She’s bubbly, cultured, and – a bit sour — but “Stella” provides food for many.
She’s three-years-old and lives in a jar.
Stella is a sourdough starter.
Jodi Kay, a Revelstoke local, looks after Stella. Feeding her flour, water and using Stella to make sourdough bread almost every day.
Kay’s husband is originally from France and when he arrived in Canada he said the country had no good bread. So Kay started to make her own.
“In France, they have a culture of bread. There’s no need to bake bread as there is so much good bread for cheap prices,” says Kay.
Sourdough is a fermented food. Fermentation in cooking has been around for ages. For example, Ancient Greeks made “Garum”, a fermented sauce from fish. During fermentation organic compounds, such as sugar and starch, is converted into alcohol or acids, such as lactic acid. According to some health studies, fermentation can provide many health benefits, such as improving the microbe in the gut, which can help the body’s immune system.
|Meet Stella – the Sourdough starter. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)|
Sourdough also helps break down grains, making them easier to digest. The dough is usually left to ferment for 20 to 40 hours, so the process can be time consuming. However, it’s a cheap way to make delicious bread.
“You can make a really good loaf of bread for under $2,” says Kay.
All you need is flour, water, and salt. And if you want to make sourdough, some starter. One of Kay’s favourite loaves is leek and turmeric.
Earlier this week, Kay taught a sourdough workshop at Dose Coffee. It was her second workshop this year and she had 15 students, with 14 on a waiting list.
“People are really excited about food in Revelstoke,” says Kay with a chuckle.
The two-hour workshop teaches how to make, shape and bake bread. And how to look after a sourdough starter.
At the end of the class, the student’s leave with some dough to bake at home and some Stella to make future sourdough products. Kay plans to have more sourdough workshops in the future.
Kay says she loves teaching people how to make bread. Previously she worked in a commercial kitchen, but had to quit. It just wasn’t personal enough.
“In a commercial kitchen, you don’t even see the people eating what you make,” says Kay.
Seeing customers eat the food is fulfilling. Making food is all about sharing says Kay.
“In a workshop like this there’s direct feedback, whether they like it or not,” says Kay as her eyes twinkled.
Yasmin Kassam, one of the students, used to live in Switzerland and came to this class for one particular reason.
“The bread culture isn’t as strong here in Canada. In Europe, they have had a longer time to prefect bread.”
“I need to learn to make my own,” says Kassam.
The following night, the Revelstoke Local Food Initiative also held a workshop on another fermented item.
In general, this has been a cultured week in Revelstoke.
Maria-Lynn Johnson has made kombucha for over two years. Kombucha is made from fermented tea, using a culture called a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture or Community of Bacteria and Yeast). A SCOBY is a community of bacteria and fungi and contains 30 different types of microbes. The SCOBY eats the caffeine in the tea and sugar, producing a sour tonic beverage that is teeming with lactic acid. It can be flavoured with fruits and juices.
Kombucha was originally made in Russia.
|A SCOBY is a community of bacteria and fungi. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)|
Johnson says making kombucha isn’t an exact science.
“It’s an art. It will turn out differently every time.”
“Whatever works for you, do it,” says Johnson.
Johnson leafs through a thick book where she keeps track of different flavouring combination that she’s tried. It’s a list of what’s worked and what hasn’t. She pauses at one entry.
She looks around at the class and says, “Hm. Interesting comment.”
Since the fermentation produces gas, the kombucha can be under a large amount of pressure. There is the odd time that it may explode.
Johnson passes around different types of kombucha’s she’s made, such as pear and cardamom, raspberry cinnamon, and plum ginger. They are bubbly, delicious and slightly alcoholic. Kombucha can have 0.3 to 3 per cent alcohol content.
“Making kombucha at home can be really personalized,” says Johnson.
You can use fruit from the garden or the woods. You can customize it to your liking.
The Revelstoke Local Food Initiative holds many classes concerning food. The next one is Sept. 30 on planting garlic and fall garden maintenance. Interested folds can sign up on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/revelstokelocalfood/