When the cool winds signaled the beginning of a new season, Mother’s thoughts always turned to baking her mouth-watering Sourdough creations.
She had a jar of ‘starter’ that she kept in the pantry. She’d often scoop some of the mixture out to add to her recipes, and it gave them a distinct, classic, sourdough flavour. Every week, without fail, Mother ‘fed’ the starter, by adding more flour, milk, and sugar.
A Jar of History
Each baker’s sourdough may have years of history, as the original batch is fed and re-fed each week, to keep it active. Sourdough creates a very individual taste, unique to each baker, depending on how often the starter is re-fed, including rest-times, air temperatures, and humidity.
Sourdough goes back many centuries, and became popular in Western Canada, back in the days of the gold rush, in the Klondike. Conventional leavenings, like yeast and baking soda, were not very reliable in some of the harsh conditions faced by the prospectors.
Miners and pioneer settlers often carried a small pouch of starter with them, so that they could bake bread in their less than ideal camps and shelters.
Mother used sourdough in place of yeast in many of her recipes, and it gave the food a wonderful, rich, flavour. Sometimes she shared a little container of starter, along with some of her prize-winning recipes, with the local women in DeWitt’s Corners, Glen Tay, and Christie Lake.
In addition to feeding the sourdough each week, some of the starter needed to be scooped from the jar, or the mixture would bubble up, and overflow. This seldom happened at the old farmhouse, where Mother baked almost daily.
Make the sourdough starter at least two days ahead, and don’t forget to feed it once a week!
Mother’s Sourdough Starter
(feed at least once a week to keep active)
2 c all purpose flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 c warm water
Mix in a non-metallic bowl
Cover with a tea towel and let stand at room temperature for two days
This becomes a spongy, bubbly mass, and develops a yeasty aroma
Refrigerate if desired, but not necessary, keeping the jar covered
Use starter for sourdough recipes
Once a Week: Add to the starter –
1 c flour
1 c milk
1/4 c sugar
Add to the starter, and stir well.
Be prepared to use it often, or if you want to stop using it for a while, cover, freeze, then thaw, and feed again when you want to resume. Do not use for 24 hours after thawing.
Sourdough Biscuits (Dad’s favourite!)
1 c sourdough (starter)
2 tsp baking powder
1 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c vegetable oil
1/2 tsp baking soda
Mix well (until it comes away from the bowl)
Flour the board, and knead 12 times
Roll, and cut into biscuits
Allow to stand 15-30 minutes
Bake in middle of oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes
(Raisins may be added)
For more sourdough recipes:
Sourdough Pancakes, Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls, Sourdough Cheese Rolls, Sourdough Donuts, Sourdough Light Cake, Sourdough Coffee Cake, Sourdough Chocolate Cake, Sourdough Strudel Cake:
“Recipes and Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen” ISBN 978-0-9877026-09
(available in local book stores, and online)
An excerpt from the story, “Mother’s Farmhouse Sourdough”, in “Lanark County Collection: Winding Our Way Down Memory Lane”
“Inside the pages of this book, Stafford-Wilson shares some homespun goodness with one of her mother’s famous recipes. So famous, she said, that her mother was a red ribbon winner at the Perth Fair. The writer remembers: “There was something peculiar in the pantry … in a glass jar that seemed to have a life of its own,”
Laurie Weir, “Perth Courier”,Sept. 7, 2020, Book review for Lanark County Collection