Author Topic: Question: Is it really "wild yeast" that I have caught?  (Read 8825 times)

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Offline sourdough girl

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Question: Is it really "wild yeast" that I have caught?
« on: July 15, 2007, 06:59:27 PM »
I'm confused and would certainly appreciate any input from this venerable crowd!

I followed Peter Reinhart's directions in The Bread Baker's Apprentice for capturing the wild yeast indigenous to my Puget Sound climate, and seemed to have caught a wonderful local yeast.  The bread in my avatar was baked with that yeast only, no commercial.  Good, strong rise with great oven spring.  The flavor was good but not as sour as I would like.  I'm hoping I can develop that with time.

I've done a lot of reading on the vast internet and have found many references to the "wild yeast" that occurs in the bag of flour used to capture the wild yeast.  There are a few mentions on this forum as well as one gal on RecipeZaar.com who says that you can't really capture the wild yeast indigenous to your area... what you are REALLY seeing is the yeast that is "indigenous" to the flour you are using!

My question: since I used white flour (not whole grain) for the process, have I probably captured a real wild yeast?   I have blackberries and Italian plums in my back yard, so was hoping that the bloom on those (which is purportedly wild yeast) would help ensure that what I have captured is the real deal.

Also, I sent a sample packet of my dried culture to Bev Collins (yes, the Pizzaria-Secrets lady) and she reported (from Ohio, I believe) that my culture was successfully rehydrated and she baked some GREAT bread with it. 

So, is my culture a "real" Puget Sound culture or just some errant yeast contained in the flour I used?? 

Help, please!

~sd
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Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Question: Is it really "wild yeast" that I have caught?
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2007, 07:40:56 AM »
Your culture is a community of organisms, yeast and bacteria. Some may have come from the flour or the air or your hands. Short of a lab assay, you'll never know. Just enjoy it and play around with different fermenting temps and times until you get the results you are looking for.

Bill/SFNM

Offline bakerboy

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Re: Question: Is it really "wild yeast" that I have caught?
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2007, 11:02:08 AM »
SD.  congrats on your starter.  i wouldn't worry so much whether its actually indigenous to your area.  have fun with your new found bugs!!.  I started mine from dark rye flour, warm water, and a little malt.  Once it got going i now feed it with equal parts white and whole wheat flour and it really flourishes.  I'll add pics when i get some.
How much starter are you using at one time and where are you keeping it?
i feed mine 3 times a day.  After the last feeding i refrigerate the starter overnight and use it first thing in the morning.
for example, if i need  10 lbs. of starter for a recipe, i'll feed 1 lb. of starter:
first
1lb. water, .5lb. flour, .5lb. whole wheat flour
second
1.5lb. water, .75lb. flour, .75lb. whole wheat flour
third
2.5lb water, 1.25lb. flour, 1.25lb. whole wheat flour.

This will give me 11 lbs. of starter.  10 for use and one lb. to feed for tomorrow.
   After some trial and error, i've found this to work really well for me.
barry

Offline sourdough girl

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Re: Question: Is it really "wild yeast" that I have caught?
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2007, 08:14:38 PM »
Bill and Barry!
Thanks for weighing in on this topic!

The biggest reason that I'm trying to verify that it's really MY wild culture and not from the flour is because I am hoping to market it as "The Puget Sound Strain"  (think maritime climate, like San Francisco!)

I was certain it was my original culture, but then after reading other sources, I became nervous!  But then, I thought, well, they don't grow much wheat in downtown San Francisco, so how would they have captured theirs?  The same way I captured mine, I'm sure! 

So, if it continues to perform with consistency, I think I might have something marketable.  I have kept some in a hard slab in the fridge for about 6 months, as well as drying some at the same time.  I just re-activated a slice of the slab and it is bubbling along VERY well... next I will try the dried to make sure that it is also still viable. 

bakerboy, as I recall, you are a baker by profession, (I'd LOVE to see your pics!) so you make larger batches and use your starter daily.  I, on the other hand, am just a home baker, so I make a couple of loaves at a time every few weeks for DH and myself.  For two 1.5 lb loaves of bread (and when I took these notes a few months ago, I was not into Baker's Percents yet)  I used 1.30 lbs (~4.5 c) bread flour, 12 oz firm starter and 12.5 oz distilled water and .5oz DK salt. I keep my starter, normally, in the fridge in a lidded crock.  I captured it over a year ago and it's still doing well, so I'm thinking it's the real deal. 
Thanks again, guys!

