1 August 2011

Back to the Future in Rural Ontario and World-Famous Pancakes

World Famous Pancakes

On a recent trip to Ontario I travelled some of the roads around Cambridge with my sister at the helm enroute to the pretty towns of St. Jacobs and Elora. Located just north of the cities of Kitchener and Waterloo, St Jacobs has an old fashioned feel. The village has a population of around 1,400 people and is famous for its Farmers’ Market. We used to love to shop on the main street in the unique gift shops there but sadly over the years this has declined and lost a lot of its charm. It is still however a destination of choice to spend a few hours at the St. Jacobs Farmers Market on a Saturday morning. The best thing about St. Jacobs that always blows me away is their marketplaces located in the giant barn structure. They have everything from maple syrup and honey products to a meat section of rolls of summer sausage and links that are smoked over maple wood for one week then cured for two, slabs of peameal bacon and Waterloo’s local delicacy, pig tails slathered in barbecue sauce that cook up like ribs. There are good reasons to elbow your way through the crowded, narrow aisles, apple fritters, peameal bacon on a bun, but the best being Montforte artisanal sheep and goat’s milk cheeses, the chocolate and red-pepper chèvre is sinfully delicious.

 St. Jacobs is surrounded by a patchwork of fields and farms. As you wander the highways and byways watch for "slow-moving vehicle" signs, because you will be sharing the roads with Old Order Mennonite horse-drawn buggies and wagons. Today, the rural areas around St. Jacobs are populated with many Old Order Mennonite farmers who retain the religion, customs and lifestyle of their 19th century forefathers. Hand-written signs advertising a variety of things for sale from maple syrup, potatoes, brown eggs to quilts and crafts will be seen at the end of farm lanes. Roadside stands with produce and flowers will be unattended, people trust customers to leave money in the plastic containers provided, to pay for the things they buy. A visit here is like falling into a scene from Little House on the Prairie where on many farms, the family vehicle is still a horse-drawn wagon. Years ago on my first real exploration of the area, I learned to appreciate that this is very nearly a locavore’s fantasy land.

 In St. Jacobs, the Old Order Mennonites live very similar to the Amish. The Mennonites trekked from Pennsylvania in Conestoga Wagons and settled in and around St. Jacobs in the late 1700s and early 1800s, making St. Jacobs one of the original Mennonite settlements in Ontario. These delicate, quiet and private people live their lives in a traditional way and don’t care much for the conveniences of modern life like cars and electricity. You can tell the Mennonite farms by the lack of power and telephone lines running to their homes.

 I felt like paparazzi with my camera taking photos of horse drawn buggies and carts, women in bonnets and rural life trying all the while to be discreet. Travelling along the Mennonite Highway, the local nickname for Lobsinger Line, we were driving slowly, for not only will you pass several horse-drawn carriages, but nearly every farm gate will entice you with a different treat... free-range eggs, maple syrup, vegetables, cut flowers, fresh-baked pies, drug-free sausages and meats. I couldn't resist stopping at a local farm for maple syrup where a young mother and her too adorable little girls were washing their buggy. Their long skirts were muddied and wet from the effort, but on such a hot day the cooling water was surely a relief while wearing their long skirts and bonnets. I was ushered up to the house where the handcrafted furniture was threadbare and simple by today's standards. While visiting their farms, you will return to the past where everything looks like if did a hundred years ago.

But it’s time to head back to the village of St. Jacobs, for late-afternoon butter tarts and cream puffs at the Stone Crock Bakery, which also sells fruit pies, cakes and breads. Next door, the Farm Pantry carries locally famous Kountry Kitchen preserves...chili sauce, pickled beets, medley of garden vegetables, jams all made by a Mennonite woman from West Montrose where just for fun, you can swing east to drive through the Kissing Bridge, the last covered bridge in Ontario.

The maple syrup I purchased on a hot, dusty muggy day in rural Ontario is featured in todays pancakes. I was lucky enough to win a copy of "Notes From My Kitchen Table" by Gwyneth Paltrow from Dominic over at Bealleau's Kitchen, a blogging friend from "across the pond" in Lincolnshire, which takes me back to my own roots in England. This is the British marketed version of My Father's Daughter .

