Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tapping the Maple Trees and Favorite Pancakes

Yesterday JJ called me and mentioned that she had gone online to find a recipe for yeast pancakes. It reminded me of my mom's (Pug's) raised pancakes--a real treat she made for us on special occasions. We always had them with real maple syrup, many times our own home made maple syrup. When we were very young Dad decided it would be a very educational experience for us to tap the maple trees on our property. He must have read up on it and made his own equipment for the project. I kind of remember going with him to do the tapping. He had a hand drill with a very wide bit--maybe 1/2 to 3/4 inch. He drilled a hole in each tree--I think we had 5 or 6 trees in the yard and later I think he tapped some more down in the backwoods. Anyway he had made these tin V shaped spouts that he put in the hole and there was a nail or some kind of a hook to hang the bucket on. We would go collect the sap every afternoon after school and take it to Pug. She put it in a big pan and boiled it down until it was syrupy. Yummmmm! it was so good. We also boiled some down until it went to sugar and had some maple candy too!. I think we tapped those trees for many years.

To get back to the raised pancakes. I remember a Thanksgiving when many of our family were gathered. We decided to have raised pancakes for breakfast the next day and I didn't have a recipe. Mom had been in the hospital for a heart attack in Florida but had just come home. I called her and she gave me her recipe over the phone. We made the pancakes and as we were eating them at breakfast, Dad called to tell us that Mom had died in her sleep that night. I always associate my last talk with Mom with those pancakes.

Another kind of pancakes that we served with pure maple syrup were Pug's Buckwheat pancakes. Buckwheat Pancake suppers were a huge fund raising deal in Pennsylvania. We had been to several put on by the Melcroft Fire Department while we were visiting Mom and Dad at their summer home. They always served them with syrup and sausage patties. When Mom and Dad sold their PA home and took up residence in Florida, Pug kept up the tradition and would invite up to 40 people to come to her Buckwheat Pancake suppers. They were the social event of the season at Sun and Lakes!

The year after Mom died Carla and Jim were visiting Dad about the time they had always held the big supper. Mom was always very organized and kept lists of who was to be invited and the recipes for the big day. When Carla arrived in Florida Dad told her they would be hosting the supper and turned the whole event over to her! No big deal as far as Dad was concerned. Well, Carla is no cook and paniced. She called me wondering what to do. Dad, cf course, had invited all the guests and was getting his part of the job done putting in supplies for serving the drinks! I gave what advice I could and wished her luck! Luck did come in to play with a surprise visit from Mom's cousin Darwin and his wife Birdie. They helped Carla and Jim out and the party went off without a hitch. Dad just never did figure out that everyone wasn't as special as Pug was when it came to entertaining. To be honest with you I really don't like the taste of buckwheat cakes but with enough maple syrup I could eat them okay.

Another pancake memory I have is of Dad's Hoe Cakes. These originally were made, I think, in workers camp sights over the fire. They are a type of corn meal pancake that they fried on hoes over the fire. Dad always was our breakfast maker and he made some really elaborate breakfasts from time to time. I loved his Hoe Cakes best of all. My memory of them was that they were kind of thin and crisp and almost lacy. We put butter and good old maple syrup on them and they were delicious. I have tried for years to duplicate them but have not quite got it right yet. I wonder if they came from Mrs. Rorer's Cookbook. All the ones I have found are way too thick and floury. I don't know, maybe Dad made his own recipe! The last ones I made were the closest so I kept adjusting the flour down until they almost made it! Anyhow, I will try to get it close for this blog! Two of the recipes I am giving today are in Pug's "shorthand" so they don't look standard. Here they are:

Pug's Buckwheat Cakes (for 5 people)

For the Sponge: Prepare the night before and let sit out:
2 Tbsp. active dry yeast
add 1/4 Cup water
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
add enough flour to make a sponge (a thin batter)

The next day:
Add 2 C. water
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. oil
Approximately 1 5/8 pound Buckwheat flour
Two hours before, stir up and keep at room temperature. You may not have to do this that early but give it time to raise again before you fry them.
Fry on a hot griddle like you do pancakes and serve with butter, maple syrup and sausage patties.

(For 40 people)

1 Cup yeast
1 pint water
4 Tbsp sugar
Enough flour for sponge

Next day
2 gallons water
1 1/2 Cups sugar
3/4 Cups oil
Approx. 6 1/2 pounds Buckwheat flour

Pug's Raised Pancakes
(Approx. 10 People)

Sponge Make the night before and let sit out:
2 Tbsp yeast
1 1/2 C. water1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Cup flour

Next morning add
2 Cups milk
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. Oil
2 Eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Cups flour
Stir and let sit until it starts to raise or some bubbles start to come up. About 45 min.-1 hour.
Fry like pancakes on the griddle and serve with butter and maple syrup.

Hoe Cakes
(I just found it! From Mrs. Rorer's Cookbook. I'm pretty sure this is Dad's recipe)

1 pint (2 cups) corn meal
1/2 tsp salt
Sufficient water to make a batter

Put the corn meal into a bowl, and add the salt; Pour boiling water over it to just moisten the corn meal. Let stand 10 minutes. Then add the water until the batter will drop nicely from a spoon. "Bake the same as griddle cakes on a hot griddle or hoe." When done put a bit of butter on top and serve.

" The old colored cooks in the South used to make these to perfection, and baked them on their hoes--hence the name--over a wood fire."
From Mrs. Rorer's Philadelphia Cookbook . I can't find the date but it is very old, probably from the 1800's.



  1. what great memories. I do love buckwheat cakes and the party was quite an experience for Jim and I. Paul was just a year old when we had that party. I have pics of Jim and I mopping that ceramic floor in Florida,

  2. I remember going to the buckwheat festival in Pennsylvania once. I was very little, but I remember carry a plate of pancakes that looked almost grey in color. I also remember the maple syrup. I still can remember the taste. I think I liked it.


  3. Penny,
    Thank you, Mary Anne is going to make them this weekend. I sure miis your Mom & Dad. 2 great people.
    Bob D

  4. Okay, now you have gone and made me hungry for pancakes. Now all I have to do is find a maple tree to tap and 40 people to feed breakfast to. Ha. Ha. My grandsons make fun of me because I always burn most of the pancakes to get a few perfect ones.