Salt-rising (or salt-risen) bread smells of nostalgia. An old-time baker once said: "When you're making it, the more it stinks, the better it's going to be."
Its distinct odor is what identifies it as salt-rising bread. Like many old-fashioned foods, it brings back fond memories for those who grew up in an era when the aroma of freshly baked bread permeated the kitchen.
Last month, we asked readers to help Peggy Sharp find a bakery that makes authentic salt-rising bread. "Bakeries just don't make it like they used to," she said.
Ann Evans of Lexington said she, too, "would love to find some real old-fashioned salt-rising bread."
"When I was young, we used to have salt-rising bread every Sunday night for dinner, with something different on it. My mother would toast it and then top it with things like Welsh rarebit, creamed sweetbreads, creamed sherry chicken and mushrooms, or even creamed chipped beef. The difference in the salt-rising toast back then is, the flavor was very strong. ... The salt-rising toast you get today is way too mild."
Readers responded to Sharp's and Evans' requests, telling us about some places that still make the old-fashioned bread.
■ Burke's Bakery, 121 West Main Street in Danville, was the place most people mentioned.
"We have it in stock every day," Joedy Burke said. "We do have good salt-rising bread and, on some days, we have excellent salt-rising bread. Salt-rising bread is quite tricky. It's very inconsistent. There's a high failure rate to it. The weather affects it very much."
One reason commercial bakeries don't make salt- rising bread is because there is no longer a starter available. A company that used to provide the starter apparently shut down, Burke said.
"Evidently, this was what people in this general area were using, and it was the most wonderful stuff. I think they went out of business. Ever since then, there aren't a lot of people who make it."
Burke's salt-rising bread is available in Lexington at the Save-A-Lot store at 398 Southland Drive: (859) 276-1467. Gaunce's Deli & Café, 845 Bypass Road in Winchester, (859) 744-8664, has the bread on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
■ When Fred Wohlstein bought Donut Days Bakery at 185 Southland Drive last year, several customers requested salt-rising bread. "We went back to our collection of hand-written recipes from various retired bakers and re introduced it to our regular line of baked goods," Wohlstein said.
Normally, the bakery makes a small batch, 36 loaves, on Thursday or Friday, depending on the readiness of the starter.
"The most difficult task in the production of salt-rising bread is gauging the readiness of the starter,". Wohlstein said. "The time required to produce the starter varies from two to four days and effects 'the bite,' or strength of flavor that our customers are looking for in salt-rising. You must wait for it to work its magic, which adds to the bread production time."
■ Mike Edwards, owner of Cakes & More, 2220 Nicholasville Road, makes 30 loaves of bread each day and sells out.
"I make it the old- fashioned way, like they did a hundred years ago. I make the yeast I make the starter out of," Edwards said. "It's a long process. I think that's why a lot of people don't fool with it." Call (859) 277-8360.
■ Cheryl Breeze, owner of Yoder's County Market, 7490 Morehead Road, Flemingsburg, said the market makes several types of bread, but salt-rising is the best seller.
"The best thing is to call ahead to make sure we have it, because we do sell out," Breeze said. Call (606) 849-4088.
■ Katia Bucerzan makes salt-rising bread at her family's bakery in Frankfort. Poppy's Bakery, 865 Wilkinson Boulevard, has the bread on Friday.
"It takes a few days to make it," she said.
When her family took over the business in March, she started making salt-rising bread because her customers wanted it. Call (502) 875-5535.
■ Countryside Bakery and Deli, 4785 U.S. 127 South, Owenton, makes the bread fresh, and it's available daily. Call (502) 484-3323.
■ Old Town Amish Store, 201 Prince Royal Drive in Berea, sells about 24 loaves of salt-rising bread a week. Baker Alison Hester said her mother would buy the bread when she lived in upstate New York, and "we kids loved it."
The store also sells starter kits for those who want to make the bread at home. You can place an order by calling (859) 986-0733.
■ Lida Soper of Bourbon County used to make her own salt-rising bread.
"My mother-in-law made it, and I have her recipe, but I had better luck with a recipe I found in Favorite Recipes of the Virginias," she said. "I had good luck with it for a while and, all of a sudden, I just couldn't make it anymore," she said.
"The trick is to keep it warm overnight, and that was my problem. I tried heating pads and things like that. But it's best to put it in a pan of water, then turn the top of the stove on the warm temperature and leave it overnight."
Here's the recipe she uses.
2 medium potatoes, sliced thin
2 tablespoons corn meal
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon soda
10 cups flour
2 tablespoons shortening
2 cups scalded milk
1 teaspoon salt
In a quart jar, combine potatoes with corn meal, sugar and soda. Fill the jar with boiling water and cover loosely. Place the jar in a pan of water in a warm place overnight.
The next morning, drain 1 cup of the fermented starter into a 2-quart bowl. Add 2 cups flour and remaining ingredients. Place bowl in a pan of warm water. Let rise. Add remaining flour to make a stiff dough, knead for 10 to 15 minutes, and divide in half. Shape into loaves and place in greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled in size. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.