Make Your Own Yeast

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If you’ve been prepping for any length of time, you undoubtedly have several pounds of wheat berries stored away.  You may also have experimented with making your own wonderfully delicious bread.  The downside of long-term prepping and bread making is keeping active yeast on hand.  The average “best by” date on yeast is 2 years.  Once opened, it must be kept cool and dry. In a refrigerator, yeast can remain good for up to 4 months; in the freezer for 6 months.

Occasionally there are people who have had success with older yeast, but the bottom line is that store-bought yeast is for short-term. If you have store-bought yeast, stored longer than the above mentioned time frames, follow this simple test to see if it’s still active. A container of yeast that isn’t active anymore should be thrown out.

How to proof yeast

Dissolve 1 teaspoon of sugar in 1/2 C warm water from the tap. Between 110°F-115°F is most effective. The only way to really be sure about the temperature is to use a thermometer. When in doubt, the water from your faucet should be warm but NOT hot to the touch.

Stir in your dry yeast, either one 1/4 oz. packet (7g) or 2 1/4 teaspoons of granulated yeast. Most people say that the yeast should be brought to room temperature first, but I have always had good luck when using it straight from the freezer.

It only takes three or four minutes for the yeast to “wake up” and start to rise. After ten minutes, the surface of your yeast-water mixture should have a foamy top. If so, then congratulations! You have active yeast! It should be used immediately. Most recipes take into account the liquid needed to proof yeast. If yours does not, deduct 1/2 cup of liquid from your recipe if you proof the yeast with this method.

A good way to tell if your yeast has risen sufficiently is to use a 1 C measuring cup. If the yeast foam reaches the top, you’re good to go. If your yeast has an insufficient rise, it will not be any good for baking. Best to throw out the entire container.

Learn how to make your own yeast

If you can’t get to a grocery store for Fleischman’s, what’s the alternative?  Try growing your own yeast!  Here are a few methods that should fit most needs and skill levels.  Depending on the availability of the items listed below, choose one that best fits you, your region, and your personal stockpile.

Raisin / Fruit Yeast

Ingredients

  • Clean Glass jar.  (24oz. or larger) Sterilize in hot water and allow it to dry.
  • Water. Clean, filtered, or bottled is good.  Tap water can be used, depending on your local conditions. Warning:  Too much chlorine in your water, or water that is too basic, can kill the yeast.
  • Raisins or other fruit. Most fruits have traces of yeast on their skins. Note that you may not get as good of a result with fruit that has been washed and waxed.

Instructions

  1. Place three to four tablespoons of raisins in your jar.  Adding a few tablespoons of honey or sugar will facilitate the fermentation process.
  2. Fill the jar ¾ full with water.  Place the lid on the jar lightly.  Do NOT tighten the lid – you will want to allow some air to escape.
  3. Place jar at constant room temperature.  Do not allow the jar to get cold.  This will kill off the yeast and stop the process.
  4. Stir at least once a day for three to four days.
  5. When bubbles form on the top and you smell a wine-like fermentation you have yeast.  The raisins, or fruit, should be floating.
  6. Place your new yeast in the refrigerator.

Yeast from Grain/ Sourdough Starter

Yeast is already present on grain.  All you need to do is to cultivate it in a manner similar to the above instructions. Here is a basic recipe for sourdough starter.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 C unbleached all purpose flour or milled wheat berries
  • 1 C clean warm water
  • 1 sterile jar with cheesecloth or lid

Instructions

  1. Mix the flour and warm water, and keep at room temperature.
  2. After several days, the mixture will start to bubble and will begin to rise.
  3. Keep your starter in the refrigerator when not in use. Use as you would any sourdough starter.

Yeast from Potatoes

The starch in potatoes makes it another prime candidate for yeast production.

Ingredients

  • 1 unpeeled medium-sized potato
  • 4 C warm water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1-quart jar

Instructions

  1. Rinse your potato to remove dirt, but don’t scrub it too much.
  2. Cut it into pieces to facilitate cooking, then boil until cooked through.
  3. Drain, and save the water.
  4. Mash the potato and add sugar and salt.
  5. Allow mixture to cool until it is at room temperature.
  6. Add water to the potato mash until the whole mixture equals 1 quart.
  7. Cover and let sit in a warm place and allow it to ferment for several days.

