I have to say, this is one of my more unusual recipes! And it's one of my prouder moments as a from-scratch cook. (Haha, apparently, it doesn't take much! :P )
But in my continuing quest to be more self-reliant and self sufficient I really wanted to try starting sourdough. I have been baking my own bread now for a while and one thing I can't do without is yeast. Sure, I can go to the grocery store and buy a jar of it, but what if I couldn't do that? Like a good Depression-era housewife, I need to be prepared for the possibility that I can't just go to the store and buy something. And jar yeast is something that has an expiration date; you can't buy it in bulk and store it very well.
So I decided I wanted to get some sourdough starter and give it a go. I don't know anyone nearby that had some started that they could give me, so I turned to the internet. Of course, there are lots of places that want to sell you some starter, but, cheapskate that I am, I'd rather find it for free. There are also ways to gather wild yeast from the air, but that can be hit-or-miss.
Sourdough bread is also one of those iconic foodstuffs of the American West, and since I love history I found the perfect match- a free starter kept from an 150-year old yeast that traveled the Oregon Trail (bonus points for anyone that remembers that game from elementary school!). It's available here: http://carlsfriends.net/ . All you need to do is send them a self-addressed stamped envelope and they send you about a tsp. of dried sourdough starter.
It took me about 2-3 weeks to get mine and of course I started it right away. But it was a good thing I only used half of it, because the first try didn't start. I think I must've used too hot water and burned it, or it was too cold and things never really got to fermenting. But the second time turned out to be the charm, and I have a lovely quart jar of sourdough yeast bubbling away on my countertop right now.
It even smells like sourdough! I can't wait until this weekend when I make sourdough hotcakes and biscuits!