Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Blueberry Pancakes

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As the summer haze blanketed the Chicagoland area my mother used to stuff us into the Jeep. We would head north into Wisconsin to go fishing at the crack of dawn, or south to the great flea market in Sandwich, Illinois. The best weekend trips were making the loop around the tip of the Lake and heading into Michigan.

We left early and drove with the windows down, only to lock them tight and hold our breath as we passed through Gary, Indiana. To ensure a speedy trip, my older brother forced the younger one to urinate in old take-out cups beneath a blanket in the back seat while my mother kept us wired with the odd stop at a gas station—we had our own fill-up of Pixy-sticks, Sixlettes, and Lick-a-Sticks.

We would arrive in Michigan, buzzed on sugar and ready for the task at hand: blueberry picking. Is it possible that the $5 candy allowance was to negate any possibility of sluggishness for the harvest? My brothers and I grabbed our buckets and dashed into the fields, whizzing past those poor saps who failed to realize the benefit of an 8AM sugar high.

I chose the rare specimens-- the blueberries that bypassed nature and could have landed in a Coney Island sideshow. Plump with juice and ready to burst, I picked the berries that would never make it into a store-bought pint. The berries my radar found were the size of apricots. Destiny had allowed these prized specimens extra strength in their branch, they pulled the bush down, but were refused to fall. They remained freakishly alone, awaiting my chubby little fingers to pluck them out.

Eventually our fingers and tongues faded into blue, the sun became too hot, and our highs turned to hunger. We left the blueberry patch for a friend’s beachside summerhouse where we could cool down in the lake. As everyone changed into suits I grabbed my blueberry pint and sorted my prized possessions—no one was to eat my ginormous ribbon winners. I removed each of my overgrown blueberries from the pint and placed them at my bedside table before I allowed myself to join everyone in the water.

The weekend would end with a bonfire on the beach. I transplanted my special berries into a paper cup and coddled them as we headed home. I would exit the car, run up to my bedroom and slowly remove each blueberry, scrutinizing it for any imperfections before I gently placed it on my windowsill. There they remained to rot, untouched by another human, admired until they deflated into a mush.

This recipe base is the same that appears for D’s Strawberry Banana Pancakes.

Makes about 15 4-inch pancakes. Prep time= 10 minutes.
* 1 egg
* 1-1/4 cup milk
* 5 Tbl vinegar
* 2 Tbl molasses
* 1/4 cup butter, melted
* 1 cup flour
* 1 tsp salt
* 1/2 tsp baking soda
* 2 tsp baking powder
* 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
* 3/4 cup applesauce
* 1 pint fresh blueberries

1) Beat together egg, milk, vinegar, molasses, butter, and applesauce.
2) Add flour, sifted with salt, baking soda and baking powder, stir until blended.
3) Add cornmeal, stir until just blended.
4) Warm a skillet on medium-high heat. Melt ½ Tbl butter. When pan is hot, use a 1/4 cup measure to scoop and drop even batter. Sprinkle fruit on top of batter. Cook until bubbles begin to appear, about 3 minutes. Flip, cook for another 2 minutes.

NOTE: Sliced apples, pears, blueberries, or any other fruit is amazing with this batter. Another option is to use buttermilk instead of regular milk and vinegar.

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