Well, there really is no one-and-only traditional recipe to share. The pioneers were out on the trail so they made do with what they had, and families developed their own methods. Corn dodgers basically included the staples that were carted along in the wagon – cornmeal, salt and some bacon fat.
How they were cooked depended on what was available – a skillet, a Dutch oven over hot coals, on the flat end of a hoe… it was all about improvisation.
If the family was lucky enough to have a milk cow along with them they would have milk, but if not they mixed the cornmeal with water. Eggs were something of a luxury, but were included if they were available, along with some butter and maybe even buttermilk.
I had read that corn dodgers could be dry and a bit tasteless, so wasn’t expecting much the first time I tried making them. I did a taste test after frying them and they were absolutely delicious, so am not sure where the stories come from that they were better fed to the horses!
I made mine with white cornmeal, so maybe the yellow cornmeal could result in a change in texture. Perhaps if they are left for a couple of days they can become dry, but the ones in my house vanished so fast I was not able to test this theory.
Personally I think that survivalists should be like the early pioneers who made their corn dodgers when camped out for the evening or as a breakfast dish rather than trying to prepare a whole lot in advance to take along for sustenance over a couple of days – dried fruit and nuts and a can of beans would probably be a better option.
The cowboys certainly rode along with their cans of beans in the saddlebag, and a bit of flour to make bread on a stick.
Corn Dodgers are nutritious without being high in sugar, and as we are all constantly being reminded, sugar is the number one enemy – resulting in diabetes, obesity and lots more health problems.
It takes a while to adjust to plainer food but as survivalists it is time to get used to eating less sugar and making sure our bodies are healthy in order to cope with physical and mental challenges.
Basic Corn Dodger Recipe
- 2 cups cornmeal
- 2 tablespoons bacon fat or coconut oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar optional, only to be used if making sweet corn dodgers
- 2 cups milk or water
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Prepare the cornmeal by bringing the 2 cups of milk or water and the salt in a saucepan over the fire or stove almost to the boil.
- Immediately turn down the heat as you add the 2 cups of cornmeal a little at a time so it doesn’t form clumps. Only add the sugar if you are making the corn dodgers to be eaten as a sweet treat.
- Stir intermittently while cooking to make sure it doesn't catch on the bottom.
- Once cooked remove from heat and allow to rest for around 5 or so minutes.
- Stir in the baking powder.
- Heat and grease your skillet or dutch oven with bacon fat like the pioneers would have used, or coconut oil as a healthier alternative – and drop in spoonfuls.
- If using a cast iron skillet fry for around 10 minutes, turning after 5 minutes when they start to go light brown around the edges. I found they are quite delicate and tend to want to stick to the base so take care when turning.
- If using a Dutch oven place the lid on and bake for 10 minutes – checking periodically and removing from the heat when turning light brown around the edges.
- Serve with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon, or you could add butter and a strawberry jam. If you made them without sugar they can go on a plate with a serving of cowboy stew.
Corn Dodgers made with yoghurt or buttermilk
- 2 cups white or yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
- 2 cups water
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar optional – use only if serving with a sweet topping
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup plain double cream yoghurt or buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 large egg
- In a saucepan combine 1 cup of water, the yogurt and coconut oil, and set over the heat.
- Combine cornmeal, brown sugar, baking soda (not the baking powder – that is for later) and salt in a bowl and mix to a smooth paste with the other cup of water.
- Slowly while stirring constantly add the mixture from the bowl to the contents of the saucepan, making sure it doesn’t get lumpy.
- Allow to come to the boil and immediately turn down the heat to low to avoid it catching on the bottom and burning.
- Allow to cook for 20 minutes over a low heat, checking every few minutes.
- Remove from heat and transfer the cornmeal mush to a bowl so it can cool a little.
- Beat the eggs with the melted butter, the baking powder, and the flour.
- Add to the warm cornmeal mush in the bowl and mix thoroughly.
- Place spoonfuls onto a hot greased skillet and cook for 5 minutes on each side, turning carefully.
- Place those that are done in a warm place until you are finished frying all the corn dodgers.
- Serve with sweet or savory toppings.
Some people don’t cook the cornmeal first as a mush, but simply combine all the dry ingredients and mix into a batter then drop spoonfuls onto a skillet or bake in the oven at 350F / 175 C. Perhaps pioneers moms did this when they were in a hurry!
Traveler, photographer, writer. I’m eternally curious, in love with the natural world. How people can survive in harmony with nature has fueled my food safety and survival gardening practices.
At the age of 12, I found a newspaper advertisement for a 155-acre farm at a really good price and showed my parents one Sunday morning. They bought it and I happily started planting vegetables, peanuts, maize and keeping bees with the help of the local labor. Once I married wherever we moved it was all about planting food, keeping chickens and ducks, permaculture and creating micro-climates. I learned how to build wooden cabins and outdoor furniture from pallets, and baked and cooked home-grown produce, developing recipes as I went along.
Over the years on numerous trips to wild places and cities I’ve learned all sorts of survival hacks, but there is always someone out there who can teach you a new trick so I remain an eternal student and forever humble.