Feeding the Starter

Once you have created your own yeast, you need to “feed” it regularly.   This means adding 1 cup flour and 1 cup water to the mix so that the yeast can keep growing. You will need to feed the starter daily if it is at room temperature, or weekly if it is in the fridge. If you don’t bake bread that day, you will also need to toss out one cup of the starter after feeding so that the ratios stay the same. This is an important step, and can be a great motivator to bake regularly so that none of your hard work goes to waste! Yeast starters are one thing you will not want to throw in the compost pile, as the bacteria can grow out of control and give you a very unpleasant result.

No matter which method you choose, making your own yeast is a skill that dates back thousands of years.  Continue researching the sources provided to find other ideas, methods, and tips.  Begin practicing and post your results.  Feel free to add your own ideas and advice in the comment section below.

This article, written by Right Wing Mom, was originally published in 2011. It has been updated and revised.

 

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31 thoughts on “Make Your Own Yeast”

  1. This is such a timely post! I was just thinking about this very issue a week ago…I had some sourdough starter I had dried and put into the freezer last winter (with the intention of being able to “awaken it” at a later date. (I got tired of feeding it/ and hadn’t been baking for a spell. Well, the darn stuff wasn’t viable, had to cheat and put some store bought yeast in to get the bread going.. Anyway, I am printing off your article at this very moment, to put in my resource folder. Thank you! DM

  2. I have been making my own yeast, twice in my life, the current starter is about eight years in selection. This starter is used in whole grain and bean flours, half of which has been undergone maltose conversion and hydration. Just recently, I have utilized it in juices with cane sugar, for a daily dose of biotic saccharomyces. Truly a great deal of nutritional involvement, with these cultures.

    1. Hi, I make wild yeasts from wild fruits, berries and wild herbs. I was instructed to always use 1/2 cup for each loaf of bread. I make french bread or lion house rolls a lot during the week and this has always worked :). Also, each fruit, berry, herb, etc will flavor your bread a bit different. For instance my wild grape yeast was surprisingly sweet so I use less sugar in my white/french bread. Sweet potato yeast is very sweet as well. Herb yeast will have a bit of the plants oil/flavor. Most of the time origin characteristics disappear in baking no matter where you get the yeast from. Also, don’t forget, flour and water in a lightly covered bowl, placed in your garden in spring time will pull wild yeasts from the air making an amazing yeast for baking! Happy baking.

    2. I AGREE!
      These HOW TO articles always tell us how to make a big ol’ bucket of yeasty watery mess; But I have yet to read one that will tell you HOW MUCH OF THAT YEASTY WATTERY MESS DO WE PUT IN OUR RECIPE. We understand that if you use a half of a cup of it then we are replacing a half of a cup of the liquid in the recipe. We still do not know how to equivicate dry yeast packets to this yeasty wattery mess we just made.

    3. Have you used a grain free root such as arrowroot or a but like cashews (although a legume) to make starter? If so would you please share your results?

  3. Sounds very interesting, but brings up lots of questions: Do you leave the rasins in the jar? How do you scoop out the yeast? How much do you use? Do the different varieties of hommade yeasts you show have different flavors? If so, which is best for baking bread?

  4. In the potato method everything has been boiled,therefore any yeast must have been killed. Where does the starter come from?

  5. With the fruit method, basically, it says, “Now you have yeast.” In what? The water? Do we remove the fruit and then use the 1/2 C water as stated in one of the earlier comments?

  6. Jennifer Jones

    Sorry, I’m really new at making yeasts, your method sounds so easy, but I have a few questions:
    Do I ‘Feed’ the potato starter on the second day or wait until it ferments? In the potato method, you replied yo use 1/2 c. per loaf, but do I need to strain the potato skins out?

