Visitors to George Washington's Mount Vernon the weekend before the national observance of the first president's birthday will sample his typical breakfast, hoecakes "swimming in butter and honey." Hoecakes (cornmeal pancakes) are prepared by cooks in colonial costume and served beside a campfire from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Washington's breakfast was chronicled by various members of his family and by some of the many guests who dined at his table. Nelly Custis, Martha Washington's youngest granddaughter who was raised at Mount Vernon after the death of her father, described the morning routine:
"...He (George Washington) rose before sunrise, always wrote or read until 7 in summer or half past seven in winter. His breakfast was then ready-he ate three small mush cakes swimming in butter and honey, drank three cups of tea without cream...."
Mush cakes were also called hoecakes, probably because they were cooked over an open fire on a heated hoe or on a hot griddle. The butter that accompanied the cakes was probably produced on one of Washington's farms, and the honey likely came from the bees that were kept at Mount Vernon.
George and Martha Washington were noted for their hospitality. In 1798, the Washingtons hosted at least 677 overnight guests, many of whom would have stayed for breakfast the next day. Breakfast was served promptly at 7:00 a.m. and a large dinner at 3:00 p.m. Known for his punctuality, it has been said that the host waited only five minutes before beginning the meal. Grains came from Washington's fields and were ground at his nearby gristmill, fruit and vegetables from well-tended gardens, fish from the Potomac, and game from the surrounding woods. -more-
Mount Vernon, Hoecakes, Page 2
This modern recipe is adapted from one Nellie Custis sent to Elizabeth Bordley Gibson in Philadelphia in 1821:
HOECAKES Yield: Will easily feed a school class or large family Ingredients: 8 ¾ cups white corn meal 1 ¼ teaspoons dry yeast 1 egg Warm water Salt (if desired) Shortening for seasoning griddle Honey Butter
l. In large container, mix together 4 cups white cornmeal, 1 ¼ teaspoons dry yeast, and enough warm water to give the mixture the consistency of pancake batter (approximately 3-4 cups water). Cover and set on stove or counter overnight. 2. In the morning, gradually add remaining cornmeal, egg, and enough warm water to give the mixture the consistency of pancake batter (about 3-4 cups water). Cover and set aside 15-20 minutes.
3. Add shortening to a griddle or skillet. Heat until water sprinkled onto it sizzles and forms beads.
4. Pour batter by spoonful onto the hot griddle. (Note: Batter tends to separate and should be stirred well between each batch of hoecakes.) Brown one side of cake, turn and brown other side well.
5. Serve warm with butter and honey.
CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM
YOU WILL NEED: One large container at least twice the size of the container used for the ice cream mix One small tin or metal container for ice cream mix. Ice | Rock salt | Ice cream mixture (see below)
ICE CREAM MIXTURE RECIPE: 2 cups half & half 4 ounces melted semisweet chocolate 2 tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla Scald the half and half; add chocolate, sugar and vanilla. Mix well and strain. Let cool at room temperature and then refrigerate for several hours. Pour mixture into small tin container and place this small container inside the larger bucket or other container. Pack ice around the tin container and pour 1 to 2 cups of salt over the ice. Turn tin container back and forth. As the cream starts to freeze on the inside scrape the sides and bottom of tin container and stir mixture with a spoon. Repeat process. All should be ice cream in 30 minutes or less.