Eating Jewish: Pumpkin Pancakes
The words for this post seemed to escape me every time I sat down to write it, over the last few days. I got as far as a few sentences but seemed incapable of writing anymore. I can’t really say what stopped me from putting the words down on paper (or more accurately in a word document), but they simply weren’t flowing. I enjoyed making and eating these pumpkin pancakes but couldn’t find a way to express this. Yet after reading a friend’s thoughts concerning the act of cooking, I was reminded (something I’m grateful for) of some of the reasons I love spending so much time in the kitchen. One of these reasons, of which I think I had lost sight of, recently, is that cooking and baking are both important creative outlets in my life. They offer me a time during which to relax and concentrate and oftentimes reflect the way I’m feeling. Furthermore, cooking and baking provide me with endless opportunities to explore different food cultures and the countless ways people choose to approach food. I am constantly learning and expanding my own conception of food in the process. Taking familiar ingredients and finding new ways to prepare them is part of the creativity that inspires me to keep cooking and finding this recipe for pumpkin pancakes allowed me the opportunity to do just that.
Although the pumpkin has come to hold certain associations in the culinary landscape of North America, I am particularly thinking about its connection to Halloween and Thanksgiving, it is interesting to note its place in the history of Jewish food. It is an ingredient that points to the influence of Sephardic and Italian Jews when found in early Mediterranean recipes. According to Gil Marks, in the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, it was at the beginning of the sixteenth century that Italian and Sephardic Jews began selling pumpkins and in turn incorporated them into their own culinary repertoires, using them to make soups, cakes, jams, stews, and pastry fillings. Pancakes are another common recipe in which pumpkin was incorporated, with Syrians usually preferring spicy pancakes and Jews from Turkey and Greece preferring a slightly sweeter version.
I chose to make a sweet version because I was having the pancakes for breakfast and craved something that could be eaten along with some maple syrup. Although the original recipe did not call for any spices, I decided to add some cinnamon and nutmeg because they complemented the sweetness of the pumpkin so well. These pancakes are extremely simple to make, a task that is made even easier by the use of plain canned pumpkin puree. It is only a matter of mixing together the ingredients to form a smooth batter and then frying them in a skillet until they are golden brown. Unlike the light and fluffy pancakes that are often served at breakfast, these pancakes are dense and quite substantial. They are satisfying and are a nice addition to any breakfast or brunch table. They are delicious eaten plain but can also be topped with some butter and maple syrup for a perfectly indulgent start to your day.
The world of Jewish cooking is an expansive one that offers the cook much room for creativity. I hope that this recipe reminds you of that and offers you the inspiration to explore it even further.
Adapted from Faye Levy’s International Jewish Cookbook
15 ounces pumpkin puree
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
¼ - 1/3 cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
Vegetable oil, for frying
In a medium bowl, mix the flour, eggs, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg to form a thick batter. Add the pumpkin puree and mix until you have a smooth batter.
Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium heat. Drop the pumpkin mixture into the skillet by tablespoonfuls to create medium sized pancakes and fry until golden brown on each side, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Serve hot or at room temperature.