Shoveling all this snow the last few days has worked my hunger up, so I put down my shovel and went and pulled up a bunch of sunchokes!
This winter, like last, the ground remained relatively thawed underneath all the snow, allowing us to go and pull up some sunchokes (aka, “jerusalem artichokes,” a name mistakenly based on the Italian word for sunflower “giarasol” [like “jar of soul”]) Easy in good soil, you just grab a hold of a stalk and yank it up. You won’t get them all this way, but you’ll get enough.
For gardeners striving to increase their self-reliance, sunchokes kick ass: they’re the highest-calorie/square foot crop you can grow, they’re native, they’re perennial; low-maintenance; they’re light feeders; they’re drought resistant; they attract bees like crazy; they provide a quick-growing barrier as a wind-block or privacy hedge; they’re pest-resistant to deer, rabbits, etc; they provide HUGE amounts of carbonaceous material for composting, mulching or sheet mulching; they keep well for months in a cool dark place; and you can store them in the ground and dig them in the middle of winter.
|Sunchokes flowering in our mixed hedgerow.|
Meanwhile, in the kitchen they’re versatile and tasty.
These light, tasty pancakes use chokes to add a natural nutty sweetness, a wonderfully distinct aroma and a faint, nearly subconscious earthiness that makes them very fulfilling.
1 1/2 cup flour (White wheat flour for now, we’ll discuss flour options later)
Up to 1 1/2 cup sun chokes
1 t baking soda
<1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 T oil (or fragrant browned butter, if you’re into awesome things)
Mutsu apples. Yep, that’s it. No sugars added in this recipe, but of course, these griddle cakes are good with syrup, too.
1. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Start with white all-purpose flour, but adding some whole wheat flour improves the flavor.
2. Separate egg yolks. Put egg yolks into a blender and move the egg whites into a deep bowl.
3. Add another pinch of salt to the bowl, then whip egg whites to “soft peaks” stage.
|Adding salt helps them “firm up” faster.|
IMPORTANT TECHNIQUE FOR FORAGING QUISINE!!!
Whipping the egg whites to the soft peaks stage adds a lightness that makes great pancakes, waffles, breads and muffins from a variety of unusual ingredients, from root starches to wild grasses and nut flours. It also allows you to add way more of these ingredients without getting gross “heavy” textured breads.
4. Add the sunchokes, oil, vanilla, and “just enough” milk to allow you to blend the sunchokes to a smooth consistency. I don’t peel the chokes, but make sure you wash between the folds. This is the most important “tip” for working with chokes, since they have a tendency to smuggle grit into whatever you cook.
|Blended choke mix should look like this.|
5. Add sunchoke mix to dry ingredients and mix. At this point, add enough milk to get the right consistency for pancakes: The mix should be something that will smooth out into pancakes when they hit the pan. If the mix is too thick, you’ll kick all the air out of your egg whites when you try to add them to the mix.
6. “Fold” in egg whites. The idea is to add as much light air to the batter as possible.
|See the bubbles? You want that.|
7. Heat pan. The pan should be hot enough that butter or oil sizzles but doesn’t instantly brown. If it’s not hot enough to sizzle, your pancakes will stick to the pan. But not as hot as regular pancakes! If you rush it your flap jacks will come out gooey in the middle.
8. Mmmm Pancakes.
|“Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle”|
9. Cut Mutsu apple to chunks while your first pancake cooks. Heat up a second pan and add just a little butter or oil.
10. cook the apples.
|Use enough heat (high) to put a little brown on ’em.|
Essential Ingredient: Mutsu Apples
Like Brittain’s famous Bramley apple, the corner-stone of English apple dishes, the Mutsu apple cooks down instantly into a rich sauce. In addition, it’s the perfect combination of sweet and tart for a finished “sauce,” without adding anything. Well, ok, you can add cinnamon and clove, especially if you added whole wheat flour, but you don’t need to. By the time your pancakes are done, you’ll have your topping.
11. Mmm…. Yeah, these were really awesome by the way.