Taste the breakfast that George Washington had most everyday at Mount Vernon.
Recipe for George Washington’s favorite breakfast of Hoecakes
General Washington started each day with a breakfast of Hoecakes as described by members of his family and guests.
Nelly Custis Lewis, Washington’s step-granddaughter, who was raised at Mount Vernon, recorded Washington’s habit of eating hoe cakes for breakfast and recorded how they were made. She wrote “He 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 (Indian meal) swimming in butter and honey, and drank three cups of tea without cream.” She described the recipe in a letter as: “The bread business is as follows if you wish to make 2 1/2 quarts of flour up-take at night one quart of flour, five table spoonfuls of yeast & as much lukewarm water as will make it the consistency of pancake batter, mix it in a large stone pot & set it near a warm hearth (or a moderate fire) make it at candlelight & let it remain until the next morning then add the remaining quart & a half by degrees with a spoon when well mixed let it stand 15 or 20 minutes & then bake it – of this dough in the morning, beat up a white & half of the yilk of an egg – add as much lukewarm water as will make it like pancake batter, drop a spoonful at a time on a hoe or griddle (as we say in the south). When done on one side turn the other – the griddle must be rubbed in the first instance with a piece of beef suet or the fat of cold corned beef………”
8 2/3 cups white cornmeal
1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
Shortening or other cooking grease
Honey & Butter
- In the evening before planning to have the hoe cakes for breakfast, mix in a large container 4 cups white cornmeal, 1 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast, and just enough warm water to make the mix the consistency of pancake batter (about 3-4 cups war water). Cover and set in a warm place overnight (a radiator type of space heater will best simulate the fireplace as described in Nelly Custis Lewis’s description).
- In the morning, gradually add remaining cornmeal, egg and enough warm water to again give the mix the consistency of pancake batter ( about 3-4 cups). Cover and let it stand for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Add cooking grease to a griddle or skillet and heat until water sprinkled onto it will bead up.
- Using a large spoon, pour a large spoonful of batter on the hot griddle or skillet to make each cake (before pouring each batch, you will need to stir the batter well as the batter has a tendency to separate). Brown the hoecake on each side.
- Serve hot with honey and butter.