The Art of Sourdough

words by: Melissa K. Norris


Simple does not equate easy. Many of us, myself included, seek the simple life because we feel there is a deeper purpose to life than “fast food” living. But there is a part of us that romanticizes the simple life.

The warm scent of freshly baked bread filling the house, glass jars of milk with cream on top from the cow, vine-ripened tomatoes in a basket from the garden with fresh basil gracing the countertop next to them in a tidy kitchen, just swept clean with a broom we made ourselves. 

If that describes your kitchen, kudos to you. We both know it will need to be swept again shortly, the hornworms are coming for your remaining tomatoes, and there’s a whole lot of dishwashing that needs to happen before the next trek out to the field to milk the cow. 

While we may think we want easy, you likely won’t find it as you venture down the path of homesteading, farming, and simple living. Before you toss this magazine down, I have one word for you—sourdough.

A sourdough starter is two basic ingredients, flour and water. 

Simple? Yes. Easy? Debatable, especially in the beginning. 

Way back when my husband and I were first married, I wanted to try my hand at sourdough. Growing up, my mom didn’t have a sourdough starter or do anything sourdough, but the rare times we ate at a restaurant or somewhere sourdough was offered, I snagged it. Once married, I noticed that whenever we went out and had the option of choosing sourdough bread or buns or rolls, that’s what my husband and I always went for, so I decided I had to try making it at home.

I found a recipe for a sourdough starter that had flour, water, sugar, and yeast, and you mixed it all up in a bowl. It instructed me to mix all the ingredients, set it aside in a bowl, and leave it for a week.

Well, as you can imagine, it grew lovely shades of different mold and ended up stinking to high heaven. My first attempt at a sourdough starter had totally failed. Do not feel bad if you haven’t had success with your sourdough starter in the past.

I’m sure our ancestors would marvel at how I didn’t know how to create a sourdough starter or bake with it, almost how today’s generation would marvel at someone who didn’t know how to operate a telephone. 

I confess I had more failures with sourdough than I care to admit. I threw in the towel and would go years before trying again, but the more I researched gut health and began to understand nutrition, I couldn’t escape the fact that the easiness of instant yeast and store-bought bread filled with additives and preservatives wasn’t the best for our bodies long term. 

Easy has a price. My health was the payment, and I was no longer willing to sacrifice it on the altar of convenience. 

While my first attempts at creating a sourdough starter had failed, I discovered it failed because I didn’t give the starter what it needed to grow and thrive. 

Sourdough is fermented, which means it has colonies of natural, wild yeast and lactobacilli bacteria.

If you’ve heard the terms “wild yeast” or “wild fermentation,” that’s what we’re doing when we make a sourdough starter. We’re creating an environment for that wild yeast already on the flour and growing our starter with the naturally occurring yeast and bacteria in our homes.

Once we understand our sourdough starter is a living thing, it’s easy to see why it doesn’t just taste good, but, like all fermented foods, it’s beneficial to our health too. Plus, the fact that it’s fermented means that it’s got natural preservatives because fermentation is basically nature’s way of preserving food.

And since that yeast and bacteria are essentially consuming the mixture of flour and water, they are pre-digesting them for us. This is good for our gut health, which is why live cultured and fermented foods of all kinds are so good for our digestive system and overall health. It also means that sourdough products are lower on the glycemic index. 

When it comes to sourdough, though, the bacteria aren’t alive when we eat it because we’re not eating our sourdough starter raw. Instead, we’re using it for baking. But when we put our flour in it or whatever grain medium we’re using (i.e., brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, gluten-free flour, etc.), it’s being pre-digested for you.

This means our bodies can get the nutrients out of it that much easier, even though we’re baking it and killing the bacteria. When we’re making our baked goods, we’re not worried about that. It’s already done the work for us.

Now that I’ve filled you in on all the basics, here’s how to start your very own sourdough starter…


To read the full story, purchase a March 2023 back issue here.


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About Melissa:

Melissa K. Norris is a 5th generation homesteader who married a city boy… but that city boy quickly became a country boy and turned into a bonafide farmer when they moved to Melissa’s family property. With their two children they believe in keeping the old ways alive. She is an author, blogger, and podcaster. Learn more by visiting:


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