Worth Their Salt

The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Bakery owner Genevieve Bardwell offers a unique type of bread that celebrates a long held tradition in Appalachia, it’s called “Salt Rising Bread.” As the story goes, when pioneer women first came to America, they did not have access to commercial yeast and were forced to invent a new form of baking bread.

Mount Morris, Pa.

Rising Creek Bakery in Mount Morris, Pa., has kept Appalachian tradition alive since it opened its doors seven years ago.

Customers come for the baked goods, savory treats and most notably, the salt-rising bread that is unique to Appalachian and American history.

Bakery owner Genevieve Bardwell has studied the art of salt-rising bread with long-time friend and colleague Susan Brown for the last two decades. The women were faced with a hard, cold fact: The art of salt-rising bread was dying, and no one was saving it.

The women decided to get cracking on research. They wanted to know the science behind the fermentation, the history of the bread and most importantly, the stories of those who grew up eating the dense, savory bread.

“My connection to salt-rising bread is from my childhood,” Brown said. “My grandmother made it in Greenbrier County, and I knew it was something special, so when I was old enough to make it, I wanted to make it and pass it on to my family and my children.”

But just passing the recipe down to children and grandchildren was not enough for Brown and Bardwell to keep the tradition alive.

So they wrote a book, “Salt Rising Bread: Recipes and Heartfelt Stories of a Nearly Lost Appalachian Tradition.” The book, which is available at Rising Creek Bakery, Barnes & Noble at University Town Centre and on Amazon.com, contains recipes for salt-rising bread while telling its story, which is rich in Appalachian heritage.

“I think literally every person who eats this bread has a story to tell about it,” Brown said. “There are just endless stories that we receive every day in the mail of people telling us why salt rising bread is so special to them.”

The bread itself is a delicacy, and making it involves a long, tedious process which takes about 24 hours. Since the bread does not require yeast, the ingredients are fairly limited.

From Bardwell and Brown’s findings, when pioneer women first came to America, they did not have access to commercial yeast and were forced to invent a new form of baking bread. Salt-rising bread was the result.

The bread can be made at home, and Bardwell said it’s all a matter of getting a feel for the fermentation process.

“You have to perfect it,” she said. “It’s an art to make salt-rising bread.”

The authors have collected more than 100 recipes for the bread but say the process typically remains the same.

“It’s one of those cultural heritage traditions that hasn’t been extensively written about,” Bardwell said. “[It] hasn’t been recorded and spread across the world.”

Writing this book has allowed Bardwell and Brown to supply something to the community that wasn’t available before: A written record of salt-rising bread.

“[The tradition] was nearly lost, and we feel like we have achieved that goal through this bakery, through websites and through our book,” Brown said. “Maybe this tradition is not dying, and we hope that’s what we’ve done.”

Rising Creek Bakery offers classes on how to make salt-rising bread, with the next class set for July 25.

For more information on Rising Creek Bakery, and to see menus, visit risingcreekbakery.com.

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