“The Appalachian Tradition and Culture of Salt Rising Bread” by Genevieve Bardwell
Salt rising bread is a uniquely American bread that originated in the Appalachian region during the 1700’s. This bread tradition was passed down orally through the centuries and shared across West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Bardwell tells us how it got its name from coddling a “starter” in heated salt, to the use of chemical salts (potash and saleratus) which established a unique alkaline fermentation enabling the bread to rise. She recorded stories as told by women who made this bread for over ninety years and reveal a heritage rich in folklore as well as baking skills. She discovered a salt rising bread starter was passed among neighbors while recipes were passed down through generations. Bardwell discusses the local Los Angeles Van de Kamp bakery’s version and compares similar indigenous breads from other world regions. She demos making salt rising bread and offers a recipe.
Genevieve Bardwell lives in Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania, an Appalachian community where salt rising bread has been a part of life for over 200 years. In her quest to understand this beloved heritage bread, she has spent decades extensively researching its history, lore, and science. This quest has taken her to bread museums, bakeries, and science laboratories across the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, as well as into the kitchens of many elderly salt rising bread bakers. She started Rising Creek Bakery in 2010, in Mt. Morris, PA, where it continues to specialize in salt rising bread, shipping hundreds of loaves weekly throughout the US. Bardwell graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and earned a Master’s in Plant Pathology. She continues to conduct research on wild fermented breads and teach classes about salt rising bread.