acorn pancakes

And then the rains came

“And as he drove on, the rain clouds dragged down the sky after him for, though he did not know it, Rob McKenna was a Rain God. All he knew was that his working days were miserable and he had a succession of lousy holidays. All the clouds knew was that they loved him and wanted to be near him, to cherish him and to water him.”

-So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

There’s a funny thing about rain and perspective. Expose yourself to the stuff every day by, oh, say, growing up in Glasgow, and you start to resent it. Bitterly. Its constant drone permeates your skin and your dreams and pretty soon any glimpse of the sun is an excuse to put on a bikini and celebrate. In California, it’s a bit different. The sun gets taken for granted in a way that never happens on the British Isles. We take the sun for granted so much that we have a very small gradient of acceptable temperature ranges. You know, sixty degrees farenheit is too cold; ninety degrees farenheit is too hot. We talk about the weather like people who actually experience weather patterns, although our variations are minor.

Until the rain comes.

It did, the other day, when Emily and I were up in the mountains gathering fir. The heavens opened no sooner than we’d left the car, and, like southern Californian rain-deprived people (in our summer hiking gear with no waterproofs and nothing remotely warm) we grinned at each other and headed off up a trail. Thunder clamoured overhead. Lightning struck across the sky. The rain came down in big gobs of juicy wetness and we kept grinning, and kept walking.

And that’s how the day went. Surrounded by water, up high in the mountains, with a cool breeze and the dehydrated world around us sighing in relief. We gathered fir. We gathered Jeffrey pine. We even gathered some goldenrod. We trapsed through bushes and overturned mushrooms and (well Em did) took pictures of every single patch of moss along the way. It was a good day. A relief of a day. Punctuation in the dusty heat wave that drives on despite the change in seasons.

A note on this recipe:

Even if you don’t have acorn flour to try the pancakes, please try and make the syrup with whatever conifers you can find. Christmas trees planted in front yards work. Spruces, firs, pines and redwoods all work. If you’re unsure about whether you can use it, email me; I’m happy to help. You can also post a picture on the Cauldrons and Crockpots Facebook page and then other people can have a say too- we’ve got a good discussion going on what conifers grow where, and if you don’t know what grows around you, just ask. There is such a wonderful pleasure to be found in eating flavours that come from your area. I also used apricot jam that I had lying around (I made a bunch of it this spring), but use what you have. Plum would be really nice too, as would blackberry.

Rustic acorn pancakes with white fir and apricot syrup. 

Note: here’s the best article ever on gathering and processing acorns

For the pancakes: 

2/3 cup flour (I used gluten free)

2/3 cup acorn flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

4tb melted butter

Combine the wet ingredients, and combine the dry ingredients. Give them a good whisk each, then slowly add the wet to the dry, whisking to get out any lumps.

Conversely you can just put the whole lot in a blender and blend away. I do this method- less clean up.

Cook as you would any pancake- on a skillet or pan or griddle, oil it up nicely (I used coconut oil; you can use whatever you like but keep in mind that coconut oil is a. very safe to cook with and b. gives things a lovely crisp edge), then pour a good 7 inch round pancake onto the pan. Let it bubble, as pancakes do, until the whole thing is covered in bubbles. Then flip it. Cook until golden, transfer to a plate kept warm in the oven with the pilot on or on its lowest setting. Repeat for all pancakes. Serve with butter and syrup.

For the white fir and apricot syrup: 

1 cup white fir, loosely packed ends of branches, chopped. If you don’t have white fir, please see aforementioned paragraph about getting in touch- I can almost guarantee you’ll have something tasty nearby.

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

2 tb apricot jam

Bring the water and sugar to a boil, add the conifer bits, and then remove from heat. Allow to sit for an hour, then strain and bring back to boil. Reduce by 1/4, then stir in the apricot jam. Taste- if its too bitter (conifers can do that) add more jam.

  • http://www.alpinegypsy.com Heidi (AlpineGypsy)

    Oooh, look at that syrup! YUM ~

    I really enjoyed your words about Rain. Her e in BC, the rain is abundant, and maligned by many. It’s like the Isles in its weather patterns, to be sure. So it’s wonderful for me to read prose about how loved the Rain is, and how welcome it is in a place that doesn’t get much. It makes me appreciate it more here. And as we approach Fall and Winter, the Rain will make its debut soon and won’t leave until about May of next year…….

    Heidi

    • fairybekk

      Yes, think about parched deserts, and meanwhile when I’m complaining about the heat here I’ll think about soggy rain. It’ll help on both sides :).

  • Mariam

    I’ve just discovered your blog and I have to say I bowled over!

    Gorgeous photography, rustic and lovely recipes, not flashy but still impressive and with stunning photography. On top of all that I feel that I’m taken on a little adventure with each recipe.

    More please! Anything involving sloe berries?

    • fairybekk

      Aw Mariam, thank you :).

      I WISH I had sloe berries in this area, as I’d love to make sloe gin again and play around with that. But I don’t. If any of my lovely friends want to send me some *bats eyes at world at large* I’d definitely make sloe gin and then post about it :D. In the mean time, maybe the River Cottage has sloe recipes?

  • Ivriniel

    I thought the Rain god was in The Long, Dark, Teatime of the Soul.

    Time to reread my Adams, I guess.

  • camille w

    What an inspiring recipe- a friend and i jsut finished processing our first batch of acorn flour and were looking for pancake recipes to use it in- looks like we found our recipe :) and i am going to try the syrup too- one question as i am new to using conifers: when you say “packed ends of branches, chopped.” are you talking about the needles or the brown branches? i didn’t want to get the flavoring wrong by using the wrong piece of the plant. thank you so much!

    • fairybekk

      Sorry Camille, just found this comment! Use the green bits; tastes better and stronger… but you can use the twigs too, no need to remove all the needles from the branches. :)

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