~sd

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Offline kiwipete

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Re: Question: Is it really "wild yeast" that I have caught?
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2007, 06:42:46 PM »
Here's an idea (not mine, I read it somewhere on the web):

Why don't you repeat your wild yeast capturing exercise, but this time use flour that has been sterilized (by nuking it in the microwave).

That way you know that if you do get your starter going, it will be from yeast in your environment, rather than what's in the flour..

Offline sourdough girl

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Re: Question: Is it really "wild yeast" that I have caught?
« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2007, 11:35:13 PM »
kiwipete!

that's a great idea, so i spent a quite a few hours on the internet "yeasterday" and today, trying to find out just how long i would have to nuke it to make sure it's sterile, yet not do any damage to nutrients for the wild yeast that would hopefully take up residence.  any thoughts?

and boy, the jury is still out on whether it's airborne yeast or flour-borne yeast!  i revisited my copy of ed wood's "classic sourdoughs" and also found a lot of arguments on many websites.  one of the basic arguments is how can the cultures all taste/react/ferment so differently if it all comes only from the areas that grow wheat?  as i stated above, they don't grow much wheat in SF, so how could THEIR culture taste so different?  yikes!  what a conundrum!

thanks for your help!
~sd
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Offline ernestrome

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Re: Question: Is it really "wild yeast" that I have caught?
« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2007, 12:20:07 PM »
What sort of person markets something they got for free from the air or along with some flour they bought? What value have you added to it?

My money is on the yeast being in the flour. I have used different flours at the same time in the same location and got clearly individual results.

Offline sourdough girl

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Re: Question: Is it really "wild yeast" that I have caught?
« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2007, 03:41:40 PM »
ernestrome

I'll answer your question with a similar one:  what sort of person asks a question like you did without really reading and comprehending the whole concept of the thread??

The WHOLE REASON that I started this thread is to make sure that what I THINK I have captured HAS INSTRINSIC VALUE (i.e. it is truly airborne yeast indigenous to my area and not flour-borne from god-knows-where), therefore not requiring value added by me.

And if you deem it morally wrong (as your post implies) for me to capture and sell a "Puget Sound" strain of wild yeast which you think cost me nothing, why should others be allowed to sell "San Francisco" sourdough starter without some proof that it is actually USED BY COMMERCIAL BAKERS IN SAN FRANCISCO??  Is that not morally wrong as well?  I have purchased sourdough starter, so, if I can come up with a starter of my own, why shouldn't I be able to sell it?

Have you watched Antiques Roadshow in the UK?  I watch our US version...  and am continually amazed at the items that people find or pay very little or nothing for... and their finding the item in the dumpster adds no value to it, yet the item has value.  If the SF sourdough starter has value, why shouldn't the Puget Sound starter?

And as for what value I have added?  My work at capturing it... my ability to feed and nurture it into a starter that performs consistently with GOOD flavor... my hours of baking bread with it to make sure it performs well each and every time... my various tests to make sure that it can be reinvigorated after longer and longer dormant periods, as well as drying the active starter and then reactivating it to make sure it is still viable.  And, if I were to market it, there would be the added value of the set of activating instructions, written from the copious notes I have taken over the course of working with the wild yeast.

My avatar shows bread I baked with MY starter using no commercial yeast or leavening of any other kind.

So, to truly answer your question:  what sort of person markets something they got for free from the air?  AN ENTREPRENEUR.

~sd
« Last Edit: August 16, 2007, 07:17:04 PM by sourdough girl »
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Offline Bryan S

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Re: Question: Is it really "wild yeast" that I have caught?
« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2007, 04:45:36 PM »
What sort of person markets something they got for free from the air or along with some flour they bought? What value have you added to it?
Smart people.  ;)
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Offline Furo

