February, that time between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox, has been, since pre-historic times, a time for festivals and feasts. Sensing the lengthening days and the coming of spring, it became a time of hope—for warmth, food, fertility and easier living. And for centuries, the feasts have included some sort of pancakes—sweet, savory, thick, thin, fried and baked.
Late winter European “pagan” festivals like Imbolc, Juno Februa and Lupercalia were Christianized and became St. Brigid’s Day, Candlemas Day, the Feast of the Presentation, the Fête de la Chandeleur, the Feasts of St. Blaise and St Valentine, a day for blessings of candles and throats, Mardi Gras and Shrove Tuesday, and the Asian celebrations of the Lunar New Year—- almost always including pancakes as part of the festivities.
Sweet crêpes, German panakuchen, Norwegian pannekaker, Italian cantarelle, foot-wide Belgian pannenkoeken, and English Shrove Tuesday pancakes—along with savory French buckwheat galettes, Eastern European blinis, Northern Chinese chun bing/spring pancakes, Scottish bannocks and Irish boxty, all find their special feast day place in February.
Here’s the basic recipe for Irish Boxty Pancakes—hearty, filling fare that at times has fed poor-house residents in rural Ireland and hungry tourists in Dublin. Makes about 12 pancakes.
- 1 ¼ cups grated raw potato, liquid squeezed out through tea towel–let reserved liquid settle for a half hour
- 1 ¼ cups cooked mashed potatoes
- 1 ¼ cups flour
- 2 tsp salt +-
- About 3 cups milk +-
Pour off the reserved grated potato liquid and save the starch in bottom of bowl. Add grated potatoes to mashed potatoes and add flour. Stir well, then add starch from grated potatoes and stir again. Add 1 ½ cups of the milk and stir to form batter. Gradually add more milk until batter is pourable. Let rest for about ½ hour.
Heat a slick of oil in non-stick pan and ladle in batter one pancake at a time—check for golden color on underside then flip and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Repeat with added oil. Either enjoy immediately with pats of butter, or as some cooks swear, chill overnight then reheat in melted butter. Serve with bacon and eggs, or with salmon, scallions and sour cream.
The Kitchen Hive