Some of my favorite parts of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books are her descriptions of the foods she and her family ate…how it was hunted, grown, harvested, stored, prepared, cooked, shared, and eaten.
From Laura I learned about pancake men, corn dodgers with molasses, and how to make homemade butter. I learned that peppermint stick candy was a rare Christmas treat, how a coffee grinder could be used to grind grain for bread, how to smoke meat, and that maple syrup could (and should) be eaten on clean snow.
I love this kind of history, so you can imagine my delight when I came across “The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories” by Barbara M. Walker. Peppered with historical background on the frontier kitchen, country store, and natural resources along with direct passages and illustrations from Laura’s books…this one has it all for the food history nerd.
I knew the first thing I had to try from the Little House cookbook was Ma’s Pancakes. Laura always made them sound so delicious, hot from the griddle and drizzled with maple syrup.
I tried to pay proper homage by making pancake men, but I was totally unprepared for how hard it is to make a decent one! The thin batter made all my “men” look freakish, deformed, and in one memorable instance…pregnant.
This is the best one, but it looks more like a turtle than anything else.
This batter is made up of both white and wheat flours to more closely resemble the everyday flour on the prairie. It’s an “in-between” batter for the time period. Not fancy like the ones made with heavy cream and eggs, but also not frugal like the ones made with stale breadcrumbs and sour milk.
These pancakes were just as tasty for my breakfast today as they were for the Ingalls family in the big woods, on the prairie, by the shores of Silver Lake, and on the banks of Plum Creek.
“Little House” Pioneer Pancakes
Adapted from The Little House Cookbook
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups buttermilk
1 egg, well beaten
- Place the baking soda in a cup along with 1/4 cup boiling water and set aside to dissolve.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together flours and salt.
- Add buttermilk and eggs and beat well.
- Heat 1 Tbsp. of butter in the griddle or pan (the book suggests greasing the pan with 1/4 lb. chunk of salt pork…which I declined for obvious reasons!) and stir the cooled baking soda solution into the batter with a few quick strokes.
- Pour the batter onto the griddle in whatever shape you desire, and flip with a spatula when bubble form and burst in the batter.
- Slather on more butter, add the syrup, and enjoy!