How to Harvest Yeast

This is something that I’ve wanted to try for a long time, and in January when my wife, Her Ladyship Kayleigh, was needing beer barm to do some baking seemed like a good time. This was all done back in January, but I only now got around to posting it.

She had some barm left over so I decided to see what I could do with it.

Sourdough was well known and used, as we see from An Anonymous Tuscan Cookery Book (late 14th early 15th century) and other sources, but there are also some recipes that call for yeast. Now I’ve always assumed they mean sourdough or barm, but in Ein sehr Künstliches und fürtrefflichs Kochbuch von allerley Speysen 1560 we see instructions on how to harvest yeast:


Beer Barm Bread (Manchet)

I know I’ve been talking about ale or beer barm bread off and on for a while now. In fact I made some out of mead barm too. And I’ve come up with a number of ways of making a medieval loaf. Today I put my money where my mouth is. I’ve got some barm from a local brewer and I’m making beer barm bread. Technically it’s ale barm bread, but that’s a modern technical difference, not one from period. In the pre-modern period it would just have been called beer barm.

First up, our recipe:

Fine Manchet. “Take halfe a bushell of fine flower twise boulted, and a gallon of faire luke warm water, almost a handful of white salt, and almost a pinte of yest, then temper all these together, without any more liquor, as hard as ye can handle it: then let it lie halfe an hower, then take it up, and make your Manchetts, and let them stande almost an hower in the oven. Memorandum, that of every bushell of meale may be made five and twentie caste of bread, and every loafe to way a pounde besyde the chesill.

The Good Huswife’s Handmaide for the Kitchen,