Salt rising bread: Keeping the tradition alive

Salt rising bread is a naturally fermented bread that originated in the Appalachian region during the 1700’s. Oral and written documentation of salt rising bread reveals a history originating from Kentucky, West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, Northern Virginia, and North Carolina. The natural fermentation in this bread utilizes wild bacteria instead of yeast, yielding a delicious cheese-like flavor and delicate crumb. Significant aspects about salt rising bread will be presented to highlight how pioneer women’s perseverance and ingenuity resulted in this unique culinary heritage. Theories will be discussed about how the bread got its name, and how the skill in making it was shared among family, neighbors, and eventually out west through the migration of pioneers. We will discuss how two state-funded folklore apprenticeships (Pennsylvania and West Virginia) are preserving the knowledge of how to make this bread as well as the cultural underpinnings behind this tradition. With the current national trend in Appalachian foods, we will share ideas of economic development that capitalize on this spotlight. Training professional bakers of salt rising bread is an economic win for the bakers as well as the Appalachian communities where local people want salt rising bread, but cannot find it. Discussion will also include comparisons with similar indigenous breads from other world regions.