Sometimes called “pioneer” bread or “stink bread” as we call it in Pennsylvania, there are many recipes for salt-rising bread on the Internet. This one comes from a lady named Pearl Haines here in PA who made it for 90 years. We unfortunately lost the dear lady last year but her recipe lives on. Here it is.

Salt-rising bread

3 teaspoons cornmeal

1 teaspoon flour

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup scalded milk


Pour milk onto dry ingredients in a quart glass jar or metal, glass, or pottery bowl that holds about four cups. Stir. Cover with plastic wrap — and punch a hole in the wrap to keep it from sinking.

Keep starter (or raisin, as Pearl called it) warm, at 105-115 Fahrenheit, overnight until foamy. Three suggestions: 1) Wrap the bowl in a heating pad at the lowest setting, then wrap a towel around it. 2) Set the bowl in an electric skillet with about half an inch of water, set at the lowest temperature. 3) Put it in an oven if there’s a light bulb inside that’s about 60 watts and you can keep the bulb turned on, or if the oven has a “proof” setting.

It would be recommended to have a thermometer on hand to check the starter’s temperature several times during the rise, as this is very important.

After the raisin has foamed and has a “cheesy” smell (stink bread, remember?), put it in a medium-size bowl. Add 2 cups of warm water, then enough flour (about 1 ½ cups) to make a thin pancake-like batter. Stir and let rise again until foamy. This usually takes about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Monitor the temperature during this stage as well.

Next, for each loaf you want to make, add one cup of warm water and 2 to 3 cups of flour (enough to be able to form the dough into a ball). Shape the dough into a loaf and place in a small loaf pan (about 8 1/2 inches by 4 1/2 by 2 1/2) greased with butter or oil.

Let rise 2 to 3 hours. (If it doesn’t rise at that point, you’ll likely have to start over.)

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the loaf is a light golden color and sounds hollow when tapped.

(If you want to save some of the raisin for the next batch, take one cup of batter out of mixture after you have added the 2 cups of warm water and flour to make a thin pancake batter, and after it has risen the second time.)


You can also make it using potatoes:


Salt-rising bread

2 medium potatoes, sliced thin

2 tablespoons corn meal

4 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon baking 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.

Here is another potato recipe from The Household Searchlight Recipe Book — circa 1930


The starter smells bad but the bread tastes good.  The worse it smells, the better it’s going to be. Toast some and enjoy!

*If you have a few days to prepare bread this summer, you can try an old Navajo way of making bread.