From the HBD Archive
From: (Michael Bergman)
Subject: some discussion from another net
Date: 1989-04-18 18:57:17 GMT

Article 2595 of

Henry of Maldon wrote asking about beer, wine and bread
yeasts. David le Casse's reply contains much of what I would
have said. Since the topic fascinates me, and my specialty
is ancient domestic technology, here's my two cents worth:

Yeasts are airborn, but they like to live on things like
fruit skins, grains and the vessels that fruit or grains
are worked in.

Grapes are fermented without added
yeast in France. Cider is fermented without added yeast
in England. Unpasteurized honey mixed with water ferments
very nicely anywhere.

What cultivated yeasts do is to reproduce conditions which
exist in a particular sector of a country, with its particular
beer or wine. Baking yeast is a cultivated descendant/variant of
a yeast that could be used for either brewing or baking.

I don't recommend trying cider without added yeast (I use
Lalvin champagne yeast these days) unless you can get
a proper cider apples mix, and press it yourself. Proper
cider apples include things like Cox's Orange Pippin. You're
looking for low acid (under 5%).
Ottawa is too far North to get the apple mix I want.
(If anyone wants to hear the whole explanation of cider making
ask me, or have a look at something like Jo Deal's book on
cider making, as a start).

I have made award winning mead (Aurelia Mead) from unpasteurized
honey, water, a few raisins and a little crab apple juice.
I have done the same with unpasteurized honey and cranberry
juice (a recipe which goes back to the neolithic.)
I do not add yeast, but control the environment very carefully.
Nature does the rest.

Wine concentrates are such that added yeast is a must (no pun intended).
If you can get hold of good local grapes (eg. Niagara, California,
New York, Texas, B.C....)
and press them yourself, by all means try without yeast. DO NOT
add sugar or dilute with water however, as this will kill the
process (you need a sufficient concentration of the good yeast
from the grape skins, to overpower any bad yeasts.)

Sourdough is made from air-borne yeasts, or from a culture of
the previous batch of bread. The Romans knew how to make a
yeast culture. Cato gives a recipe which I have tried, for
making yeast from grape must and bran. The New Testament
contains a reference to making bread with a piece from the
previous batch (a parable about the kingdom of heaven). The
Egyptians originally used the same yeast for bread and beer.
Forbes thinks the yeast came from fermenting hard bread cakes
soaked in water. (See Studies in Ancient Technology by
A. J. Forbes-it's in several volumes and in most libraries).

I have made bread from my brewing and vinting yeasts. The
mead yeast is particularly good for this. Take a cup of
mead yeast (after the second racking is best) and add a cup
of flour. Leave in a warm place and let double in bulk.
Add another cup of flour and let it do the same. Then
add another cup of water and about six cups of flour. Let this
double in bulk, then add the rest of the flour, knead, and let
rise until double in bulk. Punch down, form into loaves and
let rise at least once. Twice will give lighter loaves.
(You may add a little fat, salt and sugar before the first
kneading, but you are not obliged to.)

Cider yeast is pretty good this way. If you use beer yeast,
don't use the top yeast for ale barm, in spite of what the
old recipes say. Use the bottom yeast from the second racking,
or your bread will be very bitter, hard and not very well-risen.
(Beer yeast has changed over the years, also, the top yeast is
too hoppy--but hops are a late (Tudor) addition).

Yeast lives in old bread troughs and kneading bowls, just as it
does in old wine barrels. Once a location had a good yeast
(women were given starter cultures by their mothers when they
married), it was a good idea to keep using the same vessels
because the good yeast would be transferred.
Most of us with our modern kitchens cannot trap a good variety
of sourdough yeast. Therefore, it is better to use
Cato's method, or to develop one from your own or a friend's
brewing. You can innoculate subsequent batches of beer, mead
or cider from the previous batch. I have not tried with wine

As I believe David le Casse mentioned, cultivated strains of
yeast were not sold until the 1800's.

I highly recommend A.J. Forbes' books. Another useful book
in Anne Wilson, Food and Drink in Great Britain.
Also feel free to experiment. I've learned a lot from some
failed experiments!

Good luck

Enid Aurelia
Enid Aurelia of the Tin Isles Jennifer Bulman
Ealdormere, M.K. Ottawa, Ontario
"Usually not speaking ex cathedra"

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