“Did people use Natural Leavening before refrigeration?”
Natural Leavening does not have to be refrigerated. If people made leavened bread any time prior to about 1850, they used natural leavening techniques like sourdough, and they did not have refrigeration. Without the help of refrigeration to put your leavening start “on hold”, it ferments faster, earning the name sourdough.
Grandma Edna ate sourdough in the 1800’s, as a young girl, in Southern Utah. Her parents helped pioneer that area of the United States. I never met her. My dad told me about life growing up with his Mom, Edna, in Southern Utah in the 1930’s. They still had an outhouse, an old wood burning stove for cooking, and a crude system for running water to the kitchen. My father remembers Grandma’s bread leavening. This sourdough start would sit bubbling on the shelf in the kitchen. This is also known as grain fermentation. Sometimes grandma would put her potato peelings in it. She used this leavening to make bread each day. The family ate bread for supper almost every night. Broken bread was placed in a bowl, topped with fresh milk and molasses, then eaten with a spoon. Bread comprised most of their calories in that home in Southern Utah in the 1930’s. It was truly a staff that they leaned on to survive.
Another “Pioneer of the West”, born in the 19th Century, was Aunt Mina. When she was growing up, you can be sure that the people around made their own bread. The West was still being settled. Pioneers were usually poor and provisions cost more when they had to be transported cross the country. Many pioneers could not afford to buy loaves of bread or baker’s yeast even if it were available. In the earliest years of Western pioneering, neither were available. Can you imagine the amount of bread pioneers made in a lifetime? Aunt Mina gave “newly wed advice” to my Mom at a bridal shower, decades before my time, on a little recipe card: “Make homemade bread twice in a while. Homemade bread always makes a man smile.” She signed the note, “Lovingly”.