The English had always thought the Scottish Highlanders barbarians; I had never before considered the possibility that others might feel likewise. But these men had seen a ferocious savage, and approached him with due caution, arms at the ready. And Jamie, horrified beforehand at the thought of savage Red Indians, had seen their rituals—so like his own—and known them at once for fellow hunters; civilized men.
Even now, he was speaking to them quite naturally, explaining with broad gestures how the bear had come upon us and how he had killed it. They followed him with avid attention, exclaiming in appreciation in all the right places. When he picked up the remains of the mangled fish and demonstrated my role in the proceedings, they all looked at me and giggled hilariously.
I glared at all four of them.
“Dinner,” I said loudly, “is served.”
We shared a meal of half-roasted meat, corn dodgers, and whisky, watched throughout by the head of the bear, which perched ceremonially on its platform, dead eyes gone dull and gummy.
Diana Gabaldon, Drums of Autumn (Chapter 15, Noble Savages)
Corn Dodgers, Johnny Cakes, Corn Pone and Hoe Cakes are are variations on a hot-water corn bread theme. Although they are cooked using different methods, they all begin with the same basic batter of yellow cornmeal, boiling water, fat and salt.
Claire’s dodgers on the trail would have been basic. I’ve dolled mine up a bit, because, to tell you the truth, 18th Century corn dodgers would have been hard as bricks almost as soon as they had cooled. In actuality, leftover dodgers were carried and served 2 or 3 days later — which I can’t even imagine, without a good soaking in milk, stew, even ale — how their teeth managed, weak and loose already, is a mystery to me.
So I added an egg and a touch of cream for tenderness, a little baking powder for some lightness and cilantro for colour, taste and vitamins.
I like to think Claire would approve of my 21st Century dodgers.
Lacking half-roasted bear meat, we had our dodgers with some beef kebabs and a green salad with tomatos, blue cheese and toasted pecans. We saved the whisky until after the dishes were done.
(Click on the link below for a printable version of the recipe.)
Individual cornmeal loaves cooked on the stove top or in the oven.
Yield: 10 small loaves
- Vegetable Oil – 2 Tble
- Cornmeal – 1¼ Cups
- Sugar – 1 Tble
- Salt – ½ tsp
- Boiling Water – 1 Cup
- Butter – 1 Tble
- Cream or Milk – 2 Tble
- Cilantro or Parsley, finely chopped – 2 Tble
- Egg, lightly beaten – 1 Large
- Baking Powder – 1 tsp
Adjust the rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 450°F. Brush 1 tablespoon of the oil on a rimmed baking sheet.
Stir together the cornmeal, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Pour the boiling water over this mixture, stir well and allow the mixture to rest on the counter for 15 minutes. Stir well, then whisk in the bacon fat/butter, cream and cilantro/parsley, then the egg and baking powder.
Fill a cereal bowl with tap water. Wet your hands in the water, scoop out approximately 2 tablespoons of the mixture into your fingertips and form into a small loaf about 4” x 1½”. Lay on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining mixture, wetting your fingers in-between and spacing the dodgers about 2” apart. Brush the tops with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil.
Bake until deep brown on the bottom and golden brown on top, rotating the pan halfway through, about 15-20.
Cool slightly on a rack before serving warm (with butter).
Ith gu leòir! (Eat Plenty)
- I included cilantro or parsley in the recipe to give the dodgers a little colour and extra flavour. Other tasty additions include small amounts of finely chopped: sun-dried tomatoes, cheese, fresh basil, reconstituted dried mushrooms, crisp bacon, etc.
- My dodgers are a bit fat, because I was trying to be fancy and stuff some of them with bacon & blue cheese, which didn’t work all that well — the batter is too wet. Claire’s dodgers would have been slightly skinnier, I think.
And now for the big announcement…congratulations to Tonya Farrington Covello, whose entry was chosen by a random number generator. Tonya, you got all 13 questions correct, and as soon as you send me your mailing address, I’ll get your apron on its way to you. Thanks to everyone for playing!