In Alaska one could find frontier cooking at its best. Rugged prospectors combined their culinary skills with those of the native Eskimos, whipping up hearty dishes of game, fish, wild plants and sourdough breads. The typical dinner of an Alaskan prospector featured such exotic delicacies as caribou, moose, rabbit and bear. Sometimes, when the fishing was good, the dinner table was graced with king crab or ruby red salmon and rainbow trout. For dessert prospectors and frontiersmen enjoyed blueberry pies and huckleberry preserves — nutritious gifts harvested from deep within the Alaskan forests.
But baked goods made from sourdough were perhaps the most treasured treats of the prospector, who guarded his bubbling pot of sourdough starter with the utmost caution. According to Mary Kellogg Sullivan, in her book The Trail of a Sourdough: Life in Alaska (1910), the term “sourdough” referred to “a miner who has spent one winter in Alaska and ‘has seen the ice go out.'” This picturesque way of describing a hardened and experienced miner’s life suggested that he lived entirely beyond the pale of civilization, so much so that he was forced to rely on bread made from fermented potatoes and flour — Alaskan sourdough.
Fred Machetanz, Sourdough (ca. 1930)
Here’s a recipe for sourdough pancakes from sourdoughbreads.com. You can purchase an authentic Alaskan (from a Yukon prospector, at that!) sourdough starter from sourdo.com. Serve your pancakes with a blueberry conserve or maple syrup.
The night before, mix well (to incorporate some air) 1 cup of sourdough starter with 1½ cups of all purpose flour and 1 cup of warm water (85°-90°). Leave at warm room temperature (70°-85°) overnight, covered well with plastic wrap.
The next morning, return 1 cup of the starter mixture to the fridge.
Then mix the remaining 1½ cups of starter with
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 Tablespoon of sugar (or more if you like)
1 Tablespoon of melted butter
¾ Teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon (generous) of baking soda
2 Tablespoons of milk
Try to have your ingredients at room temperature. This will help to make more tender pancakes.
Bake on a 400° griddle. Enjoy!
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