Mining Camp Cornmeal Pancakes

I’ve eaten stacks of pancakes with  bacon on the side for years  .  . . boring.  So I was thrilled to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Mining Camp Cornmeal Pancakes.

The hearty giant pancakes embedded with bits of bacon are cooked in a skillet, and are cut into triangles to serve.  The pancakes were a delightful taste treat that took me back in time to the days of hungry hard-working gold and silver miners in remote locations.

The old recipe also indicated that, if preferred, smaller, more typically-sized pancakes could be cooked on a griddle.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: The Cook’s Book which is a KC Baking Powder promotional cookbook (1911)

And, here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Mining Camp Cornmeal Pancakes

  • Servings: 5 - 7
  • Difficulty: easy
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8 thin slices bacon cut into small 1/4 inch pieces

1 1/2 cups cornmeal

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup shortening

2 eggs

2  cups milk

Put the bacon  pieces in a skillet, and cook over medium heat until the bacon just begins to crisp; stir occasionally while cooking. Remove from heat and set aside. Reserve a small amount of the bacon fat to grease skillet.

In the meantime,  put cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, shortening, eggs, and milk in a mixing bowl; beat until combined.

Option 1 – Large Pancakes that are Cut into Triangles: Generously grease a skillet with bacon fat. (I used a 6 inch, cast iron skillet). Heat skillet until hot using medium heat, then spoon 3/4 inch of the batter into the pan, sprinkle with the cooked bits of bacon.  Reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook for about  3-4 minutes or until the batter is bubbly; then turn the pancake over and cook the other side. Remove from heat, and cut into triangles. Cook additional pancakes until all the batter is used.

Option 2 – Regular-sized (3 – 4 inch)  Pancakes: Heat a greased griddle until hot; then spoon or pour approximately 1/4 cup batter onto griddle for each pancake. Sprinkle bits of cooked bacon on the top of each pancake. Cook until the batter is bubbly, then flip pancake and cook the other side.

I made several ingredient adjustments when I made this recipe.  The old recipe called for 1 teaspoon salt. I didn’t use any since the bacon was salty. The old recipe also called for the use of condensed milk and water. In the mining camp far from town, it made sense to use canned condensed milk – but since I had regular milk in my refrigerator, I used substituted it for the condensed milk and water. Additionally, the batter seemed very thick, so I used a little more milk than the combined amount of condensed milk and water called for in the old recipe.

Old-fashioned Sour Milk Griddlecakes (Pancakes)

Sour milk griddle cakes recipe 2

When browsing though old books and magazines, I always keep a lookout for easy-to-make, hundred-year-old breakfast recipes. So when I saw a recipe for Sour Milk Griddlecakes in a 1915 home economics textbook, I just had to give it a try.

Of course, griddlecakes are just another name for pancakes, but somehow even the name evokes old-fashioned goodness.

The Sour Milk Griddlecakes did not disappoint. Unlike most modern recipes,  this recipe doesn’t call for any sugar, so the griddlecakes have a very delicate, slightly tangy, neutral flavor that is ready to soak up the goodness of syrups,  jams,  or other sweet toppings.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Sour Milk Griddlecakes (Pancakes)

  • Servings: 4 - 5
  • Difficulty: easy
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2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 cups milk

1 tablespoons vinegar

1 egg

Put all ingredients in a mixing bowl, beat until smooth. Heat a lightly greased griddle or skillet to a medium temperature, then pour or scoop batter onto the hot surface to make individual pancakes.  Cook until the top surface is hot and bubbly, and then flip and cook other side.

Here’s the original recipe:

Sour milk griddle cakes recipe
Source: Foods and Household Management: A Textbook of the Household Arts (1915)

This recipe is from an era when pasteurized milk was not the norm since it calls for sour milk. In the old days raw milk would sour—but still be good for cooking. Vinegar can be used to “sour” pasteurized milk, so I made that adaptation when modernizing the recipe.

