Natural Leavens

Sourdough Starter Crock

Sourdough Starter Crock

By Cat, June 2011 (Crock, right, by Ronny H.; Photo by Cat)

The best known of natural leavens is Sourdough, but there are others that have different microbe complexes, and produce a different taste and texture in the bread.

Sourdough Starter

For sourdough, the wild yeast (Sacchraromyces exiges or S. exiges) is the dominant culture, with lacto-bacteria that produce lactic acid, maintaining a desirable pH for the yeast to work. The wild yeast lives in and on the grain/flour, so is already present when you add the water to make a starter, and when you mix up the ingredients to make the bread.

There are many varieties of the S. exiges yeast – each type of grain and each community or neighborhood will have at least one unique variety accustomed to thriving in that environment and on that grain..

See Sourdough Introduction for more about this leaven.

Salt-Rising Starter

Salt-Rising bread (1) is a similar bread method to sourdough, but uses a different bug for the starter.  It is important to note that all starter cultures contain a mixture of bugs working in a symbiotic relationship; in the case of sourdough, the wild yeast dominates the mix, whereas in salt-rise, a bacterium (Clostridium perfringens or C. perfringens) dominates the mix.  The dominant species determines the taste and texture of the resulting dough and bread.

The use of salt in salt-rising bread inhibits growth of the natural yeasts present in the flour, so that the bacteria can dominate.

What is salt-rising bread? is the first in a series of videos on Salt rising bread. After each video are links to take you to the next step in the series. [NOTE: since I originally wrote this article, those links are no longer available on the same page. Doing a search on YouTube (3) will display all the segments.]

I have never experimented with this culture.

Natural Yeast Starter

Natural yeast starter is typically made from fruit like raisins, grapes, plums; the best of these have a ‘bloom’ on the surface of the fruit’s skin that is actually a yeast. Or it can be made from potatoes. The idea is to cultivate enough yeast for bread-making, by encouraging this fruit yeast to grow and multiply in added flour. A portion of the yeast is set aside for the next starter.

Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, PhD. (4), has a recipe for Natural Yeast Bread. It includes instructions for making the yeast using unwashed grapes, rye flour and water. The recipe makes 5 cups of natural yeast; 4 cups are used for the first loaf of bread; the remaining cup is saved in fridge or freezer for the next batch of starter.

Ready Nutrition’s 3 ways to naturally make yeast provides three recipes for natural yeast: #1 from the grain; #2 from potatoes, and #3 from fruit. (5)

See also video from Daily English Show: How to make natural yeast starter (6)The demonstrator on this video is Asian, so subtitles/captions are provided in English. Three different kinds of whole fruit (raisins, grapes and a type of citrus) were used in three separate jars, first to ferment and then to work on added flour to make a yeast. Only one succeeded: the raisins. One of the comments notes that is the only jar she said “Thank you” to.

I have never experimented with this culture.


  1., What is Salt Rising Bread? (
  2. Expert Village video series, beginning with What is salt-rising bread? (;
  3. Expert Village’s Salt-Rising Bread series: ( displays all segments in the series
  4. Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, PhD
  5. Ready Nutrition: 3 ways to naturally make yeast (
  6. Daily English Show, How to Make Natural Yeast Starter (

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