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As It Was: Gold Miner’s 100-Year-Old Sourdough Still Going Strong

A sourdough created at least 100 years ago by Scott Valley, Calif., gold miner is still alive and leavening delicious bread and flapjacks.

Before the leavening process became understood in the 19th century, all bread relied on the natural yeasts in sourdough.  The miner’s sourdough has been kept alive by cooks passing on “starters” to others, a process that helped sustain life in the American West and continues today.

The gold miner, Judd Sullivan, was born on the Wildcat Creek Ranch, two miles from Callahan, Calif.  His family and many other miners prospected the creek and the South Fork of the Scott River in the late 1800s.  Sullivan became known for knowing exactly the right amount of dynamite to up-end a tree stump instead of blowing it to smithereens.

He had two brothers, Bob and Frank, who each purchased ranches near Callahan where they farmed and raised cattle in the early 1900s.

Sullivan passed on a sourdough starter to the mother of Liz Bowen of Etna, Calif., who kept it alive and shared it with other cooks, a tradition Bowen continues today.
 

Source: Dillman, Liz. Personal interview. 20 July 2017.

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Gail Fiorini-Jenner is a writer and teacher. Her first novel "Across the Sweet Grass Hills", won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of Jefferson, The State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.