It's so cool when you get to catch up with somebody from your youth and reconnect over shared interests and passions. This is what happened with myself and Mandy. We went to school together and, while we didn't necessarily travel in the same circles, we were always really friendly with each other. She was a kick-ass athlete while I was more of an art dabbler and time waster; preferring to spend my afternoons at the park with my stoner friends while Mandy was busy at soccer practice.
Fast forward 15 years. While our lifestyles are not exactly the same, our interests have more or less met in the middle. We are both active, enjoy quality time with our friends, family and spouses, love music and especially love cooking and eating delicious food. Whether we're eating “clean” or “local” or “paleo” or just eating because something is just damn good, we're always sharing our experiences with the world at large. We're both completely guilty of the food “selfies” on Instagram and recipe swapping on Facebook. Being just another couple of modern age foodies doesn't mean that our experiences are any less meaningful though, as illustrated in the following story.
I visited Mandy and her mom, Melody at Melody's adorable Central Davis home and got a lesson on what a serious tradition is! I'll let Melody take over from here with her account on her family's 150-year-old sourdough starter.....
“My first experience with sourdough hotcakes was in Montana. It was either at my grandma’s house or at my Uncle Wendell and Aunt Helen’s ranch. My father’s mother and his siblings had remained in the Pacific Northwest (Washington State, Oregon), Montana, and Idaho. Every few summers my family would make the road trip from Northern California to visit my grandmother in Montana and my aunts and uncles in the various other locations.
The original sourdough starter my family used was started over 150 years ago when my father’s family and relatives were homesteading in South Dakota. It was used on a daily basis for making hotcakes for breakfast and rolls for lunch and dinner. As time went on my grandparents had their own ranch and my grandmother prepared the meals for the ranch hands every day. The sourdough starter and the resulting products were a part of the daily diet.
Nowadays, my starter (which is from the original “mother” starter) is on a much smaller scale and is used on weekends for hotcakes or waffles. I often think about my family’s history with sourdough – especially the hard life my grandmother had, when I prepare the mother starter. The night before the planned breakfast, I take it out of the refrigerator and pour the mother into a bowl. I add flour and water to the mother and stir. The more flour and water, the larger the starter becomes.
The bowl will sit out in a warm spot throughout the night. I discovered that putting it in the oven with the light on is just the right temperature to activate the sourdough culture. In the “old” days, they would keep the sourdough starter on the warm spot of the stove- the spot kept warm by the pilot light. In the morning, the starter is usually bubbly and fragrant. In the excitement of knowing how delicious the waffles and hotcakes will be, disaster can loom. That is, you must pour some of the “mother” back into its crock for safe keeping. The starter that is left in the bowl is now the batter for the breakfast foods – all you do is add egg, bacon grease, salt, honey, and a bit of baking soda mixed in water. The last thing one wants to do is to eat the “mother”! If this happens, your starter is gone forever. My daughter Sabrina had the misfortune of eating her mother one weekend. Luckily, I was able to give her part of the mother I had and she now is back in business making her sourdough waffles.
I like to prepare sourdough hotcakes and waffles for weekend guests. Most have never heard of having sourdough pancakes and some are not sure if they would like to try. However, after their first taste, they are won over.
My parents bought a small cabin at a northeastern Sierra lake location and I spent summers eating fresh caught Kokanee trout (which is a land-locked Sockeye salmon) and sourdough hotcakes for breakfast almost every morning. I even have the original cast iron griddle my dad used for the hotcakes. One of the tricks my dad taught me was making sure I put in the tablespoon of bacon grease first to the batter. That way, when I use the tablespoon again for the honey, it slides right off the spoon! Whenever I make sourdough hotcakes and waffles, I think of my dad and know that he’s happy knowing the sourdough tradition continues to live on!”
Sourdough Hotcakes/Waffles Recipe
Mix 1 ½ C flour with approx. 1 C water and add to starter. Let sit overnight; pour back 1/2-1 C starter then add:
1 TB honey or sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 TB oil or bacon grease
¼ tsp baking soda dissolved in 1 tsp water
Mix ingredients together and then cook either in a greased waffle iron or on a hot skillet or griddle pan.