“Little House” Pioneer Pancakes

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!

Print Version

14 thoughts on ““Little House” Pioneer Pancakes

  1. Sarah says:

    I love this post. Not only do the pancakes look awesome, but I so enjoyed those books as well. I’ll have to reread them!

    How’s Boston? I’m SO ready for Spring in Vermont. We’ll have to plan a get-together soon!

    • Aimee says:

      Hi Sarah! The books are such classics! I’ve been picking up copies of the ones I had (the yellow paperbacks) when I seem at thrift stores. Someday I want to make it out to some of the LIW historical sites out in South Dakota. Really nerd it up. 🙂

      Boston is still entirely too cold, as I am sure is Vermont! Spring can’t come soon enough! I’d love a get together – let’s try and plan something when the weather improves!

  2. mollyparr says:

    My sister is a children’s librarian — well, she’s more focused on young adult at this point — but I know the “Little House” books are some of her favorites. Thank you so much for pointing me in the direction of this cookbook. I don’t think I’ll even wait for her birthday to get this for her as a present.

    • Aimee says:

      Hi Molly! Oh, I bet she will love it! It’s so much more than recipes – it has excerpts from the book, illustrations, and historical background on the how’s and why’s of the recipes.

      I worked in my college library when I was a student and when the night shifts dragged I used to go up to the Kids/YA section for the Education students and grab a Little House book. They passed the time beautifully…still do!

  3. Megan says:

    I love your turtle pancake man!! The maple syrup part always sticks with me. I remember trying it as a kid. I’d run out with a pan and collect snow and then pour maple syrup over it and freeze it and eat it.

  4. Aimee says:

    You guys are so kind to my turtle pancake man. We both thank you. I wish I had thought to photograph the disasters….next time!

  5. Sarah says:

    I just flipped through that book recently too, though I didn’t make anything out of it. I know this will make you squeamish, but I always remember the bit about butchering the hog and the girls eating the pig’s tail on a skewer!

    • Aimee says:

      Yes, I do remember that part. Haha. Won’t be trying that recipe any time soon! Maybe your Nana has a pig’s tail recipe of some kind….?

  6. Louisa says:

    Wow. How had I not heard of the Little House Cookbook before?! I was obsessed with these books growing up! Still love them to death, and seriously enjoyed watching reruns of the TV series (and still do whenever I catch them!) I’m definitely getting this book, and I love your pancakes… adorable little pancake/turtle guy.

    I too want to get out and visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder historical sites one day 🙂

    • Aimee says:

      Thank you, Louisa!! The LH cookbook is a lot of fun – and I am glad to know I am not the only one that loves the series. Thanks for visiting! 🙂

  7. A Boston Food Diary says:

    Oh my goodness! I love everything about this! I remember learning all of those same lessons from Laura-and I remember those parts of the books being my favorite. These look delicious- and your Turtle Man is completely adorable!

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