Backbone of The Wild Wild West
I haven’t got much money
I don’t like to make a show
But when it comes to real good friends
I love to share my ‘dough’
-By Hal ‘Lucky Luke’ Lucas
Some of you may remember passing round Alaskan Sourdough Starters to your friends and family along with your own yarn of how you came to possess such a precious, delicious, practical and ancient culture. Here is a version I discovered on a scrap of paper mixed in with my grandmother’s recipes:
This starter originated from the Sour Doughs of Alaska in early gold rush days, and has been handed down from igloo to ice-box to electric refrigerator and propagated through friendship channels. The original sample was brought from the Yukon. It was smuggled out by a successful miner who found the original in a deserted miner’s cabin on Sour Dough Creek; he in turn, shared his secret with the Captain of a four-master sailing vessel. The Captain gave a sample to the mayor of San Francisco. From him it was stolen by the mayor’s cook who in turn sold ‘starts’ to wealthy Spanish Grandees. My sister in San Jose got her ‘start’ through connections from a hermit who lives back of Mt. Hamilton.
(You may pass this along to your friends, but be sure to add your own flavor to the above story.)
This recipe followed the above yarn:
Sour Dough Hot Cakes
Serves 2 to 3 people
Do this at night:
- Take 2 cups of sifted flour and add
- 1 c milk and one of warm water more or less
Mix in your sourdough starter to thickness similarly to hot cake batter. Cover with oiled paper and set over night in a warm place; (on top of the pilot burner is a good place.)
And in the Morning…
- First take out a starter, two or three tablespoons full and put away in refrigerator to use as a starter the next time.
- 2 Tablespoons sugar,
- 2 Tablespoons oil, bacon drippings or melted butter,
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- Fold in: 2 eggs — beaten (it isn’t necessary to beat the egg whites separately, but you can do so if you want the hot cakes extra light.)
- Cook on hot griddle, in small sizes, and serve with honey or syrup, or eat them with a little oleo. (The originals were served only with bacon fat, but if you must use butter, that will be delicious too.)
If you like these hot cakes and want to share them with your friends, don’t forget to take out two starters. Keep in refrigerator it will be good for weeks. The above recipe calling for 2 cups of flour will provide all the hot cakes 3 people can eat and more than 2 people should eat.
Sourdough has been a cornerstone for the self-sufficient pioneer–all the way back to when wheat was first harvested. In North American history old-time prospectors and pioneers, were nicknamed ‘sourdoughs,’ because they wore their precious sourdough starter in a bag inside their shirts and slept with it under the covers to keep it from freezing. Tended like a treasure, it was shared as a great gift with ‘tenderfeet’ new arrivals to the frontier. A sourdough start was a basic, a fundamental part of the beginning of permanent life in the wild west. Day-time gold pans were dinner-time bread pans. One old sourdough’s rule of thumb was:
If the starter turns orange it is not spoiled, but if it turns green, it must be discarded.
For more history of sourdough this is a great article
There are various ways to make a sourdough starter if you have no access to one, many recipes use commercial yeast but it is very easy to catch wild yeast from the air by following this simple method:
Sourdough Starter Recipe:
Place 1 cup milk in a glass jar or crock and leave it overnight. In the morning, stir in 1 cup whole wheat flour. Cover with cheesecloth or linen and place outside to catch wild yeast for several hours. Place in a warm, draft free spot for 2 to 5 days (about 80 degrees), depending on how long it takes to bubble and sour. If it gets dry stir in just enough water to get it back to its original consistency. Once it smells fresh and sour and is bubbling it is ready to use.
Each time you use your starter, save some of it and replenish with equal amounts of flour and milk. Leave at room temperature overnight or until it is full of bubbles, then cover and store in the refrigerator. It is good to maintain about one and a half cups of starter. Don’t forget to do this — I keep forgetting and it is so annoying! Especially as I prefer to use raw milk.
This is a great site with tons of interesting sourdough recipes including chocolate cake and brownies! Yum.
Herman starters are another type of starter that uses commercial yeast and sugar. They are often used for making fruit cakes or other delicious cakes. This starter isn’t high maintenance and can be frozen if it is getting too old. There are several Herman starter recipes on the above site, but I particularly liked this one to make a Honey and Whole Wheat Herman Starter. I’m gonna try it as soon as I get me some yeast, and I will have my own Honey Herman to tend to, and who will nourish my soul.
These sourdough blueberry hot-cakes from the barefootkitchenwitch.com sound and look fantastic as well, got my juices going. The best way to eat sourdough hot-cakes is with friends and hot off the griddle.
One last interesting tidbit from those rough-neck ole tough frontier folk…
Trappers not only considered sourdough their “staff of life” for the hot cakes, waffles, muffins and bread it made; but they also used it for tanning hides!