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Re: Question: Is it really "wild yeast" that I have caught?
« Reply #9 on: August 16, 2007, 10:44:36 PM »
There is an old way of getting local yeasts. If you know of any local grape growers get some ripe unwashed grapes from them. Grape skins seem to have an affinity for yeast and the sugar in the grapes adds to their growth. Add a small handful of crushed grapes to a pound of flour mixed with a pound of water, loosely cover and let sit at room temp. If you can sterilize your flour and water mixture first then you can be sure you have only local bugs growing. After it is working you can strain or pick out the skins, pulp and seeds.
This is a trick some of the old local Italians in our neighborhood used to use. I have tried it but don't get a chance to bake often enough to keep a starter active. Here in Kansas City  I used some of the Concord grapes I grow, gave the starter a pink color at first and it was VERY active. really seemed to like the freshly ground Kamut wheat I used.
Seems kind of right to use the natural yeast from the grapes since it creates both bread and wine, both of which have sustained men and women for centuries.
There is nothing wrong with providing people with a product or idea that will help them achieve a desired end result. If the yeast and bacteria strains that you capture and propagate provides the kind of flavor and results they are searching for then you are presenting a service to them. It is true they could also go through the same steps to acquire it but few would go to that effort. Effort deserves reward. To me the best rewards in life are often the simplest, a smile of happiness and contentment.
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Offline sourdough girl

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Re: Question: Is it really "wild yeast" that I have caught?
« Reply #10 on: August 16, 2007, 11:14:53 PM »
I thank you, Furo!

I have two questions for you:

Do you think Italian plums would work instead of grapes?  I have a tree in my backyard that is full of ripening plums and they will be covered with bloom just like grapes... and I normally use them for making homemade plum wine!  We do have some wonderful Washington wines, so if you think the plums won't work, I can always contact one of the little wineries on Bainbridge or Whidbey Islands.  Hadn't really thought of wine grapes, though, so thanks for the input!

Second question:  I've looked all around the internet and can't seem to come up with a way to sterilize the flour... can I just put it in the microwave for a few minutes?  Toast it in a pan, dry, on the stove?  I don't want to kill the nutrients for the yeast as well and am not sure how to proceed.  Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks again to you...
And to Bryan S.  (NICE avatar, BTW!  My son would be jealous!)

~sd

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Offline Bryan S

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Re: Question: Is it really "wild yeast" that I have caught?
« Reply #11 on: August 17, 2007, 12:16:26 AM »
There is an old way of getting local yeasts. If you know of any local grape growers get some ripe unwashed grapes from them. Grape skins seem to have an affinity for yeast and the sugar in the grapes adds to their growth.
Furno, Yes very good post. I'm a home brewer and Apples are also a very good source for wild yeast. Some of the best hard cider is made form the wild yeast on the apple skins.  ;) Sourdough girl, great post and keep us up to date on your progress with the wild yeasties.  8) Thanks, My avatar is my 1999 HD Road Glide. It's a pleasure to ride.  :)
« Last Edit: August 17, 2007, 12:18:04 AM by Bryan S »
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Offline Furo

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Re: Question: Is it really "wild yeast" that I have caught?
« Reply #12 on: August 17, 2007, 02:02:52 PM »
It would be worth a try with the plums, unwashed fruit tends to attract lots of airborne items good and sometimes bad (like when a bird sits above it). ;D. As Brian states about cider, the natural yeast causes the juice to ferment. I suggested the grapes because of seeing them work as a source of yeast both in wine and as a starter for baking. I have made wine from our grapes many times and notice how the must begins working very shortly after being crushed, I take the safer road though by using just enough sulfite to kill off the wild yeasts and then pitch it with a commercial yeast, better results and less chance of bacteria spoiling it.
You should be able to heat the wheat to around 160 F. in a closely watched oven, even if it gets toated a little bit just remember that grains for beer and liquor can be toasted before fermenting and they come out good. That temp is enough to kill off any yeasts that might already be present. As far as hurting the nutrients in the wheat I doubt that much will be lost and if you use a fruit source for the yeast then the nutrients in the skins and some juice will more than make up for it. With repeated feedings only the strongest of the yeasts strains and bacteria will survive as the weaker ones lose out.
Hope this helps you with your quest, please do keep us posted on how you project is progressing.
Good Luck.
Woody.
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Offline sourdough girl

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Re: Question: Is it really "wild yeast" that I have caught?
« Reply #13 on: August 17, 2007, 08:17:28 PM »
Woody and Bryan S!
Thanks for the input and pointing me in a better direction! 

We've been having a rainy summer this year... we Seattleites want the world to think that it rains here year-round, but (and this is our secret... ;)) normally, the Seattle area has a three-months-long drought starting about July 5th (we joke that summer starts in Seattle on the 5th of July, but it's really not a joke!)  I lost my entire sour cherry crop to mold this year because it rained for 5 days straight in mid-July, just as they were becoming fully ripe!  So, if the weather doesn't mess things up, the plums should be ripening in September... I can hardly wait!  I will pick the best, ripest ones with a nice, white bloom... but no white *SPOTS*!   heh!  And I'll toast up some flour and let 'er rip!  It wil be interesting to see (and taste!) the differences between the two starters.  I'll keep you posted!

