Clostridium Capers: The Wonders of Salt Rising Bread

Salt rising bread is a natural marvel. A bit of cornmeal, a splash of milk and a few cups of flour result in beautiful loaves of delicious bread.

While its exact origins are unknown, salt rising bread was first popular in Ireland and Scotland during the seventeenth century. Its popularity continued well into the twentieth century, especially during times of rationing and dearth, as the bread has an earthy, cheesy flavor that precludes the need for additional toppings. This cheesy flavor comes from Clostridium, the bacteria that leavens the bread.


A Loaf of Salt Rising Bread
A loaf of salt rising bread


Naturally present on coarse-grind cornmeal, Clostridium just needs some milk (or water), potatoes and salt to leaven this unique bread. And it will only cost you a $1.50 per loaf! has a fantastic salt rising bread recipe:

Amish Salt Rising Bread Recipe

2 1/2 cups potatoes, sliced
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 quart boiling water
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup warm milk
1 tablespoon shortening, melted
11 cups flour

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon salt and the cornmeal over potatoes. Add boiling water and stir until salt has dissolved. Cover and keep warm from noon to the following morning.

Drain off liquid into a large bowl. Add the baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar and 5 cups flour to the liquid. Stir until ingredients are well blended. This sponge should be the consistency of cake batter. Set mixture in a warm place, and let rise until light and full of bubbles. This requires about 1 1/2 hours.

Scald milk and cool to lukewarm. Add shortening. Add milk and remaining flour to sponge. Knead for 10 to 12 minutes and shape into loaves. Makes 3 medium-size loaves. Let rise until light – about 1 1/2 hours.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour.


Baumgarthuber, Christine. Fermented Foods: The History and Science of a Microbiological Wonder. Reaktion Books, 2021.

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