Period Our Ancestor's Single Cell Fungi, Bread's BFF Yeast

JPK Huson 1863

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#1
cook kitchn.jpg

One of the earthenware pots in this crowded, early kitchen, maybe on a shelf far removed from the oven's heat, would have been contained that household's indespensible yeast.

Yeast, so it's an erroneous title, really. No yeast, no bread. Or beer, mead, wine, bitters or anything fermented accidentally or on purpose.

What is really is, is " a microscopic fungus consisting of single oval cells that reproduce by budding, and are capable of converting sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide ". Yum. Scientific America states fire was the first force of nature harnessed by man, yeast the second.

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Probably without knowing the exact extent of what they were dealing dealing with, our great great great's back to whenever did know how important it was to make and keep their yeast cultures. Bread was more than a staple. It formed a base that fed families. There were no refrigerated sections in supermarkets where you bought packets of granulated yeast or handy little loafs- recipes proliferated. Potatoes seem to have been used most commonly ( browsing era recipes in periodicals and newspapers ), which sure puts more emphasis on those, too. Hops ( but you knew that ), sugar and wheat flour ( which was new to me ), also used!

Love to hear other sources, please? Big bread maker here- era recipes are awesome. They're amazing using yeast-from-scratch.

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Northern Light

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Yeast has been an integral part of our history, culinary, social, and military, both in it's present or its lacking. No yeast? No beer, no wine, no leavened bread, the staples of many diets for centuries.
 

Northern Light

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From Wiki How to do Anything:
Making Yeast Starter from Potato

This is a method of making yeast without a yeast package. This recipe is about right for a large family requiring more than one loaf for baking.
  1. aid696130-v4-728px-Make-Yeast-Step-15.jpg

    1
    Boil 1 medium potato in unsalted water until done. Drain, but save the water.

  2. aid696130-v4-728px-Make-Yeast-Step-16.jpg

    2
    Mash the potato. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar and and a pinch of salt.

  3. aid696130-v4-728px-Make-Yeast-Step-17.jpg

    3
    Cool to lukewarm. Add enough potato water to make one quart of mixture.

  4. aid696130-v4-728px-Make-Yeast-Step-18.jpg

    4
    Cover and set in a warm place. Allow to ferment.
    • Note: If the starter is not rising, you can add a package of store bought yeast to speed up the process––but––it will be just as good if allowed to ferment without the added yeast.
https://www.wikihow.com/Make-Yeast

Frankly I cannot see why you would both with this, unless you were a homesteader or similar. I might try it once just to see how it works, but I would rather spend my time differently, but that's me and I am lazy.
 

Northern Light

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Here is another recipe that is much like sour dough.

I thought that it was interesting that he made his own yeast because it was more natural and less prepared and refined than what you by at the grocery store, but had bottle upon bottle of prepared sauces etc. in his refrigerator. Hmmmmm.
 

diane

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#5
What a fascinating topic! San Francisco is famous for its distinctive sour dough bread, which has a marked tang and zip nobody else has been able to reproduce. In fact, it was rumored the Bank of America had the original starter safely locked in its deepest darkest underground chamber! The interesting thing is, San Francisco sourdough bread is in danger right now because the little buggies who make it are endangered - they reside only in the unique ecosystem of the Bay Area. Many SF bakers have said it cannot be made outside a 50 mile radius of San Francisco - and this appears to be right. If the starter is sent to LA, it will soon take on another, different flavor - because the critters in LA are different than the critters in SF. This is also true of another once unique (not so much now that some commercial entity has taken it over) of the famous San Francisco Anchor beer. It's unique tartness, thick white head and smooth after-taste was the result of no ice - hence using the cold fog to help ferment the beer. The vats would be set out on rooftops at night, uncovered - and the same little guys who made the bread so unique came and fell into the beer barrels!
 
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Frankly I cannot see why you would both with this, unless you were a homesteader or similar. I might try it once just to see how it works, but I would rather spend my time differently, but that's me and I am lazy.
Aside from being time consuming to make in the first place, back in the day you had to regularly "feed the starter" and otherwise deal with your yeast to keep it happy and healthy and on hand. If not properly tended -- or even if properly tended, if some unwanted yeast got in there while you were tending it -- it would go bad, and you'd have to start all over. The "regular" tending is just stirring it up, using some of it, and adding more flour and sugar (or other starch) to the remainder.

Those of us who fail at "maintenance" sort of tasks (things that must be done regularly, in small increments of time) would have a hard time as a cook or housewife in the 1800s. And probably as farmers and in many male careers, too, it's just that women had very few options outside of housewife. And being a housewife required a larger and more specific combination of skills back then than it does today.
 



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