Old-fashioned Sweet Potato Pancakes (Waffles)

Sweet Potato Pancakes
Sweet Potato Pancakes

When I saw a recipe in a hundred-year-old issue of National Food Magazine for sweet potato waffles, I was intrigued—but I seldom make waffles. I then wondered if the same recipe would work to make pancakes.

Well, I gave it a try, and the Sweet Potato Pancakes were awesome. The recipe called for separating the eggs, and beating the egg whites until stiff. It definitely was worth the extra effort. The pancakes were incredibly fluffy and light.

I served the pancakes with maple syrup. The vivid, yet delicate, sweet potato flavor worked perfectly with the maple syrup to create a lovely taste experience.

Sweet Potato Pancakes would be perfect for an autumn brunch. This seasonal dish will impress even your most discerning foodie friends.

Sweet Potato Pancakes (Waffles)

1 cup mashed sweet potatoes

1/2 cup flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, separated

1/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Combine the mashed sweet potatoes*, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, egg yolks, milk, and butter. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the sweet potato mixture.

To make pancakes: For each pancake, put two heaping tablespoons of the batter on a hot, lightly-greased griddle. Using the back of the spoon gently spread the batter to make a 3-inch pancake. Lightly brown on both sides. Serve with butter and honey or maple syrup.

Makes 12-15 3-inch pancakes

Note: Batter may also be used to make waffles.

*Mash cooked sweet potatoes with a fork until smooth.

Adapted from recipe in National Food Magazine (September, 1914)

Buckwheat Pancakes (Griddle Cakes)

15-year-old Helena wrote a hundred years ago today:

Monday, January 23, 1911. Here’s Monday, another school day. It’s so hard to get up awful early, when you feel nice and sleepy.

Her middle-aged grand-daughter’s comments 100 years later:

Sometimes I wish that Grandma provided more detail when she wrote. For example, I wonder what Grandma ate for breakfast.  I imagine that it was similar to what I ate two generations later when I was growing up on another farm near McEwensville—but I might be totally wrong.

Buckwheat Griddle Cakes with Current Conserve

In January we generally ate pancakes (griddle cakes) for breakfast. We often ate pancakes made from a mix, but occasionally had the more traditional buckwheat griddle cakes that I envision would have been eaten when Grandma was young.  After the pancakes were cooked I’d put maple syrup or jam on mine—but my father always put old-fashioned liverwurst on his. We only had pancakes when liverwurst was available, and that was only during the winter months when my family or a neighbor butchered a hog.


I love to go to flea markets in central Pennsylvania with my father—

One find was a promotional cookbook published by KC Baking Powder in 1911 that contains a recipe for Buckwheat Griddle Cakes. I decided to make the recipe to see if they were like the buckwheat cakes I remembered.

 KC Buckwheat Griddle Cakes

1 cup buckwheat flour

1 tablespoonful sugar

3 level teaspoons baking powder

1 ¼ cups cold water

1/3 teaspoonsful salt

Sift together, three times, the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder*; stir the water in all at once and bake immediately on a hot well-oiled griddle. Buckwheat flour calls for a generous measure of baking powder. Part milk may be used to mix the cakes but water give quite as good results.

 The Cook’s Book: KC Baking Powder (1911)

*I just stirred the ingredients together and didn’t sift anything. I’m not sure why old-time cookbook authors were obsessed with sifting.

 I was surprised how few ingredients there were, but from looking through the cookbook I realized that most recipes a hundred years ago had very few ingredients. I guess that since people cooked from scratch every day that they gravitated toward simple recipes.

After I’d cooked the griddle cakes—I poured some maple syrup on them and took a bite. They were very good though the robust taste of the buckwheat was a prominent undertone.

I then remembered that I had a jar of homemade current conserve  that a friend of my daughter’s had given me. (An aside–I think that it’s really cool how some young people care enough about what they eat to revive traditional cooking and food preservation).  I spooned a little conserve on the griddle cakes and took a bite—and the taste was awesome. The tartness of the conserve wonderfully complemented the robustness of the griddle cakes—and I almost felt like I had drifted back to Grandma’s day.