1800s Pancakes

Wake your family up on a chilly morning to a warm breakfast of homemade pancakes. The sour milk pancake recipe is a traditional way to use milk that has soured. The cornmeal pancakes are an old time way to save money. Cornmeal was far cheaper than flour.

Both recipes come from the “Woman’s Institute Library of Cookery, Vol. 1.”.  It was published sometime in the late 1800s or early 1900s. I could not locate the exact date. The institute published a series of books based on the cooking classes the institute taught. The series of books is available as free ebooks at Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page ). They are offered in many formats including Kindle and epub. The books are highly interesting to read and will make you want to kiss the modern appliances in your kitchen.

Both recipes are well worth a try. I modernized the directions a bit. If you do not have sour milk refer to the notes for an alternative.

Each recipe will serve approximately 6.

Sour Milk Pancakes


  • 2 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 2 cups of sour milk (not thick)
  • 1 egg


Use a whisk to mix the flour, salt, soda and sugar together in a large bowl. Beat the egg well in a cup or mug and add it along with the sour milk to the dry ingredients. Beat the mixture well. Add some extra milk or water if it is too thick to pour from a spoon.

Heat a griddle or frying pan. Lightly grease the pan with a very little shortening or bacon grease. Use a brush. (Cooks in the 1800s used to rub a bacon slice over the griddle to grease it.) The pan is ready when a small drop of batter sizzles.

Use a large spoon and pour the batter from the tip onto the hot greased pan so the cake is round. When the top of the pancake is covered with bubbles turn it over to cook the other side. The middle of the pancake will poof up and then fall. That indicates it is done but lift an edge to check how brown the bottom side is.

Serve the pancakes hot with butter, syrups, applesauce, apple butter, thickened fruit, honey, jams and jellies.


Old Fashioned Cornmeal Pancakes


  • ½ cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 ½ cup boiling water
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 5 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon melted fat


Put the water in a sauce pan and bring it to a boil over high heat.  Stir the cornmeal into the boiling water, boil 5 minutes and pour it into a heat proof bowl. Add the milk to the cornmeal, this will cool the mixture.

Use a whisk and mix the dry ingredients in another bowl. Add to the cornmeal mixture. Beat the egg well in a cup or mug and add it to the mixture. Stir in the melted fat.

Cook the pancakes on a greased griddle or frying pan following the directions in the first recipe.

Serve the pancakes hot with butter,  honey, syrups, fruits, jams and jellies. These are very good served alongside bacon or sausage for breakfast on a cold morning.


To make sour milk add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to just under 1 cup of milk. Let it sit about 10 minutes before using in the recipe.

Lightly brush the frying pan or griddle with shortening or oil or butter each time you pour in batter.

Pancakes can be kept warm in a low oven in a baking pan covered with foil. Put them in a single layer or they might stick together.

Leftover pancakes can be frozen on a tray then put in bags or wrapped in foil. Put a single layer on a sheet pan and reheat in the oven.

Cooked crumbled bacon or sausage can be added to pancake batter.

Berries, raisins, sliced bananas, finely chopped apples, chocolate chips or other things can be mixed into the batter or dropped into each pancake after pouring into the pan.


About dwittopinions

A great grandmother living in the middle of the United States. My interests include art, needlework, reading, history, politics, and cooking.
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