Corn dodgers’ history stretches back before John Wayne’s “True Grit”

  • By Judayrae Kruse Herald Columnist
  • Wednesday, January 12, 2011 12:01am
  • Life

Here’s a perfect example of how fantastic Forum readers are: Longtime Forum friend Rosie Batcheldor of Lake Stevens asked, in a Nov. 5 Forum, “Does anybody have a recipe for corn dodgers?” and then explained, “We watched a John Wayne movie, ‘Rooster Cogburn,’ and along the way, he

eats what he calls corn dodgers.

“Looks like balls of cornbread. He says his Chinese houseboy cooks them in big ladles of coonmeat grease. I’m sure there’s a better way today, though.”

I thought the dodgers sounded like hush puppies and said so, and faster than a flash, Jeff Crocker fired off a recipe for the puppies, saying, “Here is my friend Jeff Foxworthy’s recipe from ‘Red Neck Cooking.’”

And now, we hear from Everett helper-outer Lizzy Warner, “I FINALLY got a chance to get on a computer and Google corn dodgers. It was fun reading the history of them and just how far back in history they go — and the variations that have evolved.

“Maybe one of them is what Rosie is looking for. I hope these help her. Now, I want to get ‘True Grit’ the original, with John Wayne, and watch the part about those corn dodgers!”

Lizzy has sent several different recipes, most of which include some interesting sidelights. We’ll start with this one, taken from, which is evidently based on a recipe which originally appeared in “America’s Best Lost Recipes.”

First, the preface: “Abraham Lincoln was raised on these little oval cornmeal cakes. George Washington Carver took them to school, and John Wayne used them for target practice in the movie ‘True Grit.’:

“Dating back to the 1800s, the first corn dodgers were made from ‘hot water corn bread,’ a mixture of cornmeal, pork fat, salt and boiling water that was formed into small oblong loaves and baked.

“Similar recipes were given different names, depending on how the dough was shaped and cooked. Corn pone have the same oblong shape as dodgers, but are pan-fried in lots of oil.

“Johnnycakes are flattened into small pancakes, then griddle-fried. Ashcakes are rounds of dough wrapped in cabbage leaves, then placed in the ashes of the campfire to cook. Hoecakes are formed into small pancakes, then placed on the flat side of a garden hoe (really!) and cooked over the campfire.”

Corn dodgers
2 tablespoons corn or vegetable oil, divided
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
Tap water

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Brush 1 tablespoon of the oil on a rimmed baking sheet.

Whisk the cornmeal, sugar, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Combine the water, buttermilk and butter in a large saucepan. In a slow, steady stream, whisk the cornmeal mixture into the liquid. Cook the mixture over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until the water is absorbed and the mixture is very thick, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool until warm, about 10 minutes. Whisk the baking powder and egg in a small bowl, then stir into the cornmeal mixture.

Fill a medium bowl with tap water. Scoop out a generous 2 tablespoons of the mixture and, using wet hands, form into a 4-by-11/2-inch loaf shape. Place on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining mixture, spacing the dodgers about 1/2-inch apart. Brush with the remaining tablespoon oil. Bake until deep brown on the bottom and golden brown on top, rotating the pan halfway through baking, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the corn dodgers to a rack to cool slightly. Serve warm. (The corn dodgers can be refrigerated for up to 2 days; reheat on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven.)

Makes 22.

Notes from the Test Kitchen: “Most 19th century recipes we tried yielded corn dodgers that were dense, gritty and hard as a brick. Starting with the base recipe of cornmeal, salt, butter and hot water, we added just a bit of sugar (just 1 1/2 tablespoons) to bring out the cornmeal’s sweet side.

“Replacing some of the water with buttermilk gave the dodgers a tangy flavor that tasters loved. Baking soda (which reacts with the buttermilk) and baking powder helped to lighten the dodgers considerably, and a single egg provided richness and gave the dodgers a creamy interior.”

Talk to us

More in Life

Screen printed dish towels available at Madrona Supply Company on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022 in Clinton, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Do some good along with your Christmas shopping

Head across the Sound to Whidbey Island for gift-buying with a do-gooder spirit

Caption: If you can get past the itchiness factor, wool garments warm you up and last a lifetime. (Jennifer Bardsley)
In praise of wool, the fiber that saved this California girl

It may itch, but you can’t beat a wool sweater for warmth. And it’ll last a lifetime.

The towering Basilica of Our Lady of Fátima sits at the head of a vast esplanade. At the top of the steps, a covered open-air altar, cathedra (bishop's chair), and pulpit stand ready to conduct Mass to the thousands of pilgrims who come to celebrate the Virgin of Fátima on the 13th day of each month from May through October.
Rick Steves on Fatima, Portugal, a testament to the power of faith

Whether you’re a devout Catholic or just a curious gawker, the place is a marvel and worth a visit.

Is your partner grumpy? Here are some antidotes to consider

No. 1: Wait until your grump is in a good mood to talk to them about their grumpiness.

Double-billed by Avis for a van returned after hours

When Robert Cipriani returns his Avis minivan, he expects to pay $1,770. Instead, Avis charges him twice. What happened, and how can he get his money back?

The 2023 Chevy Trailblazer has a useful 25.3 cubic feet of cargo capacity when all seats
are occupied.
2023 Chevrolet Trailblazer subcompact is big on style

There’s a selection of engine choices, front-wheel or AWD, and CVT or nine-speed automatic transmission.

Conor O’Neill racks freshly baked baguettes Friday morning at The Cottage Community Bakery in Edmonds, Washington on September 30, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Grain to Table: An Edmonds bakery’s sourdough makes flour ‘go local’

In an industry dominated by conglomerates, bakers at The Cottage work under the motto, “EAT REAL BREAD” — literally.

Weather, rain, geraniums: A gardener gives thanks

Take a minute and reflect on what you are grateful for in your garden, and then share the gratitude with your fellow gardeners.

Festive Christmas wreath of fresh natural spruce branches with red holly berries isolated on white background. New Year. Top view. Traditional decoration for Xmas holiday.
Get in the holiday swing of things — make a wreath

Area garden centers have the greenery and equipment so you can make a one-of-a-kind decoration for your home.

Most Read