Stalking the Wild Yeast – Making Your Own Levain

Jack Jenkin’s secret for wild yeast levain (pronounced le-van, like the vehicle, with the accent on the last syllable).

Start with one or two organic apples, unwashed and unwaxed. Rinse lightly in chlorine- free water, then chop up the apple, seeds and all. The soft White haze or blush on the apple contains the wild yeast you’re going to tame for the best sourdough starter in the world. YOUR APPLE DOESN’T HAVE TO BE PRETTY. In fact, downright ugly apples may harbor the wildest, zingiest yeast of all.

Place apple chunks in a clean glass container with about three cups of chlorine-free water.

Set on the counter with a cloth over the top to keep fruit flies and other critters out. Then wait four or five days. (The length of time depends on the temperature – the warmer, the quicker.)

When fermentation tickles your nose, it’s ethanol you smell, but don’t put it in your gas tank because you’re saving it for the most nutritious, delicious whole wheat sourdough ever.

When your brew is ready, save the liquid and toss the apples. Now add equal parts of levain liquid with fresh, whole wheat flour. (One cup liquid to one cup of flour, etc.)

Stir thoroughly until you get a smooth, creamy mix. Leave on the counter for three or four days and make sure you stir well three or four times a day to mix in air to keep the yeast and lactobacillus doing their symbiotic thing.

When it smells and tastes with a clean, crisp sour bite, it’s ready to store in the fridge. You now have virtually free yeast and, if you take care of it and feed and defray it at least every couple of weeks, it will serve you well.

How to refresh: After using the levain to make your loaf of bread, add equal amounts of flour and water to the leftover starter, mixing well. Leave out on your counter for about two days to let the new mixture ferment, then store in fridge.


Several years ago, German researchers made a surprising discovery. They found that the process of baking bread produces antioxidant amino acid called pronyl-lysine, which may have anti-cancer properties.

This potent antioxidant is eight times more abundant in bread crust than in the rest of the bread. The antioxidants increased by as much as 60% when cooked in a hotter oven. Letting the dough rise for two days doubled the dough’s antioxidant levels.

“The important message is… the little things you do at home may make your diet better,” says Liangli Lu, PhD, a food chemist from the University of Maryland.

About Jack Jenkins, Country Living Grain Mills

Whole-grain guru, Jack Jenkins, is the inventor of the Country Living Grain Mill, a former nationally syndicated radio host and the father of seven children. Jack is dedicated to educating anyone who will listen about the virtues of whole grain food storage – and having the know-how to use it, thereby reaping the blessings of increased vitality and self-sufficiency.

For more information, visit Country Living Grain Mills.