If you happen to be a fan of John Wayne, you may have heard of corn dodgers a time or two. Corn dodgers are a uniquely American food. Throughout the western expansion over the Oregon Trail, folks were in a hurry to get to their destinations. They had to carry everything that could sustain them along the way, so dried goods like corn meal were the bulk of their diets.
Traveling over these long distances with no trading posts or truck stops along the way meant they needed to be completely self sufficient. You couldn’t just pull the wagon over for an Allsup’s burrito. A corn dodger was a quick and easy recipe that could get some nourishment into the travelers and get them back on the road as fast as possible.
The corn dodger is a food made of cornmeal, salt, and any other foods or herbs that could be foraged along the way. For this week’s video, we made the corn dodgers two ways: the traditional way, and a more tasty modern way. Both recipes are at the bottom of this blog.
Corn Dodgers are similar to a “hoe cake” made in the U.S. South – a corn cake cooked on a hoe.
Old-Fashioned Corn Dodgers
In the movie True Grit, the cook only had a tea kettle of hot water, some corn meal, and maybe some salt and hog fat if there was any left over. And that’s all there was to it. These things were pretty bland and would probably get pretty hard if you left them out for a while.
To make outside, use two cups of just boiling water to two cups of corn meal, mixed up and formed into little balls. If they had salt and fat, they’d mix it in well. Use a cast iron skillet or a shovel. Place the shovel in the coals and cook the corn dodgers until they’re a little golden brown on each side.
Tip: Grease the shovel with bacon grease. In the 19th century, the grease would be hog or bear fat.
Corn Dodgers: Cowboy Kent Rollins Edition
These days, we have more options and can make these corn dodgers taste a mighty bit better than those made with just corn meal and water 150 years ago. Here’s the “Kent Rollins” version:
Instead of water, I like to use milk. Start by mixing up the milk and the corn meal. Add salt, baking powder, bacon, and The Green Chile Company’s green chilies. The baking powder will make the center a little lighter – less dense. Mix all this up until you can make little balls out of it. Flatten them and fry them up in some bacon grease.
Tip: If you want your corn dodgers to be sweet, add some honey or brown sugar in with the bacon. They’ll taste like candy.
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John Wayne's Corn Dodgers - Cowboy Kent Rollins
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups yellow cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons salt
- bacon grease
- Add the water to a medium pot, over medium-high heat and bring to a low boil.
- Gradually stir in the cornmeal. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt. Let set until cool enough to handle. The consistency should be like play dough, where the mixture will stick together to form a ball. Add more water or cornmeal to achieve this consistency.
- Pinch off the dough into golf-ball sized balls and slightly flatten.
- Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a thin layer of bacon grease to the skillet. Pan fry the dodgers, about 4 minutes per side, or until a slight crust forms and they are a light golden brown. Remove and place on a wire rack to cool slightly.
Cowboy Corn Dodgers - Cowboy Kent Rollins
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups yellow cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 8 slices bacon cooked and chopped
- 2 - 3 tablespoons Hatch green chiles
- Bacon grease
- Add the milk to a medium pot, over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer.
- Gradually stir in the cornmeal. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt, baking powder, bacon and green chiles. Let set until cool enough to handle. The consistency should be like playdough, where the mixture will stick together to form a ball. Add more water or cornmeal to achieve this consistency.
- Pinch off the dough into golf-ball sized balls and slightly flatter.
- Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a thin layer of bacon grease to the skillet. Pan fry the dodgers, about 4 minutes per side, or until a slight crust forms. Remove and place on a wire rack. Serve warm.