By Pascal Baudar
How do you make a yeast starter at home?
The idea of making a yeast starter is to create a solution where you increase dramatically the cell count of the yeast by feeding it with sugar before placing it into your brew. The large quantity of yeast pretty much ensures a successful fermentation.
Here are 6 steps to making your own wild yeast starter:
1. Make a sweet solution composed of around 20% sugar and 80% water. Don’t use tap water, which may contain chlorine. Honey can be used too.
2. Place the solution into a clean bottle or jar. Pasteurizing the container by placing it in boiling water for over 10 minutes is even better and will increase your chances of success, but from experience, it’s not a must. Washing with soap and water works well too.
3. Place foraged juniper berries in the container with the sugar solution.
4. You don’t want flies or unwanted bacteria to contaminate your starter, but you need to let fermentation gasses escape, so tie a clean kitchen towel, paper towel, or even better place an airlock on top if you used a bottle. For jars, you can use a regular lid and band, just don’t screw it too tightly so fermentation gasses can escape.
5. Shake the container 3 or 4 times a day. If you used a jar, screw the lid tight before shaking then unscrew a bit.
6. Around 4 to 5 days later (less in hot weather) you will notice some bubbling in the solution. Congratulations, your fermentation is active. Just in case, smell it too as added insurance. If it smells really bad, don’t use it.
7. Add some the fermenting starter into the liquid you want to ferment. I use around ¼ to 1/3 cup (60 to 70ml) of starter for one gallon of brew. If you have a recipe asking for 10 days of fermentation, started counting the days when you have an active (nicely bubbling) fermentation. It may take 1-3 days to get a fermentation going with a starter.
This recipe is from Pascal’s book The New Wildcrafted Cuisine.