Bleenies (not blinis…BLEENIES!!)
Potato pancakes (a.k.a. latkes or whatever you know them as…) in the Schuylkill County area of the Coal Region are known as bleenies and waiting lines for them at church picnics and block parties are legendary.
Every cook has “their” way to make them, but the basic steps pretty much follow the same pattern. Here is a simple basic recipe for you to have some comfort food from “home” or to try for the first time (bet it won’t be the last time!)
In Lithuanian, these are “Blynai “. Bleenies are not the same as “blinis” which are yeasted pancakes and often served with sour cream, smoked salmon, or caviar. It is not truly understood how they became known in the Schuylkill County area as “bleenies”, but it is an educated guess that perhaps the English-speaking inhabitants of coal towns in which many Lithuanian immigrants resided heard them referred to as “Blynai” and phonetically arrived at “bleenie”.
No matter what else you call them, we call them GOOD here in Schuylkill County!
When to Salt?
Waiting to salt to taste until after frying helps to avoid drawing more moisture from the potatoes but adding salt to the freshly grated potatoes helps prevent the raw potatoes from turning brown before cooking. You choose. If your batter does get “watery” while waiting to fry, add some more flour but add carefully because too much flour makes them “pasty”.
Coal Region BleeniesCourse: Appetizer, Entree, SidesCuisine: Eastern European, Coal RegionDifficulty: Intermediate
4 medium peeled potatoes (grate on very fine grater). Russet/baking potatoes are drier than all-purpose white potatoes, meaning less water to remove.
1 medium onion (grated like the potatoes, you want the onion juices, too)
2 or 3 Tablespoons all-purpose. flour or as needed
Salt and pepper to taste (add salt to batter or sprinkle on bleenie surface while hot after frying to help eliminate drawing more water from the potatoes)
Cooking oil for frying
Condiments of your choice: apple sauce, sour cream, etc.
- Grate the potatoes and squeeze out the excess water either by hand or with a towel or cheesecloth. Work quickly to help avoid browning of the potatoes.
- Mix squeezed potatoes, eggs, grated onion and enough flour together to make a “batter” that is thick when dropped into the fry pan. (Too wet causes spattering and pancakes will not crisp and brown properly)
- Spoon about 1/4 cup batter per bleenie into the hot oil (don’t put too much oil in the pan; just enough to come up over edges of the bleenies as they fry). When they are lightly browned on one side, gently turn bleenies to fry the other side.
- Drain on paper towels before serving.
- Serve with salt or vinegar. Good with sour cream, applesauce, or pork & beans.
- Waiting to salt to taste until after frying helps to avoid drawing more moisture from the potatoes but adding salt to the freshly grated potatoes helps prevent the raw potatoes from turning brown before cooked. You choose. If your batter does get watery while waiting to fry, add some more flour but add carefully because too much flour makes them “pasty”.