Stampeders, Sourdoughs &
over 22 years, Alaska's and the Klondike's gold fields brought tens of thousands
of prospectors from the lower "forty-eight" streaming into Alaska. Along with
the gold rush came sourdough starter, which was used as leavening for biscuits,
bread, and pancakes in the days before commercial yeast became available. Made
of a mixture of sugar, flour, water, and usually a few boiled potatoes, a little
sourdough starter was added to each batch of dough to make it light and fluffy.
Other food necessities of the "sourdoughs," the nickname given to the Alaska
gold prospectors, were beans, bacon, salt pork, lard, and coffee or tea. Most
miners' food was dull and monotonous since little food was grown in Alaska at
the time and only the basic necessities were shipped.
|"It is impossible to convey in mere words an adequate idea of the number of
mosquitoes that were always about our camp. When we baked flapjacks, we
placed a tin plate over the top of each cake to prevent the mosquitoes from
getting on them, but in spite of all our precautions, from a hundred to two
hundred of the insects would be caught on them when we turned them over.
"In making bread or biscuits we would knead the dough in a cloth bag, using
one hand in the bag and the other to hold the mouth of the bag shut so that the
insects could not get in, but in spite of this, the dough would be almost black
with bugs when it was taken out of the bag. Every cup of coffee we drank
contained many dead insects, which collected in the bottom of the cup with the
grounds. We used netting tied on our hats and gathered around our necks to
keep them away from our eyes.
"At first we were fearful of eating the insects and attempted to pick them
out of our food, but within a very short time we abandoned this plan.
Everything we ate was flavored with mosquitoes." Mad Rush
for Gold in Frozen North by Arthur Arnold Dietz, 1914.
Prospectors who lingered to become settlers
learned to adapt local ingredients and created substitutes for foods not readily
available in Alaska. They made ketchup with currants or cranberries, piecrust
with black-bear lard, butter with caribou marrow, and mincemeat with moose.
Sea-gull eggs replaced chicken eggs. With no bees in Alaska, clover and other
flowers were boiled into a syrup to produce squaw honey. Relishes were
made from kelp, and moose fat was often used in cooking.
The recipes below are from the period of Alaska's
If you have gold rush recipes and would like to see them listed here,
please contact me.