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Corn Pone

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In my research on historic Ozark cooking I have repeatedly seen recipes for Corn Pone. And recently I sat down with @kayb and we discussed what they were. On one hand I see recipes for unleavened corn bread, almost always dropped by spoon into hot lard. On the other hand it was thought that pone referred more to the technique of cast iron baked, or possibly even just an oval shape. Googling definitions and recipes doesn't really give me any more confidence in an answer. For your etification, here's a potato pone recipe I found in the Little Rock historic library. 1890. I'm sure there are plenty of people who have family memories of this... @andiesenji?

PotatoPone.thumb.jpg.e2bfb757cf3708df0ba3a3d6716eff29.jpg

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Interesting that the recipes above call for ingredients by weight.  I guess that was common then.  Interesting that both in the US and in Canada we gravitated to measuring cups and spoons when weight is much more accurate.  We are on the metric system here and now when I bake, particularly bread, I weigh the major ingredients.

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23 minutes ago, ElsieD said:

Interesting that the recipes above call for ingredients by weight.  I guess that was common then.  Interesting that both in the US and in Canada we gravitated to measuring cups and spoons when weight is much more accurate.  We are on the metric system here and now when I bake, particularly bread, I weigh the major ingredients.

I finally got my eyes on the oldest known cookbook from the Ozarks over the weekend, and the author stated, "A proper scale is crucial to success." The book, FYI, is Chicora's Help to the Housekeeper.

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Where a large portion of my family is from, corn pone was unleavened corn bread with no wheat flour baked in a cast iron pan. It was heavier, denser and more moist than cornbread. I personally prefer it. The stuff dropped by spoon into hot lard was hot water corn bread. It was just a mixture of cornmeal, salt, lard and boiling water. But it wasn't the Ozarks so, there again, variances based on locale and no strict definition regarding corn pone vs. bread. I don't know that the definitions I mentioned were necessarily regional. Or, at least, the region could have been very small. That's just what I remember from my youth.

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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I think immigrants from Europe were scale users.  I spent a long time as a child converting our recipes to cup/TB/tsp. Used an old scale brought from Europe that used the sliding weights. 

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Years ago a bookkeeper (she was Swiss) who worked for me and I were talking about baking.  She mentioned weighing her ingredients and I was flabbergasted.  Who weighs their ingredients, I thought to myself.  Well, she did and informed me that everyone in Europe did also because of it's accuracy.  Which I now know to be true.

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Even though I'm from Georgia, I only remember my grandfather ever saying "there's a pone of cornbread in the kitchen." We always just called it cornbread, and it was usually made with White Lily cornmeal mix. The way we like it is to bake it in a large 12" cast iron skillet so it's very thin. The skillet is heated until hot, with the fat melted in it, then that was poured in the batter right before it went in the oven. So, the batter would sizzle and help form the crispy crust we all like. Don't ever mention putting sugar in cornbread to my mother, she has a fit 😋. Living in California, all you find is puffy, sweet corncake.

And frying spoonfuls in a skillet was just fried cornbread, made with regular batter. My aunt was visiting from Georgia, and she made it a couple of times, I had forgotten how much I liked it. 

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8 hours ago, RWood said:

Even though I'm from Georgia, I only remember my grandfather ever saying "there's a pone of cornbread in the kitchen."

That's very helpful and not helpful at all 😛

 

That makes it sound like the meal itself, or actually the bag of meal.

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In my family, corn pone has always been unleavened cornmeal, no dairy, no eggs, just boiling water and salt. You pour the boiling water salt over the cornmeal and salt. Mix up and let sit 10 minutes. We always cooked the pancakes in a skillet on top of the stove in bacon grease about ten minutes a side until deep golden brown. "Joy of Cooking" (copyright dates 1931 - 1975, I guess for various recipes in the book) agrees with formula and cooking method, but cooks them in butter. Vivian Howard, "Deep Run Roots", agrees with the formula and cooking them in bacon grease, but she does hers in a cast iron skillet that is transferred to the oven. You want them fairly thick, about 3/4" so they cook up crispy and golden on the outside and moist and creamy in the center like polenta. Oh Vivian Howard puts a tiny amount of sugar in hers, but that is blasphemy. 🙂

 

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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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Here's the response from Brooks Blevins who is an Ozark historian:

 

Quote

 

Hi Rob,

 

A search of my digitized notes turned up only three pone references – and they seem to lean toward shape. The first refers to shape, the second mostly does so, and the third one is unclear but given the absence of an article (a, the) in front of the word pone it could refer to technique. In my own experience in the Ozarks, I’ve heard the term used in two different ways. One was cornpone, more or less just another name for cornbread. But I’ve also heard the term used as a verb. For instance, someone might say of a person with a hernia: “Look how that’s poned out.” Or you might say a puppy that has just eaten has a belly that’s poned out. And that obviously suggests an emphasis on shape.

 

Forty Years of Pioneer Life: Memoir of John Mason Peck, D.D., Edited from His Journals and Correspondence by Rufus Babcock, intro by Paul M. Harrison, Foreword by Herman R. Lantz, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1965. [Observations from journey into Wayne Co., MO, 1818]: “A small cornfield and a truck-patch was the height of their ambition. Venison, bear-meat, and hog-meat dressed and cooked in the most slovenly and filthy manner, with corn-bread baked in form of a pone, and when cold as hard as a brickbat, constituted their provisions. Coffee and tea were prohibited articles amongst this class; for had they possessed the articles, not one woman in ten knew how to cook them. Not a school had existed. A kind of half-savage life appeared to be their choice.”

 

O.A. Cargill, My First 80 Years (Oklahoma City, Okla.: Banner Book Co., 1965.) [Recounts life in Fulton Co., AR, late 1800s]: “House warming gifts for newlyweds in those days: quilts, feather beds, hearth ovens, cooking pots with legs, tin plates, iron-handled knives. Groom received corn, wheat, sow belly, blackeyed peas. . . Anna used an iron hearth oven, 14 in. wide and 3 in. deep, with 4 iron legs. Placed live coals on lid. Used iron kettle or pot for cooking hog jowls and blackeyed peas or other foods that needed boiling. Made corn pones in hearth oven – made of meal, water, salt, and soda molded into pones about 5 in. long and 2 in. thick.”

 

Z. Evalena Pemberton, Precious Memories of My Arkansas Mother, Edna Pugh Lee (n.p., 1980.) [Izard Co., AR, late 1800s/early 1900s]: “Mentions dumb supper or dumb table. Did everything backward, such as mix and stir cornpone behind their backs. Couldn’t say a word. Put pone in each plate. The girls sat down and ate theirs and wait for something to happen. If a man come in and sat by girl, they would marry. Mammy wouldn’t let them do it, because it wasn’t Christian.”

 

 

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