After all the packaged yeast has run dry, the ability to make your own yeast will give you a huge advantage in a post-SHTF world. Plus, who wants to live in a world without bread or beer?
What is Yeast?
Yeast is technically classified as a fungus (gross!). There are over 1,500 different species of yeast, but we’re interested in the one with the power to transform carbs into carbon dioxide and alcohols.
Saccharomyces cerevisiae has been used for thousands of years in baking and during the fermentation processes for beer and wine. We can further divide this yeast into two types:
- Baker’s yeast (alive)
- Brewer’s yeast (dead)
The live yeast used for leavening makes bread rise and imbues it with that fluffiness we all love. The dead yeast used in baking encourages the fermentation of vegetables and fruits into alcohol.
*Baker’s yeast and brewer’s yeast cannot be used interchangeably.
To make your own yeast, you’ll need sugar and salt:
- The sugar “feeds” the yeast
- The salt acts as a preservative
When the yeast “eats” the sugar, its byproducts are alcohol and carbon dioxide (in different proportions depending on the particular strain). Baker’s yeast is obviously made from strains that produce more carbon dioxide and less alcohol, vise versa for brewer’s yeast.
Keep reading to learn 5 different methods of creating your own baker’s yeast.
Making Baker’s Yeast, Method 1 (Potato Water)
There are multiple ways you can make baker’s yeast, but this is probably the easiest. Potatoes are easy to find and can be used to make a yeast that is perfect for baking bread. Plus, this type is yeast can also be stored as a “starter,” so you won’t have to start from scratch every time.
Ingredients: flour, potato water, and sugar
Cook your potatoes normally, but save 3 cups of water when they’re done. Pour that water equally into two bowls. Mix 1 tbsp. sugar and 1 cup flour into one of the bowls. Stir until the mixture feels stiff.
Cover the mixture and leave it in a warm place overnight. If it looks bubbly and smells like yeast the next morning, you’re ready to go. If not, try again with the other bowl of water.
Making Baker’s Yeast, Method 2 (Cheater)
I call this method the “cheater” because it utilizes packaged yeast and instant potato flakes. Here’s what you’ll need:
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 tbsp. instant potato flakes
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 tbsp. dried yeast
Mix your ingredients in a bowl or jar and cover loosely. Let it sit at room temperature for about 24 hours. Make sure not to cover it to tightly. The carbon dioxide being released can crack jars and blow off lids.
Leave the mixture in the fridge for 3-4 days. On the fourth day, feed the mixture another 3 tbsp. instant potato flakes, ½ cup sugar, and 1 cup water.
Next, let it sit in room temperature for another 24 hours. You can now take 1 cup of “starter” out of the mixture and use the rest to bake.
Feed your “starter” yeast with another 3 tbsp. instant potato flakes, ½ cup sugar, and 1 cup water. You will need to remove 1 cup of “starter” and feed the yeast once per day if you leave it in room temperature – or every 4 days if it’s in the fridge.
Making Baker’s Yeast, Method 3 (Potato)
This method is similar to the first, but uses an entire potato. Start by boiling the potato (leave the skin on). Mash it well and stir in 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. sugar.
When the mixture is barely warm, add in 4 cups of water. Cover the mixture and set in a warm place. If the mixture fails to ferment in a day or 2, you can always add a packet of dried yeast (or start over).
Making Baker’s Yeast, Method 4 (Grain)
This is the old, traditional method that has been used to make yeast for hundreds of years. Yeast is present in all grains. Freshly-ground grain is the best, but you can also use regular all-purpose flour (unbleached) if you don’t have the fresh stuff on hand.
Mix 1 ¼ cups flour (white or wheat) with 1 cup warm water. Pour the mixture into a jar, cover, and set in a warm place until the mixture starts to rise and bubble (will take between 1 and 7 days depending on temperature and humidity).
Remove 1 cup of “starter” per loaf of bread and add back in equal amounts of flour and water.
Making Baker’s Yeast, Method 5 (Grape)
Grapes are an easy fruit to use in making yeast, but you can really use almost any fruit as long as it’s organic and unwashed. Fruit peels and organic unpasteurized juices work too.
For this method, you’ll need:
- 3-4 cups grapes
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups unbleached wheat flour
Mash the grapes (I’ll leave it up to you whether or not you want to use your feet!) in a bowl and cover with a coffee filter or cheesecloth. Let it sit in a warm place for 3 days. When you see bubbles, you know the yeast is growing.
On the fourth or fifth day, strain the mixture. Discard pulp and peels.
Stir in 1 cup flour and let the mixture sit for 24 hours. Remove 1 cup and add another 1 cup each of water and flour. Leave that in a warm place for a few days and you will have a bubbly “starter.”
Take out 2 cups (enough for 2 loaves) and leave 1 cup behind as a “starter.” Feed the “starter” with another 1 cup each of water and flour. Leave the mixture alone for 24 hours before taking any more out.
As long as you always leave 1 cup behind and remember to feed your yeast, you’ll always have a “starter” ready to go.
Don’t be frustrated if the yeast doesn’t ferment the first time. Making your own yeast takes practice. Here are a few things to remember:
- Make sure all equipment you’re using is sterile. Stray bacteria can ruin your yeast.
- Using too much salt will dry out the yeast.
- Never put “starter” or yeast in a compost pile. The bacteria can grow out of control.
- When feeding your “starter,” throw away 1 cup of the original “starter” to keep ratios even.
- Always choose organic fruits and veggies