Cornmeal Pancakes… And Some American History

Finished cornmeal pancakes.

David WilhelmRecipesLeave a Comment

I’m a pretty early riser… usually up well before 6:00 so you’d think I’d be a breakfast person… I’m not. However, for some reason, I love cooking morning meals for a houseful of friends and family when the not so often occasion arises. I make some mean cheesy, ‘French style’ scrambled eggs and some duck fat and sage roasted hash browns but when the call is for something sweet I have one ‘go-to’ dish that always draws raves. Regular pancakes have always left me flat… excuse the horrible pun… I eat one and I feel like I need to take a nap.

I’ve always been a fan of corn in any form and early on in my cooking career I often created dishes built around it in its differing forms. At my Southwestern themed Kachina  in Laguna Beach one of the most popular specials was the Maine Lobster Burrito using a freshly made sweet corn crepe to encase lobster meat braised with fresh corn, Poblano chiles and fire-roasted peppers in a chipotle-laced sherry cream sauce. Our house bread was warm blue corn muffins with orange-honey butter and my BBQ Duck Torte layered with Corn Blini won 1st Prize at a culinary cook-off contest… pre-Food Network madness. Even today one of my favorite preparations of seared foie gras is served on a short-stack of cornmeal pancakes with maple syrup!

Fact is, I have read many that have said that the most traditional American food may well be cornmeal.

Cornmeal began as a Native American staple. It was domesticated by Native Americans in about 5000 BC and since then has occupied a large role in their nutrition, religion and ritual.

Colonists of Americas used corn as money and even traded corn for marriage licenses. Unlike modern cornmeal eaten in North America today, early versions were soaked in a mixture of water and ashes or ground limestone, so it was more like grits or hominy grits.

So back to my breakfast ‘go-to’ sweet dish… cornmeal blueberry pancakes. Cutting the flour with cornmeal somehow lightens the batter, suspending the crunchy ground cornmeal with tangy buttermilk and creating a unique texture and flavor that I think is far superior to regular flapjacks, but hey, give these a try and you be the judge.

I recommend topping them with a generous pat of butter and some Grade-B maple syrup. This syrup is made at the end of the sugaring season, just before the maple trees bud.

Almost as dark as molasses, the very strong, intense flavor of Grade B has been described as “hard–core”.

Traditionally considered a cooking–grade syrup, Grade B has gained popularity in recent years as a table syrup. It’s difficult to find in markets but you can buy it on Amazon. I recommend Hidden Springs Organic Vermont Maple Syrup, Premium Grade B. And of course, what are pancakes and syrup without some Applewood smoked bacon. Nueske’s is the only brand ever in my fridge. It’s the most expensive bacon I’ve ever found but it spoils you for anything else.

Recipe – Cornmeal-Blueberry Pancakes

Note: Makes about 7-8 pancakes

» 1/3 cup flour

» ¾ tsp baking soda

» 1/18 cups cornmeal – recommend Bob’s Red Mill – fine or medium grind

» 1 each egg, beaten

» 1/1/8 cups buttermilk

» 1 tsp vanilla extract

» ¾ tsp kosher salt

» ¾ TBS sugar

» 1 cup blueberries – fresh or frozen (adjust amount of blueberries to your personal taste!)

» 1 TBS Canola oil or clarified butter… I prefer to use butter… it turns into brown butter but that makes them even more delicious…


Combine flour, baking soda and cornmeal in bowl and whisk to combine well. Add egg, buttermilk, vanilla, salt and sugar and stir until just mixed. Fold in blueberries (if using frozen do not thaw first).

Frozen Blueberries work well...just work fast!

Frozen Blueberries work well… just work fast!

Heat oil or butter in pan over low heat and ladle 1/3 cup per pancake. Cook until bubbles appear on top and then flip and cook 30-45 seconds more. Stack, drizzle and chow!

In Brown Butter

In Brown Butter


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