Sourdough cultures have been credited with keeping the Pioneers alive as they traveled across country to start a new life in the West. They carried with them very little in supplies – accounts of flour sacks, molasses jars, and salt pork telling the tale.
I have always enjoyed reading of this time period, as I think it gives some great perspective. But you don’t have to go much further than the Little House on the Prairie series to hear how one or two meals of pancakes and salt pork a day made up a good part of the diet while traveling.
And those pancakes were often made with the sourdough starter the family carried with them. It makes sense to me. If you’re going to subsist mostly on flour products, then fermenting them first – both for nutrition and taste – makes a great deal of sense.
Back then, if a sourdough starter wasn’t given to you by a friend who had already established one, then you were going to have to make one yourself. It’s certainly not complicated, but it does take a bit of dedication, and it might surprise you a bit that we’re not just catching yeast from the surrounding air.