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Stampeders, Sourdoughs & Chechakos Recipes


For 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 gold strikes.  If you have gold rush recipes and would like to see them listed here, please contact me.