Why Sourdough Is So Important To Alaska

When the U.S. had stay-at-home orders in 2020, people found that they had more free time than they knew what to do with and that this new pandemic free time was best spent making sourdough bread (via Tufts Now). According to The Guardian, the bread-making phenomenon that gripped the nation was largely attributed to the way people saw freshly baked bread as a comfort in a tumultuous time. And due to a shortage of commercial yeast (per USA Today), the commonly used ingredient needed for making bread rise, sourdough bread — which doesn't require yeast to rise — was the perfect choice if someone was looking to pick up bread making as a pandemic hobby.

Made from bread flour, effervescent sourdough starter (a fermented mix of white flour and water), salt, and lukewarm water, sourdough bread relies on wild yeast to rise. As noted by Spoon University, when melded together, the ingredients for sourdough create a preferment, or a "mixture where wild yeast and bacteria are able to grow." This natural method of leavening is also one of the main reasons the popular bread is close to the state of Alaska's heart.

That's right, the country's northernmost state has long been acquainted with the rewarding process of baking and eating homemade sourdough bread. But why is sourdough such an Alaskan delight?

Sourdough helped Alaskans survive

Alaska is known for its frigid winters, beautiful glaciers, and endearing nickname — "The Last Frontier" (via National Geographic). That sobriquet alludes to the history of sourdough's significance to the state.

During Alaska's Klondike Gold Rush, environmental conditions were tough (via History) and, according to Atlas Obscura, the Canadian Mounted Police Force would give anyone who happened to come across their position along the Chilkoot Pass (a mountain pass that runs through Canada and Alaska) enough food to sustain themselves for a 12-month period. Among the items provided to those hoping to strike it rich was a giant bag of flour and a "sourdough pot." From that flour, plus water and wild yeast, the adventurers could create a whole host of dishes beyond just loaves of sourdough bread, including, "biscuits, pancakes, cookies, and more." Atlas Obscura also notes that sourdough continues to be an important part of Alaska's culture. The title "sourdough" is even bestowed upon seasoned Alaskans who have lived there for many years.