The Buckwheat Stops Here
Penn Yan is a handsome little Finger Lakes town that reigns as the buckwheat capital of America. Thanks to leaky farm trucks hauling in buckwheat seeds to be processed at the Birkett Mills right on Main Street (in continuous operation since 1797), the leafy green plant topped by sprays of white flowers now grows wild in ditches and pastures all across the area. One nice fringe benefit of the local buckwheat specialty: it is a superb source of nectar for honeybees, causing nearby hives to fill with a strong, dark sweetness.
Unrelated to wheat, and not even a grain or cereal, nutritious buckwheat was one of the earliest plants brought to the Americas by European settlers. Its short ten-week growing season, fondness for infertile soil, and preference for cool temperatures made it valuable to northern pioneers living on land newly scratched out of primeval forest.
These authentic Breton-style crepes are delicate and yummy, and very easy to make. They can take on any personality, from savory to sweet, depending on what you fill them with.
1¼ cups buckwheat flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ stick butter, melted
1 cup milk
1 cup water
Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in eggs, melted butter, milk, and water. Batter will be very runny, much more so than pancake batter.
Heat an 8- or 10-inch nonstick skillet to medium-high. Apply a light coating of butter, and ladle or pour about a quarter cup of batter into hot pan. Pour in an expanding circular pattern, then tilt pan to spread batter even more, so crepe is as thin as possible. Don’t worry, once browned they don’t tear easily. If pan is too hot or too cool and batter doesn’t start cooking immediately without burning, adjust heat accordingly.
After about a minute, use a non-stick spatula to loosen all around the rim of the crepe, then flip, using spatula and/or fingers. It may take one or two sacrificial crepes, but you’ll get a rhythm. As the second side lightly browns (usually about another minute), slide crepe onto a plate.
Either serve immediately, rolled up around your favorite filling, or stack them, with waxed paper or plastic wrap between each, for heating and serving later.
Crepes can be filled with fresh fruits or preserves, cheese and ham, eggs and spinach, Nutella, honey and yogurt, ice cream, whatever you like. The Blackman fruit butters and Once Again nut butters (see following pages) make superb crepe fillings; you might want to top with a dollop of whipped cream.
Crepes that have cooled, or been frozen for later use, can be heated on a cookie sheet in a 375-degree oven, either before or after rolling them around their filling.
Makes about 12 crepes.
This recipe is reminiscent of a banana bread or an apple bread, but the flavor is distinct and pleasing, and the texture is especially nice. The riper and more flavorful the pears, the better the loaf – so try to buy local fruit and wait for it to fully ripen before firing up your oven.
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ cup buttermilk or yogurt
1 cup ripe pears, peeled and chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and butter and flour a loaf pan.
With an electric beater, beat together the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until creamy. In a separate bowl, blend together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and nutmeg. Stir these dry ingredients into the butter mixture, then stir in buttermilk or yogurt, and finally the chopped pears.
Pour batter into pan and bake for 1 hour. Cool. Try serving with cold cream cheese.
Makes 1 medium-size loaf.
Adapted from a recipe by Blackman Homestead Farm in Lockport, New York
Excerpted from Finger Lakes Feast, by Kate Harvey and Karl Zinsmeister, with photos by Noah Zinsmeister, published in 2012 by McBooks Press
Finger Lakes Feast is available at many bookstores, gift shops and wineries in the Finger Lakes Region. It is also sold by online booksellers. It can be ordered by phone from the Independent Publishers Group (800-888-4741) or at the McBooks Press website (www.mcbooks.com).
by Kate Harvey and Karl Zinsmeister