Fw: Re: hist-brewing: Kvass

Hiram Berry burningb at burningbridges.com
Sat Jul 5 18:59:00 PDT 2003

Scotti wrote:

>       Yes, but in Markham's day, the yeasts had not been selectively bread
> apart for four hundred years.  I wouldn't recommend doing that today.

All punniness aside Scotti :) , your observation makes the opposite point.
That specialization is modern!  The yeast strains diverged only in the last
few centuries: the baker's yeasts today aren't what were used for baking in
Markham's time and the brewer's yeasts today aren't either.  So using modern
strains for either activity likely won't yield a very accurate recreation.
The yeasts used IMO were the same in Markham's era or the Old Kingdom.  The
vocational specialization is reflected by the modern innovation of pure
culturing, and I suppose you could view the whole process metaphysically as
rendering asunder two sacramental elements.  Yet, the survival in folkways
of bread based beers like Gira/Kvass/Taari speak to that older unity-- 
linquistics can shift treacherously in four or five centuries as we all know
but I suspect that basic artifacts and procedures are far more stable.  It's
my feeling that we should look for the yeasts,or ones functionally
equivalent, that were used in antiquity for _both_ usages.  Otherwise, we're
not using something close to authentic for _either_ activity.

One place the yeasts are very likely to have been preserved is in sourdough
bakeries which have had continuous production since at the lastest Medieval
times and which never appropriated modern baker's strains. I don't know if
there are many of these extant even worldwide; the development of
fast-acting yeasts during the industrial revolution put these bakeries at a
tremendous economic disadvantage in nascent capitalist societies which
strongly selected for tonnage over flavor: a good sourdough can take several
_days_ before baking, while modern baking yeast might take only 20 minutes.

  But I don't have an establishment like that nearby, so the other place
where mixed strain yeasts suitable for this might be found is from wild
sources: preferably near a place where old time brewing/baking  would have
occurred.  It seems to me that just about every ecosystem will have a
primary flora acting as yeast conservator: probably date palms in Egypt,
maybe grapes elsewhere, and I'm guessing elderberries where I live (I've
often wondered about the addition of elderflowers to a lot of mead recipes-- 
they don't add any discernable flavor.  In immediate reaction to Martyn and
Owen presenting me the "unified theory of historical brewing" though, I have
an idea: it's probably a vestigial survival of how the yeast was
introduced-- right from the flowers).  Particular strains used extensively
by humans in an area ought to be prevalent, maybe even exclusive, on those
plants-- sort of an ecological snapshot of historical usage.

I've put some collection jars out in an elderberry patch to see if I can
collect some culture suitable for both baking and brewing; we'll just have
to wait and see if this works or not.   There already seems to be sponge in
one of them, after only a day and a half, so I don't think the idea of an
ecological yeast conservator is too crazy.

-- Hiram Berry

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