The colors grow richer in these early fall days – even here in San Francisco, though it pales in the shadow of upstate New York’s autumnal fires. I can still sense the natural rhythm as the weather blows the golden grains on our California hills.
It is harvest time, but nowadays it can be hard to see the relevance of ensuring the winter stores. Traditionally, this was a time for reaping grains and preserving the fruits of summer. Some of us continue this work, but many of us do not.
There is however much more than seasonal harvest nostalgia, many of us are looking for a return to the lessons learned from traditional or indigenous diets. Let us then look to Jessica Prentice’s book “Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection.”
True to their personification, squirrels are clever – burying each acorn fools it into thinking its been “planted.” While the squirrel continues its gathering, the buried nut begins to release nutrients that are key to a germinating plant. In the spirit of coevolution, these nutrients are exactly what is nutritionally required by the squirrel if it hopes to survive the barrenness of winter.
We can mimic this – increasing available nutrients – through the process of sprouting or fermenting grains. The recipe – without further ado.
Take 1 tablespoon of sourdough starter and mix it together with ½ cup filtered water and 1 cup freshly ground whole wheat (or spelt) flour in a clean jar. Let this sit for 8 hours at room temperature or between 48 hours and 1 week in the refrigerator before using in the recipe. You can use it at room temperature, or cold. Each time you cook with your sourdough, reserve 1 tablespoon of starter, mix with ½ cup of water plus 1 cup of flour, and store in the fridge for the next recipe. You can keep your starter going indefinitely this way. Mine is about 15 years old.
The best way to get a good sourdough starter is from a friends or an artisanal bakery…The great thing about a real sourdough starter is that it is made up of wild yeasts – that’s what you want. Try G.E.M. Cultures for sourdough as well.
You can also make your own starter. Our hands have natural yeasts on them, so if we add the water, the flour and “get into the mix,” we have starter unique to ourselves. For more specific information, check out the new book, “The Lost Art of Real Cooking: Rediscovering the pleasures of Traditional Food One Recipe at a Time” by the Bay area’s own Ken Albala and Rosanna Nafziger.
“May we feel wonder for the gift of grain, which through dying is born again, or else gives its life to us.”
Kate is an educator, artist, gardener, and cook carrying on her family’s culinary history by following her nose. She currently resides in the San Francisco Bay area. Her web site is called Pen, Trowel and Fork.
Portions of this article reprinted from Full Moon Feast, ©2006 by Jessica Prentice, with permission from Chelsea Green Publishing (www.chelseagreen.com). All of the photos are courtesy of Kate May-Price.