True Southern Culture: Starkville Sourdough

There is a website out there that will sell you sourdough starter culture from exotic places all over the world. This concept has lead to many heated debates in the bread making community about whether this is even possible or if the minute you expose your exotic mother to the air in your kitchen it will become contaminated with local species of yeast and bacteria resulting in exactly what you would have it you had simply started a culture on your own. It seems that all of this arguing could very easily be settled by a microbiologist, but maybe it is more fun to let it remain a mystery.

It reminds me of when I was a kid at a souvenir shop where they sold bottles of “Cape Cod Air.” They probably have the same thing at every beach town. It seemed like such a necessity at the time; a way to hold on to the vacation for as long as possible before desperation set in and you pop the cork for that single whiff. My parents always talked me out of it. I realized there was nothing stopping me from capturing my own and taking it home. Turns out Cape Code air smells just like orange soda.

When I started out, I hadn’t come across any sourdough bakeries since moving to Mississippi, in fact, not may bread bakeries at all. I suspected that perhaps the climate simply did not suit the production of hearth-baked breads. My earliest bread making eduction came from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day. In it, he describes the method for creating a sourdough mother starter arrived at after much experimentation. After a couple of false starts, I learned that the most important ingredient is patience. My starter sprang to life and I nurtured it to full strength. To my surprise, I learned that the hot humid environment of Mississippi is superb for local wild yeast. My fist batches of sourdough bubbled over and poured out of their containers. In the oven, they performed like champions going out in a blaze of glory leaving behind massive holes in the airy crumb and a delicious tanginess that rivals any that I have tasted in San Francisco. This was the birth of the Starkville Sourdough!

In a way, Starkville Sourdough is a lot like the university town it calls home. The style of bread may come from France, Germany, Portugal, or San Francisco, but there will always be a bit of local culture at the heart of it!

Come get some local culture for yourself at the Starkville Community Market. See you there.