Of this recipe Gwenyth says, "Now if there is one image of my father that is the most "him", that is to say that encapsulates all of his elements and delivers them in one picture, it would be him over his cast-iron griddles making his world-famous pancakes.  These things have been legendary in our house for decades.  He first got the recipe out of Joy of Cooking and adapted it over and over the years to utter perfection.  The recipe below is so truthful to his pancakes that it's almost hard for me to eat them. I keep expecting him to walk into the kitchen."

Are they the best darn pancakes I have ever had? They are pretty close!

**Bruce Paltrow's World-Famous Pancakes**
recipe from Notes from My Kitchen Table by Gwyneth Paltrow

 (Remember, the batter is best if you make it the night before!)
  • 1 1/2 cups (350 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons (75 g) sugar
  • 1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs (preferably organic)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus 1/2 tsp per batch to grease pan
  • 1 1/2 cups (750 mL) buttermilk
  • About 1/2 cup (350 mL) whole milk
  • Maple syrup
1. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Whisk eggs, 3 tablespoons butter and buttermilk in another bowl. Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined. (Small lumps are fine.)

 2. Cover batter and let rest overnight in the refrigerator.

 3. Heat a large greased griddle or large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add milk to batter until it reaches desired consistency; the more milk, the thinner and more delicate the pancakes.

 4. Working in batches of three pancakes, spoon batter onto griddle or skillet. Cook until surface of pancake is covered with bubbles, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until golden, 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Drizzle warmed maple syrup over pancakes; serve.

 Serves 6

Back to The Future

Over four years of blogging I have found many wonderful recipes to share on these pages. Some from my own kitchen, some from your creative blogs and web sites, and some from well known celebrities and chefs. I was feeling a little nostalgic and was browsing these very pages just the other day, creeping back to the very beginning in 2006 when More Than Burnt Toast was in it's infancy and know more than "knee high to grasshopper". We all have those stellar recipes from when we first started when we were lucky enough to find one comment and have maybe one reader; in my case even before I was taking photos of the dishes I prepared.

 So here are a couple of flashback recipes from the very first baby steps here at MTBT with...

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips


  1. Great post. Love the history and the beautiful photos

  2. Oh I'm so glad you've cooked from the book and particularly this recipe which sounds so good!! I love all your photos and stories of that amazing looking farmers market. It's intriguing to think these people still live that way and it's not just in the movies. Thanks for the mention. Enjoy the book and happy cooking for so many years!!

  3. Before we moved to Albany our neighbors were the Amish. They are all over Northern NY....and sometimes I really would be jealous of their peaceful, slow paced lifestyle! Your photos brought home to me.

    I will definitely try these pancakes. Especially since my mom and dad will be visiting this weekend. It will be a nice treat to share with them!

  4. Wow who would have thoguht that gwyneth paltrow's father is the guy to turn to for good pancakes!

  5. A wonderful place to visit! It is like a big leap into the past...

    Those pancakes look fantastic!



  6. wow! such an interesting place... I often wonder what if we lived a much simpler life

  7. I just had a wonderful weekend with the Amish in Pennsylvania and loved the simplicity of it all and especially all the veggies I was able to acquire.

    I, in turn, forgot my camera.

    PS Thanks for your support

  8. Those pancakes look amazing.

    Elora is such a pretty town. I haven't been there in quite a while (probably 15 years). I have fond memories of hiking from the campgrounds, through the gorge, into town and having fish and chips at the pub with a pint.

  9. Your pancakes look fluffy and just the way I like them!

  10. Lovely post Vall,love the history, pancakes and ypur blue plates!! xxxgloria

  11. Hmmmm...wonder if I'll ever be brave enough to repost old posts. Come to think of it, you were among my first regular readers, so I guess they weren't as bad as I thought. My recipes were just disorganized!

    Such glorious food and markets and countryside. This reminds me so much of my college years in Lancaster County, PA.

    Okay. I might be willing to forgive Gwyneth for her dumb barbecue turkey burger recipe.

  12. I enjoyed your trip and learning about thee Mennonite community in Ontario. The maple syrup you bought must have tasted wonderful on these pancakes. I like that the batter is made the night before.

  13. i've always been fascinated by mennonite culture--i think it's a downright refreshing way to live, although i personally wouldn't last very long. :)
    great pancakes--ol' gwyneth surprises me again and again. :)


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