Sourdough bread is a perfect homesteaders bread because it does not rely on commercial yeast. Instead, it is made by the fermentation of dough using naturally occurring lactobacilli and wild yeast. It has been made since at least 3700 BCE (Gaenzle, 2014).
This means that you don’t have to rely on purchasing your yeast from a store and, better than that, starting a sourdough culture is actually very easy, especially for those in damp climates in the Northwest but sourdough is made all over the world in many different forms.
The varieties of sourdough are so abundant it would be impossible to list them all here. However the most common, besides that which is known simply as “sourdough” in the United States, are rye bread, French bread, and pumpernickel.
To make your starter you will need a very large clean glass jar, organic hard red wheat flour (you can experiment with other flour later), and filtered water.
It is really essential that you don’t use your city tap water for this because most cities treat their water with chemicals that would inhibit the bacterial process of the yeast. Unless you are on a well, don’t use tap water. Even if you are on a well, it might not be a good idea, the iron, and other heavy compounds often found in some well water might lend a flavor you don’t want in your finished product.
Day 1 – Mix 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup flour. Pour into a clean mason jar and cover with a thin cloth (cheesecloth works well) and a rubber band. Place in a shady place outside (next to a tree or shrub is good). Make sure it isn’t going to rain that day.
Day 2 – Add 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup flour to the mixture. Place back outside.
Day 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 – Repeat Day 2 instructions.
Day 10 – Add 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup flour to the mixture, pour into clean jar and place in your refrigerator.
Day 11,12, 13, 14, 15, 16 – Add 1/4 cup water & 1/4 cup flour, pour into a clean jar then place back in the refrigerator.
Day 17 – It’s ready to use in recipes!
Choose your favorite recipe and get started. Sourdough really bakes well on a baking stone or in a cast iron dutch oven.
If you want to bake regularly, you will want your starter to be constantly ready for recipes. That will require feeding your starter 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup flour daily and place it in a new jar. If you just want to keep it alive, but dormant, then you should feed your starter 1/4 cup of water and 1/4 cup of flour weekly and place it in a new jar.
Do you have a sourdough recipe? Tell us about it!
Never tried baking it before? Give it a shot!
Show us your bread!
- Gaenzle, Michael (1 April 2014). “Sourdough Bread”. In Batt, Carl. Encyclopedia of Food Microbiology (2nd ed.). Academic Press. p. 309.