Making “suurdeeg” (sourdough or yeast) was an art, said Pat Marincowitz. “Early housewives started by peeling and grating a potato and then boiling this in about a liter of water for 10 to 20 minutes. Half a tablespoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of sugar, a few raisins, a little flour and a slice of bread was then added. The mixture was pressed down, covered and the pot was placed in a warm place, such as a cupboard, between feather pillows or eiderdowns, and left to ‘prove’ or ‘develop’ normally overnight. By the next day little bubbles had appeared on the surface and there was a yeasty aroma. The mixture was beaten and sufficient flour added to make a sticky dough. More flour was added and the dough was kneaded until the mixture no longer stuck to the hands. Again it was left in a warm place to rise, then it was ‘knocked back’ (kneaded again) divided, placed in pans, left to rise again, then baked. ‘Óu suurdeeg’ (quite literally old sour dough) was the first “dried yeast”. The housewife simply pinched off a small piece of raw, risen dough and placed this under the flour in the meal bin. When needed it was soaked in lukewarm water – to get it going again. The longevity of this yeast was never tested, but in my youth bread was constantly being made from ‘pinched-off’ dough.
Pat also remembered a fickle “potato yeast,” commonly called ‘plantjie suurdeeg’. For this water, flour, grated potato, a tablespoon of brown sugar and a cup of flour were put into a screw top jar and left in a warm place to ferment. Once this ‘plant’ was going, a little was also always held back to be ‘fed’ for the next batch.”
© Rose’s Roundup,December 2011 (No 215)
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