Thanks again, the help is greatly appreciated!

~sd
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Offline Furo

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Re: Question: Is it really "wild yeast" that I have caught?
« Reply #14 on: August 18, 2007, 09:24:19 PM »
SD,
Sorry to hear about the cherries being ruined, our grape crop was lost due to a late spring frost so no grape wine this year. I am in the process of air layering some starts on a cherry tree that was originally planted by my grandmother, no one seems to know the type it is, just called a pie cherry.
For an extra experiment you could try both grapes and plums to see which one has a better bloom of organisms. I admire the extent of efforts you are willing to go through to achieve your "Seattle" starter. Will it be a type of sourdough that you are working toward or just a flavorful and unique one? If it works good with the plums you could make a lightly sweet dough with it, shape it like a focaccia and put halved plums on it. Have that with a glass of plum wine and the circle will be complete.
I hope I haven't offended any purists with my "home style" methods and ideas. I enjoy reading how others figure out their recipes to the nano-gram and try for the perfect results, I like to feel and taste the dough and if it isn't right add more of what it needs, sure it changes some each time but so does life. I'm not making it for the masses to enjoy just family and friends (I do warn them if it is a new experiment though). I started in the kitchen beside my grandmother (English / Dutch) who learned a lot from my grandfathers' mother (Sicilian). Still reside in the home that was built by my great-grandfather (Sicilian). I may use a Kitchen Aid for some of the mixing and kneading (and for sausage) but I still have to use the old senses for getting it "just right". Sometimes I will be asked for my recipe for things and I can write down the the basic ingredients but how can you convey the tastes, smells and feel it should be as it is created, it must be taught. Sorry if I have begun to preach and rattle on. It seems so much of life is wasted when things get too easy and the art of really living and loving is lost.
When you have succeeded in your quest I would be happy to buy some of it from you, maybe see how it compares to what I've made with our grapes.
Woody.
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Offline sourdough girl

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Re: Question: Is it really "wild yeast" that I have caught?
« Reply #15 on: August 19, 2007, 09:29:06 PM »
Furo!
Thanks for the wonderful post!
As for the cherries, in truth, all is not lost!  The leaves are unharmed and I use those for making fermented pickles!  It is an old family recipe from my Lithuanian grandmother and requires either grape leaves or sour cherry leaves, which help make the pickles C*R*I*S*P as well as add a certain tartness which cannot be properly described!  I was interested in your comments about your heritage because I am very proud of my Lith heritage... I am half Lith and my mother is the first generation born in this country. My mother is from NE Pennyslvania and that's how I ended up on these boards... looking to reverse engineer a pizza from my childhood.  My mother and I spent many summers in Pennsy with my grandparents and we ate a lot of pizza from Tommy's (now Pizza L'oven) in Exeter, a small town in the Wyoming Valley near Scranton. 
 
I did figure out that my cherry tree is a Montmorency... but your "pie cherry" tree could be any variety of sour cherry.  I'm also glad you mentioned air layering because I have been trying to take softwood cuttings of my bay laurel bushes for my mother and daughter (rootone/sand, water) with no luck so far, so perhaps I'll try air layering next.  I have a BS in Horticulture, so I'll have to revisit my 25 year-old notes from the propagation labs!

Sorry to hear about your grape crop... have you thought about making wine from your sour cherries instead?  That's why I'm so bummed about losing the cherry crop, but I still have some in the freezer from last year... freezing is actually recommended to break down the cell walls and release more juice.

I understand your "ramblings" completely... I, myself, am a cook who flies by the seat of my pants most of the time!  When baking bread, (and making wine and the like), I follow a basic recipe because to do otherwise would be a waste of time, unless I'm after making a hockey puck, doorstop or paperweight.  But, otherwise, I seldom follow a recipe... my family sometimes gets frustrated because when they ask for a recipe, theirs doesn't always come out like mine!  It's certainly not intentional, it's just that I seldom write down what I create and so sometimes, it's difficult to duplicate.

