Self-sufficiency and boot strapping are core themes of American culture. It’s the spirit that pervades stories of the original colonies, the industrial revolution and settling the Wild West. It’s an inherent quality to cultural ideas of success throughout our country. Over the last 40 years, symbols of success have manifested more and more into convenience services and materialism, but I see that trend slowing down. I would even say that the pendulum is rebounding with movements toward minimalism and personal sustainability.
I embrace these movements and started researching homestead food preparation and gardening during my spare time. Learning to grow and prepare food from scratch is fascinating. It’s hands-on and helps me understand the nature of what I’m eating. To be fair, I should also acknowledge that I’m partly driven by the worrisome state of the world – I want skills that will sustain my family if the crap hits the fan. While I sincerely hope that won’t happen, I have a desire to learn about self-sufficiency…just in case.
Most importantly though, I’ve reevaluated what is important to me and I long for simplification. I want less. For the items I chose to keep, I want a deeper familiarity of them. For food that means, understanding where it comes from, how it’s grown, or what it’s made of.
So I asked myself, “Where do I start?!”
After poking through the kitchen, I landed on a go-to snack – bread. How did a 1700’s woman make bread? Unlike me, she couldn’t just run to the grocery and grab fast-acting yeast, even if she was able to purchase milled flour. I went to the web and quickly found my answer. After a few experiments, I had great results and want to share with you.
Sour Dough Starter (aka homegrown yeast)
2 cups warm spring water
2 cups white flour
Add both the spring water and flour to a Mason jar and mix with a spoon. Cover with cheese cloth. Every 24 hours add ½ cup flour and approximately ½ cup warm spring water – this is called “feeding” the starter. Feed the starter for 4-8 days. Try to maintain a consistency of pancake batter. If the Mason jar becomes too full, discard excess. Feed daily if left on the counter, or if you bake less frequently, move to the fridge and feed weekly.
I tried the bread recipe linked to above with molasses, both with and without the baking powder. Delish! None of my loaves rose very high, but they did rise and tasted wonderful.
If you, are interested in colonial cooking, here are couple cookbooks I recently purchased and plan to explore and write about.