Stalking the Wild Yeast

Hi Mom,

Here's my horticultural riposte to your (gorgeous) lily of the valley trapunto:

The first little green tomatoes are growing on the grape tomato plant! The hot humid weather has kickstarted all my container plants. It's becoming quite the jungle on the porch, thanks to the plants from Julie this weekend, and me moving all the houseplants out there.

One of my colleagues gave me a huge plastic pot into which I can transplant the other tomato plant, in exchange for a little kickback of fruit once it is producing. Are you as surprised as I am that I'm suddenly into gardening? I want to weed, I want to water, I'm not killing things right and left. It's as if you planted little sleeping gardening cicadas in me 13 or 17 years ago, and this is the year they wake up.

Besides the cultivating, my theme for the summer so far has been things that are free. Until I find a summer job (I'm looking! I'm inquiring! I'm making phone calls!) I have a lot of free time. I'm also trying to cut expenses by doing things that are free.

Free knitting, for example, otherwise known as stash knitting. This little project is knitting with stuff that isn't even yarn. It's the ball of nylon potholder loops from my last post, (idea thanks to [of course] this book), the primary-colored, loopy-fringed Goofus to your elegant, prim trapunto Gallant.
I also recently ran out of yeast. Is there a free solution to this? I wondered aloud yesterday. The weather has been too warm and humid to not be making bread - my kitchen IS a proofing box. I thought about experimenting with leavening with salt briefly, but decided, as quaintly old-timey as salt-rising sounds, to try making my own sourdough starter. It seems a bit more reliable once it's going. Behold:

The theory of making one's own sourdough starter is simple: mix flour and water, hope you trap some interesting yeast and lacto-baccillus from the air in it. The pickier online sources advise using wholewheat flour, and bottled, non-chlorinated water, all carefully temperature-regulated. I haphazardly used the whitest of white flour, cold tap water, and initially stirred with a metal spoon (another no-no). Nevertheless, by noon today the starter was already pretty bubbly and sour-smelling, and had a thin layer of hooch on top.

Apparently it can take days for the first bubbles to appear - my starter seems to be precocious, probably thanks to the afore-mentioned incredible humidity and general aliveness of the air right now. It smells nice and sour already. These symptoms put it pretty squarely in the "barely living" category. This may sound rather dismal, but in the world of sourdough starter, barely living is slightly alive, which is what I want.


PS - did you or Dad ever make the Cabbage Kuchen from Laurel's Kitchen? I'm thinking of making it tomorrow.


Katie said...

I can't believe that plant is already popping out little green tomatoes! My tomato plants are definitely growing as well - I will have to transplant them soon. Your sourdought starter is - ahem - very creative. I hope you haven't caught any unwanted vermin in that little bacteria trap of yours. The idea of sourdough made me think of a recipe I found a while ago on one of the blogs I like to frequent. Here's the link:


I figure you have most of the ingredients on hand, or can improvise as you seem quite adept at doing. Doesn't tomato rosemary sourdough sound yummy?

Are you sticking your feet in buckets of water yet?


gwendolina said...

Katie, that recipe looks good!

Starter update - it is sour-smelling, and still nicely bubbly! I fed it this morning.

Julie said...

Gwen,such a pioneer woman you are- Katie should share with you the vintage homemaker book I gave her-
so glad I could contribute to the garden-please come again soon-we loved having you!