I remember my granny getting all giddy one day some twenty years before she rose to that great bread basket in the sky. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure that sourdough was not a new concept to her culinary forte, but to a lady who had never driven a car, or even traveled more than 100 miles from the back-wood coastal plain Carolina farm she grew up on, it was more likely something she’d only heard of and hopelessly dreamed of one day kneading together into a ball of love, and spreading throughout the countryside to everyone she knew or may just happen to meet.
Few things in this world having to do with growing, cooking, canning, or sharing for friends and family ever escaped my grandmothers hard earned cognizance. From sunup until sundown she never sat down. Unless it was to shell peas or shuck corn she’d grown or clean fish she’d caught on the end of a hook. Those along with attending church on Sunday were the few occasions she allowed herself away from the garden or cookstove.
Once in a while, we could get her to join us at the bountiful blessing she’d labored to bestow before us on what seemed to the boy I was then, a table that had no end, nor any space on it to place another dish of culinary gold.
Most of the time, however, she would just drift along from person to person filling their tall floral designed glass with sweet iced tea.
I still remember her picking up a bowl of butter beans, or fried okra that had already made its way to the other end of the table from you in response to a ” please pass the biscuits” ritual, and bringing it back offering you more of something already filling a sizable spot on your plate she herself had filled on her last trip by.
They just don’t seem to make them like her anymore. Oh, how wonderful it would be if like the sourdough starter that she was so elated to have finally come to possess — Grandmothers could go on living with us forever.
Still, nothing takes me back to almost being there, though there are many aromatic triggers and residual fruit jar reminiscents. Like the sweet mental rendering smell of love and sourdough bread that my granny cultivated, nurtured, and shared, twenty years ago.
Though sourdough dates back to ancient Egypt, circa 1500 B.C. a date that parenthetically fits the mold and time of the Israelite Exodus according to many historians, many bread lovers of today think of San Fransisco, California, when this sweet manna comes to mind.
There is, in fact, an abundant resource of gold remaining still today in the hills of San Francisco.
It isn’t the same gold that many young men sought and fought for in wild west Victorian America upon hearing the faithful words; “Go West Young Man,” however, but, is in fact, the same surrogate Mother that nourished many of those who lived and sought for gold in 1849.
The Boudin Bakery, founded by Isidore Boudin, a Burgundy, France Master Baker’s immigrates son, bakes some of the finest sourdough bread known to the world still today. And all the while boasting that each one of the golden bulging babies that pop hot from their ovens originated from the same yeast starter that the first loaf baked in 1849 came from.. the “Mother Dough”
I don’t claim to be an expert on chemistry, or bacterial things, whether good or bad by any means. But if there is one thing I love more than eating wonderfully, sweet tasting, fresh-baked sourdough bread — it’s baking it.
Yes, that for me is the sweetest hour. Or the sweetest sour, as it were. Nonetheless, for one to be able to do just that, they must first have a good starter. And since I was too busy eating granny’s lovely finished product to ever think of inquiring of how I might one day give birth to my own, like Isidore Boudin, I set out on a quest in search of my “Mother Dough”.
I thought I would break bread and share what I found for those of you who may also like to pick a slice from the “Mother Loaf.”
You don’t have to buy the store brands though they are convenient and usable.
Experts say the best culture to start bread with comes from the indigenous area of the finished product. Though the microorganisms needed to start your own yeast starter can come from the air in your back yard, bad organisms can infiltrate your starter if not harvested correctly.
The way to assure a great original tasting bread starter exclusive to your area is to start your own starters starter — from an indigenous fruit, such as grapes.
Fruits attract local cultures from the air so you can use locally grown organic grapes or those bought at the supermarket to grow your starter as follows.
Begin with two cups of washed, slightly crushed Grapes, in a large bowl.
Then add two cups of bread flour, and two cups of warm water. Stir till mushy and smooth. Cover the bowl and sit somewhere warm for a few days—Sit the bowl I mean not yourself—unless, of course, you are tired.
— Once the starter has begun to ferment or bubble —
(May take up to 5 days depending on the environment ) — strain the grapes out and don’t forget to feed the starter. Now you are ready to bake bread.
Just google how to bake sourdough, as I’m not sure if you will be using a bread machine or a traditional oven.
Once you are ready to bake be sure to pour some starter food back into the bowl, or jar you plan to store it in the refrigerator in. Cover Top Loosely With Saran Wrap or a Cloth, NEVER TIGHTLY SEAL IT WITH A LID.
You can experiment with different sweeteners to use as food for the starter now and then, and also change the type of flour to make different types of bread, like Rye, or Pizza Dough even. It doesn’t matter what flour you feed the starter to keep it alive either, just be sure and feed it with a little flour and water every other day or so.
After use, be sure to feed the amount back to the starter bowl. Equal parts water to flour, and even a little sugar now and then if you like… never forget that your yeast starter is a living, food producing friend. You may even want to call it by its first name — I call mine “Bubbly Child” Bon Appetite !!!