Sharing the Nature Valley Colombier cultural heritage at a Johnny Cake Workshop.
What a surprise we had one Saturday morning! We unexpectedly came upon a Johnny Cake workshop in Colombier.
We were on the Frenchside checking out the Soualiga Farmstall one Saturday morning when we decided to continue the drive up into the beautiful valley of Colombier. It is a long road; sadly we saw how Irma had messed up the farmlands as there were many downed trees in the fields. Near the end of the road, high up in the hills, is a grassy section where they used to hold the I Love My Ram event.
Reminiscing about them as we drove by we noticed that there were a number of people in the community center. This is a large roofed structure with open sides and a small kitchen at the back of the building.
Yes, we were curious and far from believing in that old adage of “curiosity killed the cat” we parked and went in.
What a fabulous surprise. There was a Johnny Cake workshop in progress. It was almost time for the next session, so we signed up.
Off to one side were tables with great local food and homemade drinks. As it was round noon folk came through to pick up their lunch throughout the time we were there.
Our places were set at the table. The flour and fat, previously measured out for us, a sheet of wax paper was fixed to the table cloth and our utensils at the ready.
Flour, Baking powder, suger, salt, crisco, milk and water.
We were instructed to add the right amount to the bowls and use the wooden spatula to stir and stir until the dough came away from the bowl cleanly.
We then turned the dough out to knead but it had to be done with love and our thumbs, just so.
Then we formed the dough into a round shape, gave it a quick gentle pat and the bowl was popped on top to let it sit while we could get some of the delicious lunch or just hang for awhile.
When the dough had been sitting for a bit we were instructed to cut a small section off and with our thumbs knead it again before making it into a small round ball which we lined up (the OCD folk were particular in making them the same size and shape and setting them apart equally.)
Then it came time to flatten them either in the palm of one’s hand or by using the rolling pin.
We could then either bake them in a pot over coals or fry them in very hot oil. The “oven” was just perfect, the design is uniquely old fashioned. An inner rim from a car tire is used to hold hot coals; in this case the inner rim was placed on a stand fashioned out of heavy gauge wire.
A large pot was placed over the coals. A coal fire on a sheet of iron is then placed over the pot. The baked Johnny cakes turned out evenly risen, evenly browned and utterly delicious.
After flattening the dough it needs to be pricked with a fork. Some of us preferred to fry our Johnny cakes.
It turns out that the Johnny cakes we made and fried were too fat, they did not cook through properly.
The insides of the Johnny cake were still quite raw even though the outside was beautifully browned and crisp. I just pulled the dough from the center and refried it, still very crispy and yummy. We made sure that the rest of the Johnny cakes were pressed out thinly before frying.
You can see the uncooked dough in mine. I just filled it with cheese thinking I was in too much haste to make my dough hence the unfortunate outcome. But no, the second batch turned out fantastic AFTER I had flattened the dough as I should have.
The baked Johnny cakes were sublime, look at the crumb.
We fried some and popped the rest of the doughballs into a baggy to take home.
There is nothing better than a freshly made Johnny cake with a filling – ham and cheese or salt fish are some of the traditional fillings.
Association Nature Valley Colombier / Colombier Nature Valley Association (here)