American elder (S. candensis)
By Susan Roth
These pancakes make a delectable light lunch or dinner. They fall into a category of foods called mehlspeisen—main-dish meals in which flour is a primary ingredient. Other examples include kaiserschmarrn, a souffléd pancake served with a fruit compote, and dampfknoedeln, a steamed dumpling sometimes served with vanilla sauce or butter, sugar and poppy seeds. If you have an abundant supply of elderflowers, you can make a double batch of these pancakes and freeze the extras. To reheat, bring to room temperature, then heat in a 350-degree oven until hot, about 5 minutes.
• 4 to 6 clusters elderflowers per person
• Pancake batter
• 1 teaspoon or more light-flavored vegetable oil
1. Be sure elder flowers are fresh and white, not brown. Rinse and clean them, discarding any discolored blossoms, woody stems or leaves. Wrap flowers in a towel to absorb excess water while you prepare a pancake batter.
2. Make your favorite pancake batter. [I use one from Irma Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking (The Bobbs-Merril Company, 1985).]
3. Heat a teaspoon of oil in a large frying pan. (Follow the cooking directions for your batter; some recipes require low cooking temperatures, others are higher.) Test a drop or two of batter in the oil to make sure the pan is hot enough; the batter should sizzle when it hits the oil.
4. Holding an elderflower cluster by its main stem, dip it into batter then place it in the frying pan. Don’t crowd the pan—pancakes should not touch their neighbors! Fry until bottom is golden brown (lift gently with a spatula to check). Flip and fry until second side is golden.
5. Drain cakes on paper towels. To make additional batches, add a bit more oil to the pan; keep cooked cakes warm in an oven until ready to serve. Serve with syrup or elderberry jelly.
Margie Gibson writes about food, culture, history and natural history. Previously, she worked at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, where she wrote about wildlife.
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Elderberries: Grow, Cook, Heal with Elder