Alaska's Golden Spoon - Heirloom Sourdough Starter
Raven About Alaska!
(because that's what I do)
Our Sourdough's History

Sourdough starters have been a part of the fabric of Alaska for centuries. The genealogy of this heirloom starter has been carefully traced. It is a story of friendship and food, of finding treasure in the simple things of life. By bringing Alaska's Golden Spoon Heirloom Starter into your kitchen - the wonderful stories of these historical characters become a part of your history! Treasure it as they did, and share it with beloved friends and family.

Born in Pilot Point, Mary Alsworth grew up eating sourdough that her mom prepared as the local cannery cook. When she married Leon Alsworth, better known as Babe, part of her trousseau was likely some of her mom's sourdough starter.

Babe and Mary Alsworth were wed in 1944 and moved to Hardenburg Bay, which because of their famous hospitality, has been known forever-after as Port Alsworth. Stranded travelers often sought out their home - knowing there would be a warm bed and good food to keep them comfortable through the storms.


Babe was a well respected bush pilot in Interior Alaska for decades. His kind deeds endeared him to countless people who braved the remote countryside of the Lake Clark region.
Though she lived quite far from the comforts of civilization - Mary created a loving home for the 5 children she raised in Port Alsworth. They grew up eating sourdough 6 days a week, and yet no one seemed to mind!

In 1968, Babe hauled Dick Proenneke and his gear, out to the wilderness site where he hoped to build a cabin. Mary sent out food with the men, but more importantly, a smidgen of batter from her sourdough pot.

In 1968 Dick Proenneke went to the wilderness of the Lake Clark region of interior Alaska. He wanted to live simply, in partnership with nature. With the help of his friend Babe Alsworth he loaded a Cessna 180 and flew up to Twin Lakes - beginning an adventure that would constitute the rest of his life.

The book,One Man's Wilderness, was created from the diaries of Dick's first year living at Twin Lakes. Inspiring thousands, it won the National Outdoor Book Award, and has been featured on numerous PBS specials. In it he speaks often and lovingly about his sourdough - this very same sourdough starter that coats Alaska's Golden Spoon!

Two films have also been made on his amazing life, Alone in the Wilderness, and Alaska, Solitude and Silence. Find these films at your local library or buy them to enjoy over and over.


On the very first plane load of gear his essential supplies included a jar of Mary Alsworth's ageless sourdough starter. For the next thirty years he had something made of sourdough at nearly every meal - biscuits, flapjacks, cakes. These were a cherished staple of his wilderness life - so much that he even photographed his pancakes covered in wild berries, his biscuits browned to perfection in his homemade baking tin.

In the late seventies Margaret Murie, known as the Mother of the Conservation Movement, stopped by Dick's cabin. She enjoyed hotcakes made from this sourdough starter and was so impressed she added a passage about it in her book Two in the Far North! Since she is one of my heros I was thrilled to find out we shared not only a love for wilderness, but also this special sourdough.

Dick had gotten his starter from a good friend, and he in turn shared it with a good neighbor, Jerre Wills. It would prove to be a gift that truly kept giving.

In the late fifties Jerre Wills came North with $80 dollars to his name and 3 children to feed. He pinned his hopes on homesteading on the Kenai Peninsula. With some help from the Osmar family, he found his niche in Alaska - building a log home and finding various ways to keep his family fed. He turned to commercial fishing and for years chased crab, herring and salmon around the Gulf of Alaska.

In the early 60's he flew his Aeronca Champ across the Inlet and started hunting and trapping in the Lake Clark area. Eventually Dick Proenneke moved into the area, and one day shared some of the sourdough starter he had gotten from Mary Alsworth. Jerre loved "the sourdoughs" made on the wood stove in his tiny cabin on Twin Lakes, and for over 37 years has kept his sourdough pot in constant use.

At 68 Jerre still enjoys competing in Mountain Marathons - grueling races that dumbfound the rest of us. At his house Saturdays are "sourdough day" - flapjacks filled with wild cranberries he & his wife pick - though his favorite recipe remains Chocolate sourdough cake.

Looking at his picture, one has to wonder about the source of his Fountain of Youth - is it the sourdough? The chocolate? The wild salmon he eats? The wife he adores? Or is it just the man? Ever mindful of the early kindness of the Osmars, one day years ago he presented them with a cherished gift. He found a jar and gave Dean Osmar some of his precious sourdough starter.

Dean Osmar was raised on a homestead in Clam Gulch. He grew up fishing off the beaches of Cook Inlet which edged the family property.

Eventually as a young man he bought sled dogs and amazingly trained a winning Iditarod team in just 4 years. Dean has been very successful both on the sea and snow - an Iditarod champion and a modern-day salmon baron. Summers are spent fishing for wild salmon with fragile nets suspended in the glacier fed waters, and winters busy training sled dogs in the nearby Caribou Hills.

Dean can't remember a time when sourdough wasn't part of his life. Originally his dad had some supposedly from the gold rush - but that was lost in a house fire. Another batch also died, and finally an old family friend came to the rescue.

Remembering past deeds, Jerre Wills happily shared some of his special starter that he had originally carried over from Twin Lakes.

These days sourdough pancakes are still Dean's favorite breakfast to serve friends and family. He pulls out some cherished berries, the real maple syrup, and he always cooks up extras and takes them down to his 88 year old dad.

When I came to Alaska I knew immediately I would live here for the rest of my life. First working in canneries, then a cattle ranch; I started commercially fishing for Wild Alaskan salmon in 1982 and for the next 23 years made this my living.

I now give tours in Denali National Park and have the vacation rental, but my heart belongs to this heirloom yeast. This sourdough starter has now been shared around the world.

 

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