May 04 2021

Fried Corn Cakes

Fried corn cakes with a side of shrimp, sausage, or fish are a Southern favorite on Edisto Island! Did you know corn cakes originated with the Gullah people? They are West Africans that were enslaved and brought to the Sea Islands during the 1700s. 

The Gullah people were specifically chosen to be enslaved and work the rice, indigo, and cotton plantations due to their advanced skills for rice growing. They lived in slave quarters on Edisto Island and the surrounding Sea Islands, isolated from the mainland. Some of the living quarters still stand today. 

The Gullah people were isolated from the mainland and left alone on the island during the summer and rainy months by the plantation owners. This time alone, combined with isolation from the mainland, allowed the Gullah people to stay true to their African traditions and culture. Their traditions continue to be passed down from generation to generation today. 

This includes their food-making traditions, which are a staple in Southern cuisine. Corn was introduced to the Gullah people by the Native Americans. The Natives would trade corn and grits with the plantation owners. The owners would give corn and grits to the Gullah people as part of their food allowance. 

The Gullah incorporated corn into their traditional cooking and created delicious recipes, including fried corn cakes. You can find these tasty and delectable cakes served as a side dish or as the main part of an entrée in many restaurants on Edisto Island. 

You can bring the flavor of Gullah cooking into your home anytime you want with this amazing fried corn cakes recipe. So, let’s get started cooking this historical recipe! 

 

Here’s what you need: 

 

Ingredients: 

  • ½ cup of self-rising buttermilk cornmeal
  • ½ cup of self-rising flour
  • 1 cup of fresh or frozen corn (cooked) 
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • ½ cup of diced bell pepper
  • ¼ cup of chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped celery, including the leaves
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2/3 cup of buttermilk
  • Cane syrup
  • Oil
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground red pepper

 

Now let’s put all these ingredients to work: 

 

Instructions:    

                                                                                                                  

  1. Use a small skillet to sauté onion, celery, and bell pepper in butter. Set this mixture to the side for later. 
  2. Use a large mixing bowl for the flour, cornmeal, egg, corn, and stir the buttermilk into the mixture slowly. 
  3. Add the garlic salt, sugar, red pepper, and black pepper to the mix. 
  4. Use a separate black iron skillet and drizzle oil in the bottom, and put it on medium heat (some stoves need to go a little over medium heat) 
  5. As soon as the skillet heats up, you can begin pouring the corn cake batter into the pan using a ladle (similar in size to standard pancakes.) 
  6. Allow it to cook until brown on one side, then flip it over to make the other side equally brown. 
  7. Place the cooked corn cakes in a dish (you can put a paper towel on the dish to absorb some of the oil if you like, but it’s not necessary.)
  8. Carefully drizzle cane syrup over the top. 

 

You can double or triple the recipe depending on how many people you plan to serve. The recipe shown above feeds four people easily, but you should plan on people taking seconds and thirds because they taste so good! 

When serving fried corn cakes at home, you can place them on a dish with a paper towel underneath if needed. The paper towel will soak up some of the oil. However, if you want the best flavor, leave the oil alone and enjoy it! 

While eating the fried corn cakes with your family, make sure you mention the history of the Gullah people and their contribution to Southern cuisine. Unfortunately, the history of the Gullah people can’t be found in academic textbooks, so it’s important to share the stories to help keep their traditions alive. 

Gullah culture runs through music, food, artwork, and sweetgrass basket-making throughout the South, especially on Edisto Island. During your visit, you can emerge yourself in the culture and be surrounded by popular Gullah dishes such as shrimp and grits, peaches and cream pie, sautéed shrimp and okra, Gullah red rice, and more. 

You can also continue enjoying these historical dishes at home when you choose to cook their recipes. Sharing the recipe with family and friends is a great way to share your knowledge of the Gullah people. 

Fried corn cakes are a hit at pot luck dinners, events, parties, and more. They pair well with a variety of other foods and are an obvious Southern addition to any dish. You will be the talk of the potluck when you bring along these delectable fried corn cakes to any dinner party. 

Fried corn cakes can also become a staple in your cooking at home. You can be creative by pairing fried corn cakes with your recipes, using them as a side dish to your favorite soups, stews, pork, chicken, and beef dishes. The corn flavor goes well with many other flavors, so make sure you experiment. 

They are quick and easy to make and taste great eaten as a snack with a nice cold glass of sweet tea. If you have a house full of always hungry kids, fried corn cakes feed many people, keep them whole, and taste great! 

Do you plan to visit Edisto Island to learn more about the Gullah people? If so, you must dine at as many restaurants as you can. Most of the restaurants in town have Gullah recipes on their menu year-round, so you don’t need to worry about missing out. Keep an eye out for popular dishes because some won’t say “Gullah” next to it, but you can be sure anytime you see friend corn cakes on the menu, it’s a Gullah dish! 

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Bob Hart Author

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