Though we now live off-grid, I once lived near a large city where many farmers and food artisans came to town weekly to distribute their traditional foods at a co-op. It was here that we purchased our weekly raw milk share, grass-fed meats, beef liver and heart, and eventually a rye bread that would change my bread-baking and eating habits forever.
This was a hearty loaf, so dark on the outside some might have mistaken it for burnt. But it wasn’t, it was perfectly cooked low and slow to create a thick outer crust. The tang was unmistakable and when I asked the baker – whom I would later take a sourdough class from – he nodded a knowing yes at my inquiry of a long fermentation time.
What really changed the way I looked at bread forever was what happened when I took that loaf home. My gluten-sensitive husband and son carefully nibbled on it and waited for hours and then days for a reaction. There was none. This long-fermented 100% rye sourdough bread was completely edible for them.
The coming years would see me churning out my own loaves, savory meal additions, and honey-sweetened treats, all wheat-free… but I’ll get to that in a minute. First I’d like to tell you why rye is such a great bread grain for our family — and maybe yours, too.
Rye: A Frugal, Traditional Choice
Eventually we moved and now live on an off-grid homestead far away from the convenience of the city, and the ability to buy this $7 loaf. So I started making a similar long-fermented 100% rye bread and, because rye flour was much less expensive than spelt and other heirloom grains, we saved a ton of money.
Rye has a long history as an inexpensive bread grain in European cultures. Weston Price himself, in his amazing work Nutrition & Physical Degeneration, commented on the health of the people of the Swiss Alps who subsisted primarily on a rye sourdough bread smeared with golden raw butter and served alongside raw milk.
Rye: Made Better with Sourdough
When I began experimenting with rye, I found that it had some serious idiosyncrasies. It can be gummy, especially if overworked, sliced before cooling, and made without sourdough.
Yet, sourdough and its acidity actually improved the texture of the bread. I suspect this has something to do with the type of protein found in rye, similar but not precisely the same as in wheat.
The acidity of sourdough, especially when fermented for 12 to 24 hours, created better texture. This coupled with rye’s ease of digestibility, inexpensive nature, and history as a nourishing grain of ancient cultures had me hooked.
A Collection of Well-Loved, Fermented 100% Rye Breads & Treats
It took me one-and-a-half years to master these loaves, breads, and treats. I have four children, ages 1 to 8, whom we homeschool. We run an off-grid homestead with composting toilets, limited solar power, water-hauling and the whole bit. My husband and I both work in order to finance this sometimes not-so-simple life we lead.
So, like you, I don’t have time for complicated recipes involving fancy techniques and even fancier ingredients. As such, I formulated a Multi-Purpose No-Knead Dough and three recipes that use it — a simple loaf, a pizza crust, and an amazing focaccia we are very fond of. There’s a Sourdough Boule, savory additions like Sourdough Noodles and Sourdough Crackers with Garlic. There are also a host of breakfast foods and treats — all fermented, all wheat-free, all sweetened with honey.
I put these recipes together for our own family, and to suit our circumstances. But it occurred to me one day, as my recipe notebook got thicker and thicker, that they might be useful for others looking for wheat-free, fermented baked goods as well. So, to make it even more useful, I decided to create recipes that could be made fermented with sourdough, “soaked” with cultured dairy or dairy-free cultures, or made 100% Rye, with no fermentation at all.
These are the recipes that make up 100% RYE: Fermented Breads and Treats. They are recipes we continue to enjoy, and I hope you do, too.
Shannon Stonger is a mama to four small children, homesteader, freelance writer, cookbook author, and fermented-food enthusiast. She is the author of three books: Simple Food for Winter, Simple Food for Spring, and 100% Rye. She also chronicles her family's off-grid journey at Nourishing Days.
Do you love rye? What do you make with it? What can you share about it's lovable qualities?
Wardee: If rye intrigues you (or you want to get better at baking with it and benefiting from it's unique qualities), please help support Shannon's work and her family by purchasing her new book 100% Rye. Thank you!
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