After I graduated from college, I went back to Citronelle for a while and worked with my Great Aunt Lois on her farm. We did everything from planting flowers to baling hay to canning pears and peaches to bathing the calves’ infected navels in Epsom Salt water (that’s a whole other story for another time). We always started early in the morning, so by lunchtime we were usually famished.
Some days we might have a sandwich or a can of soup. Other days, the best days, Aunt Lois would cook a big lunch for me and the ranch hands. My favorite meal was when she made fried fish, usually catfish or bream from her lake, coleslaw, and hushpuppies. Oh, those hushpuppies. So so simple, but so so good.
I watched her make these hushpuppies a thousand times, but there’s no real recipe. Aunt Lois was one of those people who just makes delicious things and never uses a recipe. (She was a master at Seven-minute Frosting, which frustrates even the most seasoned cook, and now that she’s gone on to her great reward we’ll never know her secret). That’s why this is one of those “until it looks right” recipes, so you might have to experiment a little bit.
Aunt Lois’ Hushpuppies
- 1 cup or so of white cornmeal
- Pinch of salt
- Boiling water
- You can add a little finely chopped onion if you just want to.
- Mix all the ingredients together until it forms a very stiff batter by adding the boiling water to the cornmeal little by little. This is the “looks right” part.
- Heat some grease (Crisco or canola oil or whatever you use for frying) in an iron skillet so that you have hot grease about an inch or so deep.
- Drop the batter into the grease by tablespoonfuls. Aunt Lois would get a spoonful of batter and use another spoon to round the top as well. Her’s usually came out looking like little logs more than round balls.
- When the bottom of the hushpuppy is good and brown, flip it over. Cook until the other side looks the same.
- Drain on paper towels.
- Don’t burn your fingers trying to eat ‘em up too fast!
And here’s a little history on the noble hushpuppy. The earliest recorded use of the word “hushpuppy” was around 1899, but you know the hushpuppy is much older than that because it’s similar to a johnnycake, and johnnycakes go all the way back to the 1700s if not further. Hunters and fishermen and the like made these little treats using the batter from their own fried dinners and threw them to their dogs to “hush the puppies” or to quiet their barking. It must have worked, and the name stuck!