goes great with just about anything you want to eat it with. We call it hot water cornbread.

  14. Daryl says:

    Do you add the salt to the dry cornmeal, or sprinkle it when it’s fried?

  15. Carole Cooper says:

    My Native American paternal grandmother made this all the time! Often called “hot water cornbread” or as she referred to it “dog bread!” She made it as an accompaniment to greens. She fried hers in super hot lard in a cast iron skillet. It’s crispy texture was delicious with vegetables.

  16. Vince says:

    Put a little honey on it. With a cup of coffee a plate of beans it would be very satisfying.

  17. Eric says:

    If this is corn pone what do you call getting a skillet hot and dribbling in wet cornmeal? Serve with gravy!

  18. Elaine says:

    In the south especially GA and FL they make a version of this called hoe cakes because they used to bake them on the metal of a hoe in the fields. Served with most any southern meal. Sometimes with butter and molasses.

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