About our Corn
“Im hooked on the freshness. It has a much deeper, richer flavor than anything you find in the grocery store.” -John Killeen Chef and Owner of Al Forno and a long-time customer of Gray’s Grist Mill
Gray’s Mill ground a variety of grains during it’s long history. But by far, the most popular first for this mill is Narragansett Indian Flint Corn, native to Rhode Island. The white cap flint corn was originally a species of wild grass, domesticated by American Indians. As locals know, it is notoriously difficult to grow, and to grind.
First of all, it cannot be grown near any other variety of corn. Why? Well, the pure breed of corn reproduces by open-air pollination and mutates on contact with any other strains. In addition, even when growing in happy isolation, it generally produces very low yields – one to two ears per stalk, and only 8 rows of corn. It is also one of the hardest varieties of corn – hence the name “flint” and the difficulties with grinding. For some reason, white cap flint corn is particularly well suited to Rhode Island soil. And as purists will tell you, only Rhode Island grown flint corn should be used for “jonnycake meal.”
These thin, corm meal pancakes, sometimes spelled “johnnycakes” probably derived their name from their ability to travel along with early settlers. Stuffed into knapsacks, theorsts speculate that they were once called “journey cakes, whick would help explain the preferred spelling which omits the “h.” Another theory is that the name stems from “joniken”the Indian word for cornmeal cakes. But spelling issues aside, it is likely that jonnycakes were first made by American Indians, and later adopted by the colonists. Some even speculate that Roger Williams himself, the founder of Rhode Island, first learned of the jonnycake from tribes around Providence.
Legend goes that he enjoyed the cakes so much, he studied ther preparation and taught his fellow colonists how to prepare them. What we do know for sure, is that today’s Rhode Islanders still enjoy these little corn cakes, and continue to pass on the secrets of their preparation. Featured fare at the famous “May Breakfasts,” area diners, and even a few gourmet restaurants, the jonnycake is a state instutution.
While every Rhode Islander may have his or her own secret for the perfect jonnycake, we’ll share a basic recipe, should you want to try your own hand at making these delicious treats.