THE RECIPE BOX – North Scituate Baptist Church serves up traditional johnnycakes Saturday

THE RECIPE BOX – North Scituate Baptist Church serves up traditional johnnycakes Saturday

SCITUATE – Here’s johnnycakes! Come one, come all to North Scituate Baptist Church’s 125th annual May Breakfast, at the church, 619 West Greenville Road, on Saturday, May 18, from 8 to 11 a.m.

Along with eggs, ham, bacon, sausage, baked beans, rolls, coffee, tea and juice will be the “johnnycake committee” pumping out the New England famous tradition. Yes, there’s a committee headed up by Barbara Stetson, aka “The Johnnycake Queen” as she was dubbed in a Yankee magazine article. The name has stuck! 

“They are labor-intensive (to make), you need room and have to spread out,” said Barbara. She has been involved with the North Scituate Baptist Church for over 64 years, and was baptized there as a child. 

Church member Lois Salisbury, of Salisbury Farm, has been around just about as many years. She is on the May Basket committee along with Dot Mathurin. 

The tradition of a May Day celebration came from old English roots, said Dot. “A may pole was made with streamers and children held onto the streamers and danced around it,” she said.

May baskets were originally made using a lady’s handkerchief that was tied corner-to-corner, knotted and decorated with a ribbon. “I remember filling them with candy or flowers, hanging them on a person’s door. You’d ring the bell and run away,” Lois shared. 

New this year are chairperson and co-chairperson Tom and Barbara Klitz. Tom said it has been a learning curve but the “SOP” (standard operating procedures) as well as the church history have been well documented and passed down over the years. 

They decided to bump the date back later into the month of May due to so many other groups having similar breakfasts early in the month. “I like the fellowship, it’s the one time you get to see so many members of the church and the (greater) community,” said Lois.

“I’m a newbie,” said Dot, “but everyone is connected.”

“Breaking bread together – it brings family and folks together,” said Tom. The monies collected will go toward the general fund of the church. It is not just for church members; the whole community is welcome, said Barbara. 

As for the johnnycakes, Barbara will man the griddles and keep them going all morning. Whether you serve them with butter and maple syrup such as for the breakfast, or use them as a more savory appetizer, the johnnycakes are truly a New England tradition that dates back many years. The stories and recipes are many as well.

Barbara made some mini-johnnycakes and served them to the group as an appetizer. Cakes were served with a crabmeat spread or ham spread topped with chives; one was made with a sprinkle of cheese.

“My dad used to make them almost like a pizza, he’d top it with sauce and cheese and cook them in the wood stove,” Lois said. “You can have them with chipped beef or creamed codfish, too,” Barbara shared. 

The breakfast will offer handmade May baskets for sale – some filled with homemade fudge, others decorated and filled with pansies. “They make a lovely gift for a homebound person,” said Lois, who added, “If everyone contributes according to their talents, it all comes together.”

Recipe from Barbara Stetson

1 cup white cornmeal (Barbara says Kenyon Cornmeal is the best!)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
1 & 1/2 cups boiling water
Bacon fat, preferably (if not, use shortening)

In medium bowl mix cornmeal, salt and sugar. Add about 1 & 1/2 cups boiling water, all at once and stir constantly, until well mixed. If mixture is too thick, gradually add enough milk so that it can be dropped by heaping tablespoonful on a hot griddle. (The secret is enough fat and a very thick, heavy pan that holds the heat.) The secret in dropping the johnnycakes is “in your wrist.”
Cook for 6 minutes on each side and don’t pat or play with them. When edges are brown turn once and let cook until brown on the other side. Serve immediately. 

“The johnnycake is derived from an Indian recipe using flint corn, a hard-kernel corn that grew well in fog and thrived in the salt air of our beaches. Early settlers would carry the hard cakes - called ‘journey cakes’ - wrapped in a cloth and placed in saddlebags for sustenance on long trips. Over time the name became johnnycakes.” Passage from “The Island Cookbook,” by Barbara Sherman Stetson, of North Scituate. 

Displaying some of the May Baskets that will be for sale at the 125th annual North Scituate Baptist Church May Breakfast on Saturday, May 18, are, from left, Dot Mathuin, Tom Klitz and Lois Salisbury.
Barbara Stetson, of North Scituate, demonstrates tips for making her famous johnnycakes in her home in North Scituate. She has been involved with North Scituate Baptist Church for about 64 years.