Salt-rising bread doesn’t taste salty. Nor is it leavened with salt.
Those are just two of the many misconceptions about one of America’s oldest traditional breads, with a documented history stretching back more than 200 years. Made by early settlers in the Appalachians and leavened with bacteria, it is virtually unknown to American bread consumers, unlike its popular cousin, sourdough. Salt-rising bread’s unusual, odiferous fermentation process results in a dense, finely crumbed bread with a complex flavor; as remarkable, its unusual fermentation techniques seem related to ancient breads from outside North America, such as the Greek eftazymo.
Genevieve (Jenny) Bardwell lives in Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania, an Appalachian community where salt-rising bread has been a part of life for over 200 years and where she started Rising Creek Bakery in 2010. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, her work on this heritage bread has taken her to bread museums, bakeries, and laboratories in the US, Europe, and the Middle East, as well as into the kitchens of many elderly salt-rising bread bakers.
With Susan Ray Brown, she co-authored Salt Rising Bread: Recipes and Heartfelt Stories of a Nearly Lost Appalachian Tradition. You can read more about this fascinating work here. You can also try your hand at baking salt rising bread with Jenny’s recipes.