  7. Well… This is all about fermentation… There’s no yeast on fruits – you can wash it… There’s no yeast in grains… All that happens is that the sugars start to change into alcohol… This makes bubbles you need for your bread… The more “bubbles” (yeast) you use in you dough the less time it will need to rise… There’s no need to add any sugars to the fruits! Fruits contein lots of their own sugars!
    The best way to bake a real bread is to use “yeast” made from rye flour… no other… It works best and it is used by bakers all aroud the world for ages! 😉

  8. Please, I need gluten free yeast and bread recipes. Can you help as my husband would love to have a good pizza again as well as bread that tastes good. Thank you

    1. Judy Rodacker,

      I have made a sour dough starter using equal parts brown rice flour and water. I feed it twice a day (roughly every twelve hours) 1/4 cup each flour and water. Cover the jar with a coffee filter and jar band. After a few days it will get very bubbly and rise quite a bit between feedings. At that point remove half of the starter so the ratio will stay good and use about 3/4 of a cup of it for a loaf of GF bread. You can’t use just any gf flour blend for your bread or it won’t work. I do know Pamela’s Artisan blend works great (king Arthur and bobs redmill doesn’t.
      In a bowl, add 2 1/2 cups of GF all purpose flour be sure it contains xanthum gum or some type of gum
      3/4-1 tsp salt
      2 tsp sugar or honey
      1 1/4-1 1/2 c warm water (about 100 degrees F)
      1/4 c. soft unsalted butter (not margarine)
      2 large eggs
      3/4 of starter

      Beat on medium with electric mixture for a couple of mins.
      Stir in By hand 1 additional cup of GF flour. If necessary add additional water 1 or 2 TBSP at a time until dough is a stiff paste (it should be very stiff but still be sticking to the sides)
      In a well greased loaf pan lined with parchment paper (at least the bottom) scoop batter into it being sure to press into the corners well. Shape top into rounded loaf if desired with back of wet spoon. Cover loosely with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking oil and place in warm draft free area for 3 – 8 hours until almost double in size. Bake in preheated oven at 400 for 30 mins. Turn half turn and reduce heat to 350 and bake another 30 mins. Done when tapped it sounds hollow AND internal temp reaches 200 degrees. The bread will remain a very light brown.
      PLEASE NOTE!! It’s important that your starter has been fed within the last 12 hours before you make the bread.
      Also, if you have a dough attachment to a standing mixer you can add all the flour at the beginning.
      If you want an even softer bread, you can use milk instead of water or any even substitute part of the water for heavy cream.
      How long it takes your bread to rise depends on how warm your house is and other factors. It is hard for this type of bread to over rise. I recommend making in the morning to give yourself all day until you have an idea of how long it will take.
      I only use brown rise flour with no other ingredients for my starter. Store it in frig with a lid on it if you don’t want to have to feed it every day between bread making.

        1. I like tis article, but I take way too many short cuts, yeast, flour and patience my bread lately is flat. I am assuming “GF” is Goldmedal Flour?

  9. Your husband’s problems isn’t gluten, honey. It’s brominide toxicity found in all commercial flours, pies, cakes, pizza, pasta, soda’s, citrus drinks, brominated vegetable oils, beer, etc. It will kill you overtime. Brominide also fools the body into thinking it’s iodine and throws the thyroid off. It also causes developmental and cognitive delays in children, especially in the womb. Iodine was pulled out of commercial breads and replaced with brominide back in the 70’s. Look at our children and grandchildren now. Brominide is used to make plastic for cell phones, computers, dashboards in cars, etc. and yet they’re feeding this to us and our kids. But, I bet the owners of these companies are not feeding they’re families that crap.

    1. There is no super food that will give you eternal life you’re going to die no matter what you eat.
      Worry less, enjoy more.
      You scare me.

  10. Question to Shirley, what flour do we use? I agree, bread has changed considerably since I was young. But please, I need to know where I can get these flours.

  11. Good Morning !
    I just found this post and it is very informative !
    I do have a question…
    I love the ideas of how to make different starters, but have you written a follow-up on how to use them ?
    That would be a great addition to this wonderful post !
    Happy New Year !
    Patti

  12. Betty J Stevenson

    Without trying it to find out? What happens that is so unpleasant if it gets into the compost pile (the amount discarded that isn’t used during the feeding process)

  13. Pingback: Make Your Own Yeast – Survival Mom – TheJourneyToday

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