Mead. Cider. Sourdough. Ginger bug. Root beer. Tej.
All of these things (and many others like them) have one thing in common: they can be wild cultured from yeast floating around in the air. My husband and I like to joke about the wild yeast just waiting to turn things into alcohol, a substance people pay so much for, but yet is wandering all around in in abundance (not in finished form, but presumably just waiting to occur).
Wild cultures of yeast have been used for…well…ever? There is a reason that people of ancient times drank primarily wine in various forms or other alcohol rather than water. Potable water was much more difficult to come by, and it was far easier to let your fruit juice turn to alcohol than to keep it from doing so – especially in hot climates where refrigeration was nonexistent.
Similar wild yeasts have been used to promote and culture bread for thousands of years. Some cultures of yeast for bread are touted to be kept alive for hundreds of years.
I can’t claim hundreds of years age for it, but I finally cultivated a wild yeast sourdough starter successfully.
The first loaf of bread was not tall, but was fluffy and very sour. The next few loaves were a bust and I figured out it was most likely due to irregular starter feedings and using the city water. Using filtered water is definitely important because part of what make a sourdough successful is having a culture of yeast. Wild cultures of most things cannot survive in city water. Chlorine and other chemicals are added with the express purpose of stopping such cultures from persisting in the water.
I used directions that call for pineapple juice initially in the starter, but I believe the reason for this is just added sugars to the mix to help attract the yeast so that the process goes faster than if you just had water and flour. The instructions I used for the starter are from The Fresh Loaf. It took a bit of troubleshooting since I got lazy and quit using filtered water (we don’t have a filter anymore, so I was having to use jugs of water which we only get for brewing) and my starter wasn’t established enough to go in the fridge yet. May I note that Seminole Heights yeasts tastes pretty good. A few people mentioned a funky smell or taste to certain wild yeasts, but this tasted just like I’ve always imagined a perfect sourdough would. Maybe because of the difficulty of getting to the point of success, but I think I’m not entirely biased since I’ll admit that a few of the loaves were utter failures.
The loaves I made yesterday turned out perfectly. Fluffy, not too sour (though if I had let the rise happen in the fridge it would have taken longer and probably would be more sour), and a little crunch on the outside. I realized as I put some apple butter on one slice and new bellamy on another that I haven’t been eating much of my own products since I’ve been so busy selling them to other people. That apple butter was awesome. Better than I thought when I tried it after making it.
Hopefully yesterday’s loaves weren’t a fluke, but I’d like to experiment using that starter to make non-sour breads and even cake since Nourished Kitchen had an interesting recipe for one that uses a sourdough starter. Of course this adds a mill to my homestead wish list and growing grains to my gardening to do list, though Florida is not well known for its grain growing, and for good reasons, I’m sure.
Up next on my ever crushing load of hobbies and interests: my first attempts with a drop spindle and our homemade root beer.