Yeast, the staple to any kitchen larder. In fact one of the most expensive ingredients when making home made bread. But, it doesn’t have to be so expensive. When I asked many grandma types how to make yeast they didn’t really have any recipes, they just told me to ferment flour and water and let it stand in a warm place until it was full of bubbles. A pint of this ferment is equal to one cup of old yeast in starting a new batch. And I admit, I had a hard time getting into the habit of making new yeast every 10 days as you should. As such, many a batch of yeast went bad on me. Plus, some batches in the summer would “ferment” more than others giving a really strong “sour dough” type flavor. While sour dough is always a welcomed flavor, it isn’t always what you want. So I asked even more of the older generation how to make and keep going my own yeast.
Scant? What is a scant? “Deary, just eyeball it, it is just a scant”….but still, how much is a scant? Answer, I don’t know. But I know that one woman told me one scant of liquid yeast and three full measures of flour would always turn out. So what in the heck is a “full measure”?. I couldn’t find anyone with a clear answer, so I started messing around and discovered that a scant is about half a cup. At least when you use one cup of flour as “full measure”, half a cup of liquid yeast produced good results.
Some of the ladies I interviewed told me to add sugar, others said potatoes and some even said add fresh ginger. I should tell you that old potatoes are better than new potatoes from my experience, I think it is because they hold more sugar, but don’t really know.
One thing I can say for sure is the little old lady that told me, “You must scald your jars very well” to be telling a very important step. Most of you have dishwashers, but few use the heat cycle in drying. So just give the jar you are going to store your yeast culture in a really good boiling. In fact, I always cook up two jars, one for the start that will go in the next batch and one jar that I will cook from. The reason is that each time you open up your yeast culture jar, it will lose a little bit of its strength, so keep about 1 cup of yeast mixture to start the following batch of yeast next week.
Having said that, let’s make some yeast. First you need to start with the fermented flour mixture that will become your yeast. For this, take 1 cup of flour and mix with enough water to make a really thin batter consistency. And I do mean runny. Depending upon the humidity and age of your flour, it may very well take between 2-4 cups of water or more. I make this in a large canning jar with a reusable lid. Just make sure you boil both jar and lid—-WARNING, stick around while the reusable lid is in the water, it is possible to boil it too hot and melt it, though this only happened to me once….it was a mess and I had to throw the pan away.
Set this in a warm and dark location. I love to use the cupboard above the refrigerator. Believe it or not, the refrigerator puts out a great deal of heat off the back of it while it is running, so it makes for a nice warm location. If you don’t have a cupboard above your refrigerator, just use a cardboard box.
Once you have this going, take 1 cup of the mixture and put it into a boiled jar and leave it alone, you will use this in your next batch. Keep your 1 cup stored away in the same dark and warm location you started it in.
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 3 raw potatoes (don’t take the skins off, leave them on!)
- 1-2 quarts boiling water
- 1 cup of yeast (the stuff I had you make already)
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger root
Set your water and ginger root to boil, while it is heating up, quarter your potatoes and keep them covered in cold water (they will turn a funky color if you don’t). In another bowl mix the flour, sugar and salt, remove one potato quarter at a time from the cold water and grate as fast as you can, do no stop to get every scrap, just move quickly. Mix everything with a wooden or silicone spoon (don’t use metal).
Pour the boiling water over the grater you used to grate the potatoes over the bowl with the grated potatoes and flour mixture. I normally pour a pint of the boiling water at a time. You want to do this until the mixture becomes the consistency of thin starch. The amount of water you will need to use is directly dependant upon the quality of potato and flour you began with.
If you find you ended up using all the water you boiled and it doesn’t thicken to the proper consistency, pop it into a double boiler and let it come just to the boiling point, remove from heat, run through a strainer to ensure you press all the potato through it. Allow this mixture to cool to nearly room temperature, or at very minimum cool to 80 degrees farenheit.
Once the mixture has cooled, add the yeast. Cover slightly and keep in a warm location (again on top of the refrigerator) until it turns light and is covered with a white foam.
After it begins to rise, beat it well several times as this helps it become stronger yeast. When it has risen, put it into a wide-mouthed earthen or glass jar. 12 hours later, cover tightly and keep 1 cup of it in a small glass jar do not open the 1 cup portion until ready for the next yeast-making. Always shake the yeast well before using. When using the yeast, where you store it is very important! Keep it in a very easy place to access. After many failed batches, I remembered what one woman had told me “Always take your measuring cup to your jar dear, never your jar to your measuring cup”. I haven’t had a batch fail since!
- An alternative to this recipe (and frankly my favorite version that I use only in the summer or when I have fresh hops) is to boil 1/4 cup of loose hops and steep into three pints of water. To this, again I add one teaspoon of fresh grated ginger. Though I have friends that have used ginger powder of the same measurement and state it works just as well.
I know, it might sound rather difficult, but as with anything, add it into your “10 day” chore habit and it will simply be part of what you do.