Ruth Glunt, longtime neighbor to the Saugerties Lighthouse and local historian, described the “full larder” of lighthouse keepers on the Hudson River:
Buckwheat and cornmeal flour, for ‘panny cakes’, were kept handy and maple syrup was cheaper in those days, but still a treat. Coffee was bought ‘in the bean’, and hand ground fresh and the delicious smell of the fresh coffee was seldom lacking.
In keeping with lighthouse tradition, I use whole bean coffee, which I grind each morning using a hand-mill. I also serve buckwheat pancakes with real maple syrup from the nearby Catskill Mountains.
My predecessor as keeper, Allen, developed a reputation for cooking delicious pancakes for breakfast. Lucky for me, Allen shared his pancake recipe with me. With practice, my pancakes earned praise as well. The recipe for “lighthouse pancakes” gradually changed from the original over the years as I made modifications. For instance, I leave sugar out of the recipe because people put syrup on their pancakes anyway, which is sweet enough. My most recent changes were to incorporate locally-grown/freshly-milled flours from Wild Hive Farm. Combined with Hudson Valley Fresh milk and eggs from nearby Sauer family farm, the main ingredients for the pancakes originate within a 50 mile radius.
What’s the secret to great pancakes? Recipes may vary, but a proper pancake flipper is essential. I am fortunate that a clever keeper made a terrific pancake spatula out of an old, worn out pull-saw. He filed the serrated teeth off the saw-blade and trimmed the handle. The saw-blade was thin spring steel, which slides smoothly under pancakes. Now for the recipe:
Saugerties Lighthouse pancakes (serves 4):
1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tablespoons oil
Preheat cast iron griddle or skillet on medium-low flame. If the cast iron is well-seasoned, the pancakes won’t stick. Sift together dry ingredients. Stir in milk. Stir in eggs. Stir in oil. I find that stirring in the wet ingredients separately helps prevent clumps in the batter. Scoop a 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake onto the hot griddle. Flip with spatula to brown evenly on each side. Serve with real maple syrup and seasonal fruit.