The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Cherokee Bread Starter

Cherokee Bread Starter

ricothebaker's picture


This is an antique recipe converted to modern measurements. It was brought to Oklahoma by my Cherokee ancestors in1839.



Prep time15 minutes
Cooking time1 hour
Total time1 hour, 15 minutes


1 q
fresh peach leaves (Do not pack)
1⁄2 c
corn meal (Whole grain only)
3 c
clean water
hot baked potatoes
3 T



Bring water to a boil and steep your peach leaves for 15 min. Remove leave and add  enough water to make 3 c. again. This will be a rather odd shade of green, don't worry it's supposed to be. Peal hot baked potatoes and put through food mill or sieve. Scald your cornmeal in 1 c. of the liquid until thick. Stir constantly to avoid lumps. Combine everything in a glass mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Cover with a bread towel and let ferment for 24-48 hrs then stir and pour into a clean glass jar or salt crock with a loose lid. Keep it on the kitchen sideboard until ready for use. Feed it a pinch of sugar every other day and a batch of starter minus the peach leaves once a week, the leaves are only needed to start the process. Make sure to stir often, do not let liquid set on top of the starter for more than a day this will encourage mold growth and kill the starter. If you don't bake often enough to maintain the level of your starter in its home share a cup with a friend and tell them how to use and care for it. You should not use all of your starter up ever. The longer any starter grows the better the flavor and the better your bread will rise. Although this starter was originally used to make fry bread it may be used in any recipe calling for sourdough or yeast starter.


A couple of basic rules for starters. Never use metallic utensils or bowls or tap water when making or maintaining starters as it will kill them. You will find people that disagree with the whole don't touch it with metal rule and say that stainless won't kill them but it does, I can tell you that from personal experience. NEVER put your starter in the fridge, the whole point of putting things in the fridge is to slow or stop bacterial growth, and that is the opposite of what we want. I do not know when people starting thinking they should do this but they shouldn't, historically starters are kept in a warm corner of the kitchen where they can continuous grow and improve. The use of whole grain flours will make the best tasting and best working starters as they contain more natural nutrients and bacteria than the separated and bleached flours.


David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I look forward to reading more of the Cherokee recipes. 

I confess to keeping my starter in the fridge.  It is less than 6 months old but seems happy there.  I do it out of benign neglect because I don't want to have to feed it regularly.  Caring for it once a week is enough for me. If I had feed it anything every other day I would likely wind up killing it and people seem to think you are supposed to feed it flour on a daily basis if left out. 

Anyway, while I will never make this starter because I've never even seen peach leaves, I hope to hear from those who do!

ricothebaker's picture

For a baker that doesn't bake often keeping your starter in the fridge is okay I mean it won't usually kill it or anything, it just stops the yeast and flavors from developing as fast in it. As far as feeding him, if you don't bake often you can simply feed him a spoonful of sugar now and then and not worry with the flour and water except once a month or when you do bake. Just make sure to keep him stirred up fairly often. Mine lives on the kitchen sideboard and is fed once a week when I don't bake and whenever I do bake from it, I've never figured out why people think they need fed everyday, this simply makes it grow into a huge starter you have to use or share constantly.  Now, you've never seen a peach leaf?!?! I'd send you some! The peaches are just now fully leaved out and ready to go here in the South.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I might have seen a peach leave or two at the grocery store.  My sourdough starter seems to be going strong enough and my time limited enough that I am not going to be trying a new starter anytime soon.  Though I don't think you mentioned it, how does your peach starter differ in terms of function/taste from a standard flour and water starter, if you know?