Parks Canada Heritage Gourmet Recipes

Chilkoot Trail Sourdough Starter and Flapjacks

Try this traditional sourdough starter and delicate flapjacks.

Chilkoot Trail Sourdough Starter and Flapjacks

Origin: Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site
Region: North (Yukon)
Period: 20th Century - present
Course: Breads and Pancakes

Klondike Stampeders climbing Chilkoot Pass, Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site Photo of Klondike stampeders climbing the Chilkoot Pass
© Public Archives of Canada C-28646

The Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site commemorates the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896 to 1899. Sourdough breads and pancakes were a common food during this and other gold rushes in western North America. Since prospectors lived a nomadic life, cooking equipment was very basic. Lacking a mixing bowl, they would often make a well in their flour and mix their batter directly in the flour sack.

Their sourdough starters were often made with “wild” yeast. The prospectors would begin by making a mixture of flour and water - sometimes left over from cooking pasta - and left it uncovered to become inoculated with local yeasts and lactobacillus. As wild yeasts varied from place to place, each starter would have its own distinctive flavour.

Chilkoot Trail Sourdough Starter and Flapjacks


  • Starter
    • 1½ cups | 375 ml warm water
    • 1 package active yeast
    • 1½ cups | 375 ml all-purpose or whole wheat flour

  • Flapjacks
    • 1 batch Chilkoot Trail sourdough starter
    • 2 eggs, well beaten
    • 2 tbsp | 30 ml oil or melted butter
    • ¼ to ½ cup | 60 to 125 ml milk
    • 1 tsp | 5 ml salt
    • 1 tsp | 5 ml baking soda
    • 2 tbsp | 30 ml sugar


  • Starter
    • Put warm water into a bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top and stir in. Wait 5 minutes or until bubbling. Gradually mix in flour. Pour into a clean glass jar or crock and cover lightly. Set in a warm place for 24 hours. For a more developed flavour, allow to bubble energetically for 72 hours.

  • Flapjacks
    • Lightly combine the starter, beaten eggs, oil and enough milk to make a batter as thin or as thick as you like. Sift together the salt, soda and sugar and fold gently into batter. Let rest for 15 minutes.
    • Preheat a large, heavy skillet. Lightly grease the skillet with butter or oil. Drop the batter by spoonfuls, flipping when the batter begins to bubble.


Recipe tested by Chef David Fairbanks, Algonquin College School of Hospitality and Tourism

This recipe is adapted from the book Gold Rush Grub From Turpentine Stew to Hoochinoo by Ann Chandonnet. University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks, 2005.

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