Over the past eight years, I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to partake in many traditional foods that I had never heard of prior to working with First Nations people, including t’sumush (herring roe), fish head soup (did they ever laugh when I accidently ate that eyeball!), oysters cooked over the fire, and one of my favourites – scow bread!
Last week when I arrived in Penelakut, I was delighted to discover that my dear friend, Elder Normalene Charlie, had decided to make her famous scow bread for the staff to enjoy. Scow is a dense bread that is usually baked in a 9x13 casserole dish. It has a delicious, crispy exterior and a dense interior, almost comparable to a biscuit. Later in the morning, as we sat down to enjoy a thick slice, slathered in butter and blackberry preserves, Normalene shared her memories of the bread with me.
“I have wonderful memories growing up and sharing time with my Auntie Ellen Crocker, who was my mother’s only sister. Ellen would frequently bake bread for us, and the catalyst for making scow bread came from the discovery of soured milk in the fridge. I was taught that it was important to never be wasteful, and so scow represented a way to use up old milk. We had an old wood stove in our home, and I remember my Auntie Ellen mixing her dough, covering it with a clean tea towel, and then sitting it beside the warm fire to rise. When Ellen made yeast bread, she would kick me and my sister out of the house, so that our rambunctiousness wouldn’t cause her proofing dough to fall! Baking scow reminds me of my late aunt, and all the love she put into the dough. Now I can pass along those same good feelings when I make my own scow bread. I will share my recipe with you to try, but you should know, we don’t measure in our family!”
Normalene’s Scow Bread
Note: when making scow bread, you use equal parts flour and liquid, with my loaves generally ranging between 4-6 cups of flour. If I’m using 4 cups of flour, I’ll take my soured milk and then add enough water to make 4 cups of liquid.
Palm full of sugar (Normy estimates 2 tbsp)
Palm full of salt (Normy estimates 2 tbsp)
4c sour milk and water combination
Combine your dry ingredients and then add the liquid. The dough should be very gooey with a good amount of stretch to it. Cover with a clean tea towel and let it rest for at least ten minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 and prepare your casserole dish: spray with cooking spray and drizzle the pan with the oil of your choice.
Scrape the dough into the casserole dish and roll it around so it is completely coated in oil. Bake for 30-45 minutes, then remove pan from oven, invert the loaf, and put back into the oven for ten more minutes. Remove loaf and wrap in clean towel until ready to serve.
In anticipation of this message, I recruited my daughter, Lauren, to make a loaf of scow so that we could share the image with you; I raise my hands to her for her assistance! We'd love to see how you make out with your first loaf -- when you bake it, please tag Culturally Committed on social media so we can see your culinary creations!