Search This Blog

Monday, May 13, 2013

Johnny Cakes and Salt Pork a Civil War solider's delight

My husband and I are Civil War reenacters and since I am a bit of a foodie I am naturally drawn to Civil War era recipes. A soldiers rations often included:  Coffee, Hard Tack, Salted Pork or Beef, Flour, Cornmeal, some salt, sugar, and desiccated vegetables.  
I found Salt Pork at my locale grocers so I had to try it.  I have never had Salt Pork before.  It is well named. Wow is it salty (I know, it says so right in the name).  Since this one was refrigerated I imagine that salt pork was much saltier back in the day as the salt was used as a preservative.
Imagine my surprise when I opened the package and found it still had skin on, and is that a nipple there (ewww!)?  Why yes, that is a nipple (ewww!). Holding down my dainty-city-girl revulsion I began cutting. Pork belly bits, yum.
The meat is not bad looking once the skin is removed (ewww!).  It is starting to look more like bacon now, a personal favorite and a comestible with which I am well acquainted.
I cut it into thin strips and fried it up like bacon (mmmmm....bacon).  This is my cast iron skillet, I bought it with the intention of taking it to reenactments and making such dishes as the one described here.

In doing research on camp food I found that there are as many Johnny Cake recipes as there opinions (seems everyone has one).  The one I used is below. I chose it because it was the simplest and hence the most likely to be authentic.

 Johnny Cakes

  • 1 cup Cornmeal
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Sugar
  • 1 cup Boiling Water
  • Butter
  • Mix the salt and sugar with the cornmeal.  Add Boiling water and stir until smooth.  Well, it never really becomes smooth, just less clumpy.  Drop a spoonful of batter onto a well buttered pan.  Fry for 5 - 10 minutes per side on medium heat.
Drop (not literally mind you) it and Flip it.
Add more butter (what isn't better with more butter?) and serve with Salt Pork.  To try to make this dinner even more authentic I used my home-made butter. It is doubtful that they had access to butter like I do, and so probably fried it in pork fat, but hey I am an artist and claim the right of artistic license.
The Salt Pork goes really well with the Johnny Cakes.  We found wrapping a piece of pork in a johnny cake (like a pig in a blanket) helps to nullify the meats saltiness. Good eating and quite satisfying. Over the lips and through the gums, look out stomach here it comes. Yum!