History of Hushpuppies
Hushpuppies are finger-shaped dumplings of cornmeal that are deep-fried and traditionally served with fried catfish. Also know as corn dodgers, they are especially popular throughout the South. There are several interesting stories of the origins of hushpuppies:
The oldest story is that hushpuppies originated in the settlement of Nouvell Orleans (later called New Orleans, Louisiana), shortly after 1727. They were created by a group of Ursuline nuns who had come from France. The nuns converted cornmeal into a delicious food that they named croquettes de maise. The making of these croquettes spread rapidly through the southern states.
An African cook in Atlanta is said to have given the name hushpuppy to this food. When frying a batch of catfish and croquettes, a nearby puppy began to howl. To keep the puppy quiet, she gave it a plateful of the croquettes and said, “hush, puppy.” Since the name was cut, it stuck. This same story is also attributed to a Creole cook.
Hunters and trappers could be on the trail for days at a time. At suppertime the hunting dogs would get hungry, so the hunters would mix a batter out of cornmeal or flour and cook it in grease on the campfire. Then they would throw the fried dough to the pups, telling them to be quiet, shut up, or “hush.”
Confederate soldiers would sit beside a campfire preparing their meals. If they detected Yankee soldiers approaching, they would toss their yapping dogs some of the fried cornmeal cakes with the command “Hush, puppies!”
In the South, the Salamander was often known as a “water dog” or “water puppy.” These were deep-fried with cornmeal and formed into sticks. It is said they were called hushpuppies because eating such lowly food was not something a southern wife would want known to her neighbors.
The following recipe is from my friend Andra Cook of Raleigh, North Carolina. Andra says, “My mother-in-law, Belle Cook, would make these hushpuppies, cooking them in an iron pot over an open fire at the Neuse River in North Carolina. They were delicious with fresh fish, cole slaw, French fries, and a big dose of fresh air. They never tasted so good!”
In a large mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, egg, salt, baking soda, and milk or buttermilk. Mix until batter is smooth and free of any lumps. Batter should be stiff (if batter is too dry, add milk; if batter is too thin, add cornmeal).
Andra's comments: "Add the liquid until it gets to the batter consistency desired. Some recommend stiff batter while others seem to go for towards pancake batter. I think the proper consistency is in between."
In a cast-iron skillet or a large heavy fry pan over medium-high heat, heat vegetable oil to 350 degrees F. or until a small amount of batter dropped into the hot oil sizzles and floats. Do not let the oil get too hot or the center of the hushpuppies will not cook thoroughly.
Using two spoons, push a small amount of batter into hot oil (370 to 380 F). After about 10 seconds, hushpuppies will float to the top and begin to brown. Fry for approximately 5 minutes or until golden brown, turning to brown all sides.
Remove from oil and place hushpuppies on paper towels; continue cooking the remaining batter (fry in small batches, adding 4 to 6 hushpuppies to the oil at a time). NOTE: They can be held in a 200 F oven until serving time (approximately 30 minutes). Serve hot.
Makes 2 dozen hushpuppies.
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