If you read my last post on “friends” you didn’t know you had (and need), you will probably have noticed the part about sprouting, soaking and souring (with sourdough) grains being one form of fermenting to get your probiotics. That may have left some of you with a lot of questions as it did me not too long ago. Traditional cooking has been around forever almost, but as it’s gone out of vogue for 2 generations it’s not necessarily easy to find people who will teach you how to do it anymore. I would highly recommend one source if you have the money for it though: GNOWFGLINS Sourdough eCourse,

I have a sourdough starter that I love, and will share, if you live near me in  Rustburg,VA! I never bother to feed it just because it is a living thing and needs to eat; I feed it because I want more of it! Like a tiny bit of yogurt makes a big batch of yogurt, or a glob of keifer grains makes a big batch of keifer, just a little bit of sourdough starter can transform some plain flour and water to a puffy, broken down batter that is very useful in many yummy recipes. Once you have this bubbly starter made, you can use it just as it is in an instant recipe that only needs a little thickening, or you can add more flour and let it work on that overnight to make a healthy bread or the like. The starter part is brainlessly easy, the bread part. . .not as much.

I have an admission to make though, I am not a baker. It takes an exacting personality to be a good baker, IMHO. I am a creative, never the same recipe type of cook and not an exacting type cook, so that doesn’t usually work well for me in baking. Actually though, sourdough is the easiest form of yeast for breads to work with I’ve been told. It raises almost no matter how warm you keep your house or not. . .it just takes longer the colder it is. If it raises too much, or too quickly, you can just punch it down and start again. I’ve had that issue because of living in the south, and not being a very attentive cook. (Then I was too lazy to punch it down and set myself back by more time, so I just cooked that overflowed mess. . .big mistake!) It also makes a very simple recipe for a bread. The basic recipe always has 3 ingredients: water, flour and salt.

Anyhow, there seem to be plenty of people online that will teach you how to take those ingredients, (or more occasionally) along with your starter, and turn out a beautiful and tasty loaf. . .I’m just not one of them. (Just make sure it is allowed to sit 8 hours to be a true sourdough that transforms the grains into a more healthy form.) I’m getting ahead of myself here though. So why should you get some starter and use it? Or why should you soak or sprout for that matter?

Sourdough improves nutrition by:

  • pre-digesting starches, making the bread more easily digestible
  • lowering insulin response/improving glucose tolerance
  • protecting Vitamin B1 from the damage of the heat of baking
  • breaking down gluten, which may result in a bread that gluten-sensitive people can eat
  • activating phytase to hydrolyze (dissolve) the phytates, thus freeing up minerals such as:
    • zinc
    • iron
    • magnesium
    • copper
    • phosphorus

  I am convinced that sourdough is THE most nutritious way to prepare grains. Sourdough rye bread is the most nutritious of them all, because it has more phytase activity and thus even fewer phytates in the finished product to bind to your minerals. I just love that the traditional “sourdough rye” turns out to be scientifically proven as the healthiest bread. Somehow our ancestors figured out all the good stuff without the benefit of labs!

 So I don’t mess with the plain soaking or sprouting, unless I can’t do a recipe well or at all with sourdough. . . Soaking overnight with sourdough starter is just another form of soaking mind you. It always needs something (usually an acid though like vinegar, lemon juice, Kombucha, whey, or milk,) added to the water and grains (or beans or nuts) to be effective, so in this case it’s just having the added benefit of making it rise as well.
The reason any seeds need this soaking process is that:
  • Grains, beans or nuts are seeds.
  • Seeds are meant to pass through the system relatively undigested so they can be planted elsewhere (think in nature with birds).
  • To make it possible for seeds to pass through undigested, there are some anti-nutrients built in to make them difficult to digest.
  • Seeds also need to be preserved until the time is right for sprouting, so they have certain compounds that stop the active enzyme activity of germination.
  • These compounds also serve to hinder active enzyme activity in your digestive system.
  • “Soaking” whole grains can make them more digestible and help your system obtain all the nutrients in the food.
(This process is recommended by Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions.)
If you aren’t soaking, sprouting or souring your whole grains, before or after they are ground, the bran and germ are actually the worst for you! Strangely, even though they have the most nutrition in them, it is only going to cause your body trouble trying to get that nutrition out of it. (Ironically, taking the bran and germ out also takes out a lot of the issues, so thus, while totally deficient of nutrients without the starter, white flour is not bad for you compared to regular unsoaked, unsprouted and nonsoured whole wheat flour. . .shocker huh! Just as the mainstream got changed over to healthy whole grain everything. . .) You will inevitably find problems from the teeth all through the gut in individuals who eat the most whole grains that are poorly processed. . .and sadly, the gut is the part of the body that is going to influence the health of the rest of your body, as can be read about in books like “Gut and psychology syndrome”; A wonderful book on the new research that is showing the “GAPs” in our healthcare system that deals with issues from the outside in. . .instead of the inside out. In other words, “we are what we eat.”

So if you are interested in sourdough baking and cooking, and you want some now, ask me for some, send away for some FREE dried starter from an ancient culture, like “Carl’s friend’s sourdough starter” dating back to the time people came over on the Oregon trail, (that’s where I got mine, address is below) or look into making some yourself with a more lengthy process.
 (USA Residents)
Send a self-addressed, stamped (45¢) #10 envelope [SASE45] to:

Oregon Trail Sourdough
P. O. Box 321
Jefferson, MD 21755 USA
Next I’ll show you a little bit of what I do with it.

I take the starter and add almost equal amounts of organic white flour and water to it. (A little more flour then water.) Some people use a starter with freshly ground flour, but I don’t have a grinder that grinds flour fine enough for my preferences yet, nor do I like the taste as much for most things. My sourdough is not at all sour the way I do it, and that’s the way I like it. If you want to keep a white starter, a whole wheat starter, and even a rye starter going in your fridge at all times, that’s up to you. For that matter, the starter flour options are endless! Just make a thick paste with a batter-like consistency with no lumps, adding at least 1 T. (but as much as you want) of the starter, and let it sit out overnight in a loosely covered glass bowl. I use cheap shower caps from WalMart to cover any size glass bowl. (One of the only things I actually buy there anymore!)

In the morning, if you haven’t used a big enough bowl you might have bit of a mess, so I’d suggest that you plan for it to double. If you are just making starter the first time, only one little glass bowl that you intend to keep covered in your fridge is needed. Once you have starter though you will want to use usually 1-4 cups of it at a time. So if that empties your starter container, just keep the leftover scrapings in the container and fill it again with a paste of flour and water. If you want 4 cups of it or more for pancakes in the morning say, you will probably need to make some in a separate bowl(s), (a large glass measuring bowl works great to keep down on the dishes) and also refill the mother bowl. You will need to let the bowls sit out overnight to work on the new flour. Then in the morning, use it for a yummy pancake breakfast, put it in the fridge for a crepe lunch, or after a leisurely breakfast, add to it for buns or pizza for supper. If I’m thinking ahead, I can make enough the night before to do pancakes, crepes AND pizza that next day. 5 minutes of prep, either at night, or after breakfast, gets me the bones of 3 planned, yummy and healthy meals. (When having company, I find that you can never have too much starter made ahead; two cups is often not enough for us.)

So if you want some of my recipes. . .keep reading:) I’ll try to get to those soon. . .we’ll see how the Spirit moves:)