Monday, July 23, 2012

Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes

"...Almonzo loved light, fluffy, buckwheat pancakes with plenty of molasses...The three pancakes on the griddle were holding their bubbles in tiny holes near their crisping edges.  He flipped them over neatly and watched their brown-patterned sides rise in the middle.  The good smell of them mixed with the good smells of fried salt pork and boiling coffee..."  (The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, ISBN # 0590488198)

Just like Almonzo Wilder, homemade pancakes are one of my favorite comfort foods.  I grew up thinking you had to buy store-brand mixes to make pancakes.  For years I tried to make good pancakes without success.  Then I grew brave enough to try pancake recipes in my cookbooks.  Making pancakes from scratch was sooo much better than store bought mixes, even if it took just a little more trouble.

The key to making pancakes is to have a consistency of a cake batter when you're ready to pour out the mixture.  They can't be too thin or too thick--it should pour easily but not too fast.  As the tops get plenty of bubbles and the edges firm up a bit, you can turn the pancakes over.

My husband is a better fry cook than I am and flips pancakes perfectly.  I have forced myself to practice until my pancakes turned out just as good.  So practice does make perfect.

Also, it really helps to invest in a nice, long electric griddle because the pancakes turn out better (cooks more evenly) and you can make a bunch at once and get done faster.  (I would even consider bringing one to camp outs!)

This recipe comes from my Southern Living Cookbook (ISBN # 084871816X).  It mentions you can keep the batter in the fridge for up to a week.  It also includes a homemade syrup recipe.  The recipe calls for buttermilk but I mix up powdered buttermilk instead because it's easier for me to keep on hand than buttermilk.  You can add 1cup of blueberries (like the pancakes shown above) or chopped pecans to the batter.

Buttermilk Pancakes with Homemade Maple Syrup 
Print Recipe
2 cups all purpose flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1-1/2 to 2 cups buttermilk (2 cups is always too much for my batter; start with 1-1/2 cups and add more 1 T. at a time if needed)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Homemade Maple Syrup
Combine first 5 ingredients; stir well (be careful not to stir too much or the pancakes will not be fluffy).  Combine eggs, buttermilk, and oil in a bowl; add to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.  For each pancake, pour about 1/4 cup batter onto a hot, lightly greased griddle.  Cook pancakes until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked; turn and cook other side.  (Store unused batter in a tightly covered container in refrigerator up to 1 week.  If refrigerated batter is too thick, add milk or water to reach desired consistency.)  Serve pancakes warm with Homemade Maple Syrup.  Yield:  18 (4-inch pancakes).

Homemade Maple Syrup Print Recipe
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring
Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan; add sugar and flavoring.  Boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly; remove from heat.  Serve warm, chilled, or at room temperature.  (Store leftover syrup in a tightly covered container in refrigerator.)  Yield:  about 2 cups.  (Per 3 pancakes and 1/3 cup syrup:  Calories 566; Fat 11.9g; Cholesterol 77mg; Sodium 612mg)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Freezing Blueberries

I love fresh-picked blueberries (as long as someone else picks them--ha, ha!)  Picking berries is something you should do with your children or grandchildren or friends at least once.  The great thing about blueberries is how well they freeze and how good they taste whenever you pull some out of the freezer to bake (or pop in your mouth!)

Blueberries should not be washed prior to freezing.  

They have a natural waxy coating that protects them when freezing, then rinse the berries before using in a recipe.  I rinse my blueberries after defrosting them in the fridge so I don't wash before freezing.

Spread them out evenly on wax paper on a cookie sheet in the freezer.  It doesn't take but about 15 minutes for them to be firm enough to put in quart-sized freezer containers.  Containers rather than bags will prevent the berries from getting squashed.  Whenever you need a handful, the berries are nice and loose and ready to use, or pre-measure blueberries for your favorite recipes before freezing.  In airtight containers, blueberries will keep up to a year in the freezer.

I place the amount I'll need in the refrigerator to defrost.  Then I rinse them gently in a strainer or colander under cold water.  This prevents your batter from becoming stained blue.  I use my frozen blueberries in pancakes, smoothies, and muffins.  Gently toss blueberries with a little flour before stirring them into batter to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the pan.  The blueberries taste so fresh and delicious all winter long.

Here's some helpful tips:

To make a hands-free berry bucket, punch holes in a plastic ice cream container and thread a long piece of string through each hole.  Then tie the string ends and slip the whole thing over the head.  The container hangs down in front, allowing both hands to pick berries.

Blueberries should be picked when they are dry.  If there is dew or rain on them, they will get soft and not last as long after picking.

Be sure to pick deep-blue blueberries for the best flavor.

When purchasing already picked berries 

Look for fresh berries that are firm, dry, plump and smooth-skinned and relatively free from leaves and stems.

Berries should be deep purple-blue to blue-black; reddish berries aren't ripe, but may be used in cooking.

Stay away from containers with juice stains, which may be a sign the berries are crushed and possibly moldy; soft, watery fruit means berries are overripe.

Fresh berries should be stored covered in your refrigerator and washed just before using.  Use them within 10 days of purchase.


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