And, as for the wild yeast, I'm thinking that maybe, since the plums probably won't be ripe enough for almost a month, I may toast up some flour and mix it with some water and let it sit outside with a mesh bag over it that I use for winemaking... lets in the air, but is so fine that other junk... bugs... can't get in.  I guess I'm just getting antsy to make some progress on my sourdough project.  Yes, I'm after a true sourdough...I'm hoping that I can develop something with a nice, tangy sour flavor... something strong and active that will leaven my breads and pizza doughs without commercial yeast.  Like I said in a previous post, you can see the bread in my avatar, made with my first go-round of capturing the beasties in my back yard. 
When I get something going that is worth working with, I would be happy to send you some gratis if you would be willing to let me know how it worked for you in a bread and/or pizza application!  What do you think?

And, lastly, I agree... life is too short... and food is both art and science.  I, too, enjoy reading all the minute details of others' trials and errors, but I enjoy the art even more than the science!  In the case of food, sometimes science is needed to create the art, but I'm still focused on the art!

Thanks again!
~sd
« Last Edit: August 19, 2007, 10:41:35 PM by sourdough girl »
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Offline 2stone

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Re: Question: Is it really "wild yeast" that I have caught?
« Reply #16 on: September 13, 2007, 10:49:29 PM »

And, lastly, I agree... life is too short... and food is both art and science.  I, too, enjoy reading all the minute details of others' trials and errors, but I enjoy the art even more than the science!  In the case of food, sometimes science is needed to create the art, but I'm still focused on the art

Hi sd girl

Thanks for posting the link.

couldn't agree more with  your comment. Art has fewer boundaries than science. Not much exact art... but allot of exact science. Thats why I lean more towards art!

My question is on the best type of container and cloth for capturing wild yeast. I just tried to activate some of Ed Woods starter with no luck, so I thought I would give the wild yeast a try. We have allot of bugs this year so I wanted to go as fine as possible.

thanks,

willard
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Offline sourdough girl

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Re: Question: Is it really "wild yeast" that I have caught?
« Reply #17 on: September 14, 2007, 02:22:53 PM »
Hi, Willard!

As I'm sure you know if you have read this entire thread, there is much controversy as to whether you are capturing indigenous wild yeast or just activating what is in the flour naturally.  But, either way, you need a very wide mouth, non-reactive container and a fine mesh to cover it.  I use my largest Pyrex bowl (4 qt.) and, after putting in my flour and water mix, I slip the bowl inside a large mesh bag that I use for wine making.  The bag is big enough that I can tie it shut with the bowl inside.  The mesh is so fine that no bugs have ever gotten inside... and we have fruit flies, gnats and no-see-ums who like to pester us in the spring and summer.  Here's a link to the brewing supply company close to my home where I buy all my wine-making supplies (and they do ship, BTW):
www.homebrewheaven.com
This link brings up the homepage, (it won't let me link directly to the product) so, just type "jumbo mesh bag" (without the quotes) into the search feature and it will bring it up for you.  It really is a great bag... can have many uses... and, since it is nylon, it will last forever, or close to it!

I'm still working on capturing the indigenous yeast... I tried heating the flour and adding distilled water and unwashed Italian plums from my tree... but we had to leave town for a 10-day vacation before anything happened, so that experiment was a bust, but I'm going out today to pick more REALLY ripe plums and am going to start over.  I have several small ring binders and keep copious notes on sourdough bread, pizza and wines I make from scratch, so I'm hoping to add a success story to it soon!

Good luck... if you have any other questions, please feel free to ask!  If I don't know the answer, I'm sure there's somebody among this venerable crowd who does!

And, BTW, I would email Ed Wood and let him know that the starter didn't activate.  I emailed him about building the proof box that he talks about and he was quick to respond with some helpful suggestions.  With his input, DH built me a wonderful proof box from a Coleman cooler that I use regularly!

~sd
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Offline 2stone

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Re: Question: Is it really "wild yeast" that I have caught?
« Reply #18 on: September 14, 2007, 06:51:47 PM »
thanks

that was very helpfull since
I was about ready to use a small mouth
jar. The starter I got from Ed woods had been
in my freezer for about 3 years so I better not complain.

willard
2Stone blog: www.2stoneblog.com

Offline sourdough girl

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Re: Question: Is it really "wild yeast" that I have caught?
« Reply #19 on: September 14, 2007, 08:23:02 PM »
Hey, Willard,
I have tried a mason jar in the past (and it is what I use for storage in the fridge after activation since it has a nice, small footprint), but I have found that the more surface area you expose to the air, the better the results when trying to capture wild yeast, IMHO. 

Good luck and keep us posted on how your hunting expedition goes!

~sd
Never trust a skinny cook!