When you hear about sourdough your mind wanders off to years gone by.
You could suddenly be on the trail driving a herd of cattle to the railhead in Abilene. It’s early morning and you just got your horse saddled and bucked out and pulled back into camp for a big breakfast before you string the cattle out on the trail. You ride up to the chuck wagon and the cook whips out a pan of sourdough biscuits and gravy. You pile off and dig in.
Or you could be up in an Alaska mining camp. The sun has not yet peaked over the mountains and it’s cold outside but as you step out of your cabin you can smell the fresh-cooked flapjacks. You kick up your pace as you hustle over to the cook tent for flapjacks and molasses.
Sourdough bread, biscuits, and flapjacks have fed trappers, miners, pioneers and cowboys for centuries. Years ago, they didn’t have yeast in a package. To make bread rise they had to generate their own yeast.
What is sourdough? How do you make it? Sourdough is a home-generated yeast. There are a variety of ways to make it. In the old days they always had a batch growing and worked from that.
Today it’s passed around under the name of Friendship bread, Herman, starter, and so forth. Some families have had the same batch for years. Esther Richter gave me one that has been in her family a couple of generations.
But what if you’re new to this and you don’t have a family starter? First, let’s discuss a few different ways to make a starter. All of the below methods will work:
1. You can cheat and mix two cups of flour, lukewarm water, and one package of yeast.
2. Let a cup of milk set at room temp for a day. Then add one cup of flour, mix and let stand for a couple of more days until it starts working.
3. Boil potatoes and save the potato water. Mix it with lukewarm water and flour to form a thick batter. Let it stand for a day or two until it smells like sourdough.
SOURDOUGH FLAP JACKS
-1/2 cup starter
-1/2 cup pancake mix
-1 tbsp cooking oil
-1 cup milk
-1/2 tsp baking soda
Directions: Lightly grease skillet and drop onto griddle while batter is still rising
Katy and I used to make bread every Sunday afternoon. There are a million different recipes but here’s a couple you can start with.
TRAPPERS SOURDOUGH BREAD
-2 cups starter
-4 cups flour
-2 tbsp sugar
-1 tsp salt
-2 tbsp shortening or fat
Directions: Mix flour, salt and sugar. Pour on shortening and stir into a soft batter. Add flour if too moist or milk/water if too dry. Knead well. Break off loaf size chunks and let rise until double in size. Punch down and put in greased pans. Let rise again and bake for an hour.
-1/2 cup starter
-1/2 cup sugar
-2 tbsps shortening
-2 cups flour
-1 tsp baking powder
-2 egg yokes or 1 whole egg
-1/2 tsp nutmeg
-1/4 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/3 cup sour milk or buttermilk
Directions: Sift dry ingredients and stir in liquid. Roll out and cut. Heat oil to 390 and fry. To make a glaze, mix milk and powdered sugar.
If you’re familiar with baking bread you’ll see that you are just substituting the starter for a pack of yeast. This is how they had to do it years ago.
-As you work out of the starter, add back equal amounts of flour and warm water.
-Hot water will kill the starter.
-They tell me you can keep starter frozen indefinitely.
-If you aren’t using the starter you will have to feed it with new flour every so often or it will starve.
-Never add unused batter that contains eggs, salt etc. back into the starter batch.
-Use a glass or plastic bowl, not metal, for your starter and a loose fitting lid.
-Ideal growing conditions for yeast are 75-90 degrees.
-If you store your starter in the refridgerator, set it out three hours before using to let it reactivate. Afterwards, add flour and warm water and let it set out a few hours to grow.
-Bread takes a little longer to rise when using sourdough so allow for extra time.