I have a secret weapon in my kitchen. It makes my daily bread taste amazing (and far more digestible than anything store-bought). As long as I take care of the starter, this weapon is an endless material. And the best part of all? It’s free for the taking. I’m talking about wild yeast — a faithful little organism that can be harnessed by anyone who takes time to get to know it.
Watch The Video
Forming a relationship with wild yeast is a declaration of independence. Once you understand how to use your own locally captured wild yeast strains, you’ll never need to go to the store to buy yeast again, and you’ll have truly unforgettable bread and brews in exchange.
For the purpose of this article, I will be describing the means, method, and maintenance of a sourdough starter; the wild yeast that’s used to bake delicious bread. For those interested in catching wild yeast to make boozy concoctions, I cannot more heartily recommend Pascal Baudar’s bookThe Wildcrafting Brewer.
Where Is Wild Yeast Found?
Defining sources of wild yeast is a bit of a nonspecific endeavor when you think about it, because wild yeasts are everywhere. They form the bloomy layer onwild grapesand blueberries. They can be extracted from pine cones, flowers, or tree leaves. Your skin is even home to different types of yeast.
Wild yeast ubiquity is a confident assurance that you, too, will be able to capture it with ease. As long as you don’t live in an autoclave, you will have wild yeast in your environment. It’s there in your kitchen. You merely need to give it a nice place to colonize and thrive.
How To Capture Wild Yeast
Related Post:How To Make Sourdough
I have done a lot of reading on the subject. Baking bread is a daily activity for me, and I have been shocked by how convoluted the process is described in print. Having made dozens of homemade starters over the years that have all produced delicious bread, I am confident that my honed-down, simple process is foolproof for anyone with the attention to see it through.
This is just one of many different methods for catching and using wild yeast, but it works for me as a busy homesteader, and it can work for you too.
- 1-quart mason jars (2)
- Non-chlorinated water
- Whole wheat flour or whole rye flour
- Chopstick/non-metal utensil
- Rubber band
- Clean washcloth or double-folded section of cheesecloth big enough to cover the mason jar
- One week of time (or less depending on the weather)
In one of the mason jars, use a chopstick to thoroughly mix 1 cup whole grain flour of your choice with 1 cup of NON-CHLORINATED water. If you have city water, this means you can’t run water from your tap straight into the mason jar. The chemicals will kill the wild yeast in your starter.
The whole grains are also important. Though you can technically make a starter with white flour (I’ve never tried it), whole grain flour offers better results as it feeds the yeast more complete nutrition.
Compost half the water and flour mix, and then add ½ cup of water and ½ cup of flour, mixing thoroughly with the chopstick and adding more flour or water as needed to regain that pancake batter thickness. What you’ve just done is reduce the yeast population by half and provided food for the yeast that remains. This food is what they’ll use to grow in strength. Cover again.
Depending on the ambient temperature of your kitchen, you may or may not start seeing little bubbles form in your starter when you stir it. There may also be a layer of clear liquid starting to form on the top.