This Thanksgiving, I think it’s only appropriate to include an authentically Claritan food in the holiday feast. We may not have turkey, but a duck artfully snared from Bridgeport Lake would certainly be edible. Gathering and grinding acorns would be a fitting nod to the valley’s Tataviam roots. I, however, have taken a page out of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemna and made bread risen with wild Santa Clarita yeast.
I mixed equal parts water and flour, carried it outside for a minute, then brought it in and let the floury paste grow for a week. Supposedly, the air is laden with wild yeast spores that grow and multiply when they land on a suitable habitat, like flour. After the mixture matures for several days, you have a starter (just like a sourdough starter)—an ecosystem of yeast and lactobacillus bacteria ready to flavor bread with fermentation by-products (hungry yet?) and help it rise.
But to the point at hand, I’ve kept a mini-ecosystem of SCV yeast alive since May. It lives in the fridge and gets fed flour and water once a week. If doing this sounds like a pain in the ass that’s because it is, but I endure for the sake of being able to say that I have an authentically Claritan microbial pet. I put these critters to work making bread rise today.
Now, there are plenty of bread snobs who will try and spoil your fun by telling you that the yeast you capture isn’t really “wild” but was probably already living on the surface of the flour. Don’t believe them. Whether the yeast were nabbed as air-born spores, were already floating around your kitchen, or were hitch-hiking with wheat in the market, they’re official, miniature Santa Claritans now.
Santa Clarita: It Has a Flavor
So how does bread made out of SCV yeast taste? It’s not like conventional sourdough, though there is still a slightly sour twang. It is redolent of yeast, somewhere between beer and bread. There’s no question that it tastes like bread, just…gamier; like the difference between beef and venison.
When I re-tasted the bread today, I found the results a little disappointing at first. The bread didn’t taste like I thought SCV would. The wild flavor would make sense if I had gotten the yeast from Bouquet Canyon (our Ozarks), but from Valencia? Then, however, I tasted a familiar hollowness, a void left on my tongue where once there had been bread. I was tasting desperation and disillusionment, the hallmarks of Claritan life. I had captured the yeast of Santa Clarita after all.
While it’s too late for you begin your own starter in time for Thanksgiving dinner tonight, I urge you to try making a starter at some point. Remember, it’s just equal parts flour and water; SCV provides the yeast. Free yeast?! Now that’s something to be thankful for.
 As non-fiction goes it’s stellar.
 More than any decent person could ever want to know about Sourdough bread can be found here