Indigenous to North America, blueberries are ripe and their compatibility with hotcakes is much appreciated. It’s time to flip a blueberry hotcake or two. Or twenty.
Pancakes, hotcakes, flapjacks, a short stack . . whichever terminology you prefer, from scratch with fresh local blueberries they require little more effort than a boxed mix and are a delectable regional experience. I admit a slight prejudice. It’s the only hotcake I’ve known, and, the clincher, it involves food memories from childhood.
My grandmother, wrapped in a freshly starched and ironed apron, stood at the stove with her cast iron griddle fired up, a no nonsense woman who was willing to make critter hotcakes for her grandkids. Mostly rabbits, bears, Mickey Mouses, a cowboy boot. She’d say, ‘sit down and eat another hotcake before I decide to give them to the squirrels.’ We’d sit down and eat. Complicating her griddle art, my brother and I would sometimes ask for things like a bull elk, an eagle, a bucking bronco. By the time I was ten I understood that when she asked if we wanted basketballs that meant she just wanted to move on with it.
We still make our grandmother’s hotcakes, partly by feel, and with just five basic ingredients: buttermilk, flour, eggs, baking soda, bacon drippings (or melted butter). I know these hotcakes, they taste deliciously familiar and they’re difficult to mess up. The bacon drippings might thrill or disgust you – I love either one, and substitute butter whenever I need to.
Your standard orb-shaped hotcakes are one thing, but hotcake art requires a certain cavalier attitude. My bunnies are bunny-like, as you can see, not exactly a perfect replica of the actual creature. Claim your inner Picasso and go for it, or identify the critter after it comes off the grill (as I did with this whale shark/blowfish . . . whatever). Strike out with abandon and see what happens.When they’re grown up the kids will remember. Trust me.
Blueberries, walnuts, and whole-wheat flour are often in the mix these days – modify as you wish, but be careful. She’s watching. Actually, she’d be fine with any of it, especially the blueberries. At 99, the year before she died, she insisted on getting two blueberry bushes for our front yard: one bears fruit earlier than the other, and when it’s about finished the other has its fruit to offer. Sweet arrangement.
Buttermilk Hotcake Recipe
For two big or four small appetites:
A couple of tricks: the batter should fall off the spoon in a ‘sheet’; get the grill piping hot before cooking; assume that the first batch will taste fine, but won’t look so pretty. Why is that?
2 cups buttermilk
1 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
4 tablespoons bacon drippings or melted butter
1 ½ cups blueberries (or whatever you have on hand)
Directions: In a large bowl, beat eggs lightly, add buttermilk and stir together. Measure and add flour, baking soda and salt a little at a time. Add drippings or butter and stir it all vigorously. Batter will drip off the spoon in ‘sheets’ when it’s about right – add a spoonful of additional flour or buttermilk if needed. The batter should not be thick and heavy. On a scale of thick and thin, this batter would settle just slightly toward the thin side. Let batter rest for a few minutes. Pour spoonfuls on a hot pan or grill, cook until bubbles thicken, flip the cake, make a stack, slather with syrup . . . you know the drill.
Buy extra blueberries at the Farmers Market while they’re in season, freeze them, and have a stack of local cakes mid-winter. Native only to North America, in 2005 blueberries were designated a ‘superfruit’. And finally, read Blueberries For Sal again, Caldecott award winner in 1948, it’s still a wonderful picture book for kids, for anyone.
You might have noticed . . . it’s summer time and we’re takin’ it easy for a couple of weeks. This is a repeat post from July 2008. Now July 2009, blueberries are back again and we pick a bowlful every few days.