Liberal Buttermilk Pancakes with Citrus-Butter

Today is the day of the famous pancake race in Olney, England and also in Liberal, Kansas. It’s an old tradition, dating back more than 550 years (at least in England).

Well of course, who doesn’t like pancakes?

But a pancake race?

Apparently, the tradition got started back in 1445 when housewives would make food like pancakes on the day before Ash Wednesday, in order to use up all the butter and eggs and other foods that weren’t allowed during Lent.

Well, as it turns out, one woman was running a little late for services and when she heard the church bells she ran out of the house, skillet and all, flipping pancakes. The next year the other women in the town mocked her by running to church with their frying pans filled with pancakes.

But apparently the Vicar thought it was humorous and a good way to bring everyone together so he decided to make it a yearly event. With a winner — the one who runs with the pan, flipping pancakes, and gets to the church first.

Move along 500 years more or less and the mayor of Liberal Kansas visits Olney, sees the race and decides this is great fun. And decides to have one back home. (According to another version though the folks in Kansas read about the race in Time Magazine and decided to make it a competition.)

So now the two “sister” towns, at least on the (Fat) Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, run a similar race (about 415 yards) and people in each place call each other to compare times.

This morning’s race in Olney was won in record time by an 18-year old newcomer, Devon Byrne. In fact, she beat out the winner in Kansas by 10.1 seconds. 

When I first read about the Pancake Race it inspired me to cook pancakes, which are one of my very favorite things to eat. I don’t eat them too often either because they’re so high-carb and all. But every once in a while one needs an indulgence right?

If you love pancakes as much as I do, make this recipe (on Pancake Day or not). I have worked on this recipe for ages, tweaking it here and there and think it is about perfect now. Yes, it calls for buttermilk, which makes the pancakes really really fluffy and tender. It’s worth buying buttermilk just for this recipe (or you can buy dry buttermilk that keeps in your cabinet for about a year). You can also use the buttermilk for lots of other delicious things like muffins and quick breads or blend it with fruit to make a terrific smoothie.

Liberal Buttermilk Pancakes with Citrus-Butter

3 tablespoons butter

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1 large egg

3 cups buttermilk

butter for frying

Citrus Butter

Melt the 3 tablespoons butter and set aside. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar into a bowl. In another bowl, mix the egg and buttermilk until well blended and uniform in color. Add the egg mixture and melted butter to the flour mixture. Stir until well blended. Melt butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and look foamy, drop the batter by the 1/4-cupful (or make larger or smaller pancakes) into the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly browned and the pancakes start to bubble on top. Flip the pancakes and cook for another minute or so until the second side is lightly browned. Serve with butter and syrup or with Citrus Butter. Makes 4-6 servings

To make the Citrus Butter:

1/4 pound butter, slightly softened

1 teaspoon confectioner’s sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel

Mix ingredients until well blended. Makes 1/2 cup