{Family Centered Kitchen} | Yeasts of the (not-necessarily-southern) Wild

I got a request from my sister-friend Jenn {Miracoli Farm in Kentucky} to post my sourdough starter recipe and instructions, and some information on capturing wild yeast.

Sourdough is amazing.  Besides the resulting sponge for bread baking, one of the by-products – hooch – has a slew of uses in your kitchen, as you will see below.  Get comfy, this is a long post.

{Family Centered Kitchen} | Catching Yeast

For sourdough starter, all  you need is flour and water.  And in the winter, when active yeasts are more dormant, a little sugar to help your starter along is useful.  You also want a large glass jar or glazed pottery crock {cleaned out well and rinsed with screaming hot or even boiling water}.  I use my grandmother’s bean pot and it is perfect!  The cover isn’t too tight fitting, which allows the sponge to breathe.

Combine 2c. organic flour and 2c. water.  Add up to 2 T of sugar (winter time especially).  Set aside on your counter with a piece of cheesecloth over the top.  If you live in a brand new house, or a house that hasn’t been cooked in a whole lot, you may have a little more difficulty catching yeast because there isn’t as much in the air.  You can also put your crock next to your fresh fruit bowl/basket, especially if you have some thin skinned organic fruits that are local to your area or off your own land.

Next day, you can dip out some sponge to make pancakes, and feed the sponge with 1 1/2 c. each of flour and water.  Go ahead and sprinkle in a little bit more sugar if you feel like your sponge isn’t bubbly enough.  It eats sugars.  Keep it on the counter and feed your sponge for another 2-3 days.  Then you can store it in your fridge.  Make sure that at least once a week you are pouring your sponge into a glean glass mixing bowl and giving your crock a good scrub.  Then return your sponge to the crock and pop it back into the fridge.

Whatever you remove to use for recipes, replace, or you’ll run out.  Often, life gets busy and you wind up with an over abundance of sponge because you’ve kept feeding the little critter.  This is a good time to share with a friend or neighbour.  Dip a cup or two out into a clean sanitized jar with a pretty fabric lid cover!

{Family Centered Kitchen} | Catching Yeast

You may find that you get a layer of beery liquid on the top  of your sponge {may be dark or light}.  That’s hooch.  You can stir it into the sponge, or you can ladle or pour it off.  Stirring it back in will intensify the flavour of your sourdough, so it is completely up to you.  If you decide to stir it in, I recommend only doing that once or twice.  After that, you may find that the flavour is too intense, even unpleasant.  If you decide to pour it off, save it!  You can use it for soaking grains and flours, veggies, and meats.  You can actually drink it {I’m not a fan}, or you can collect it and harvest the yeast to brew your own beer.  Basically, what you have is a wort, which is the little sibling of beer.

To collect wild yeasts using your hooch:

Place the hooch in a sanitized container – you can use a short, fat jelly jar {wide mouthed variety} or a bowl or a petri dish (if you’re feeling all mad-scientist).  Some folks like to make a gelatin medium by boiling the hooch and adding gelatin powder.  That could be fun with the kids, but isn’t imperative.  Just leave your hooch out for a few days, in a cool location in the house {near your fruit bowl or bread box is perfect}, or out in the yard in high summer where it won’t be disturbed and in proximity to a fruit bearing plant {grapes or brambles are great!}.  You can also plop a few {local} organic thin-skinned fruits right into the hooch or set them on top of your gelatin medium.  What you’re looking for is a pale beige or white substance, smooth and pasty.  If you get something fluffy or spikey, you’ve got mold.  Discard and start again.  Mold is NOT good here.

Using a sanitized spoon {or a nutpick in the case of a gelatin medium}, scoop up that yeast and place it in a fresh jar of hooch.  In a few days, it will get cloudy and you will get a layer of foam on the top {krausen}.  Then you will notice a precipitate gathering on the bottom of the jar.  That is yeast cake.  If you really want to, you can do a change of hooch and go again, but that’s all you.

Pour off the hooch and save your yeast cake in the fridge, in a covered glass container or a zippy bag.  And use as you would for breads.

1 oz. fresh yeast = 1 packet or 2 1/4 tsp dry yeast.

{Family Centered Kitchen} | Catching Yeast

For Brewing:

You can use a pint of this yeasty hooch to make a gallon of beer.  A litre will make 5 gallons of beer.

I haven’t any beer recipes for you, I’m afraid, but you can get them all over the web, especially from the Homebrewers Association.  Lots of recipe sharing going on over there on their forums.  I do, however know some places for you to get your hops. 🙂