Last weekend I took some much needed time off and spent it celebrating la Fête de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste with my family up in my hometown of Saint-Eustache, Quebec. This is akin to the 4th of July for French Canadians. Saint-Eustache was founded in 1770 and boasts two famous historical sites: the church and the buckwheat water mill.
The church gained notoriety for its significance during the battle of the Lower Canada Rebellion on December 14th, 1837. After rebelling against the English following multiple failures at political reform, seventy rebels were shot or burnt alive inside the church while the English bombarded its facade. The English then pillaged the city and burnt the majority of the city to the ground. Many see the rebellion of the Patriotes Canadiens as an example of what could have happened in the United States had the American Revolutionary War failed.
By Vincent Poirier (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Every June 24th the entire province gathers to celebrate our independence and express our gratitude for those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Now the second famous historical site in Saint-Eustache is the moulin Légaré. It was built in 1762 and has been in constant operation since then. In fact, it’s the oldest functional water-powered mill in North America. The mill, to this day, produces about 40 tons of wheat and buckwheat flour annually!
What’s buckwheat and how do I use it?
Contrary to popular belief, buckwheat is NOT a grain. It just has grain-like seeds which are milled into a flour. That being said, buckwheat flour is gluten-free and has many trace minerals as well as vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, niacin, folate, thiamine, and choline. Moreover, you will find 4 grams of soluble fiber, 8 grams of protein, and 15% of your daily iron requirements in 1/3 of a cup of buckwheat flour. Needless to say buckwheat is very healthy and should be part of your diet.
In Quebec, we use buckwheat in our traditional cooking. This is probably because we have a shorter growing season. Buckwheat likes cold weather, acidic and low fertility soil.
One of the most popular ways to use buckwheat flour is to make pancakes. We call them galettes de sarrasin. Essentially it’s a thin pancake, more like a Parisian crêpe. It’s cooked on a sizzling hot cast iron pan and then drizzled with molasses or maple syrup. But really you can dress it with almost anything: swiss cheese, a fried egg, bechamel, etc. Sweet or savory, whatever you fancy.
Buckwheat Pancake – Galette de sarrasin
Adapted from Recettes de la famille Légaré
2 cups of buckwheat flour
1 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of salt
2 cups of water
- In a large bowl, whisk together the water, buckwheat flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Heat a cast iron pan on medium heat. When hot, add about 1/2 tsp of butter. If you want to be ultra traditional, use lard.
- Ladle a spoonful of batter onto the sizzling hot pan. Flip the pancake once you see holes forming but only for a few seconds. Serve immediately.