Bread Yeast 100 Years old

Tradition Lasts for Generations

Donovan, Lauren. "Bread Yeast 100 Years old." Hazen Star, 15 April 1993, 6.

When Frieda (Mrs. Otto) Huber makes bread, she holds history in her hands that’s at least 100 years old.

An essential ingredient in her delicate white loaves is everlasting yeast. The yeast was brought to America by her grandmother and it will be 100 years ago this summer that her grandmother’s family immigrated here from Russia.

“She gave it to Mother and my mother gave it to me,” says Frieda in her low and pleasant voice.

Everlasting yeast is made from cooked potato, water, sugar, and salt. It ferments slightly and serves as the active ingredient that causes the bread dough to rise.

“I always have that jar in the refrigerator,” Frieda explains, sitting in the cozy living room of her Hazen home.

When she bakes bread, she holds back some of the everlasting yeast liquid. The small portion of it becomes part of the next batch of yeast and so on and so on over the years and generations.

Frieda, 80, guesses that the yeast her grandmother Mrs. Adam (Wilhelmina) Guenthner brought from Russia had been in her family for many, many years before that. It’s likely the yeast in her refrigerator is much older than 100 years, but she has no way of knowing for certain.

From time to time, Frieda freshens her yeast with commercial yeast.

But generally, she prefers to use it in the traditional way.

“We like the taste. It doesn’t dry out so fast,” she says.

She generally bakes five loaves every other week and finds that the potato-based yeast results in bread that freezes well.

Her own mother had 12 children and Frieda guesses she baked bread at least twice a week.

Two of Frieda’s friends are also long-time users of everlasting yeast and the three would occasionally get a little from each other if theirs needed a boost.

Frieda’s sister-in-law Anna Huber and their friend Linda Oelke Rounds share the tradition of everlasting yeast.

Anna, 82, says she can recall the day the neighbor children brought some to country school for her to take home to her mother.

“I took it home on my sled and I can still remember the singing sound it made,” she laughed, describing the effects of a too-tight cap on the fermenting yeast.

“I carried it on from my own mother,” she says. “I liked it better that the ordinary yeast. It kept fresher than the yeast from the store.” Anna gave up baking her own bread just a year ago.

Linda’s yeast came to her from her mother. “It goes back as long as I can remember. My husband wouldn’t allow boughten bread,” she recalls.

Her first husband died and she remarried. “After Keith and I were married, oh, did he love that bread.”

Linda, 79, is widowed again, but she continues to bake from eight to nine loaves every other week. She shares the loaves with her daughters and grandchildren.

“They (granddaughters) don’t even put butter or jelly on it. They just sit and eat bread,” she laughs.

All three women realize that the days of everlasting yeast may end when their own bread-baking days are over.

Frieda says one of her granddaughters in Minneapolis, Minn., is using the everlasting yeast. “If my one granddaughter loses interest, then that will be it,” she says.

She feels badly about that, but accepts that it might be inevitable.

“I do feel kind of bad, it’s been going so many years. I tell myself I’m going to quit and then I go and bake anyway. If I give it up, it would just go down the drain.

“I’m making it over 60 years,” Frieda says.

These three friends share a liking for everlasting yeast in their homemade bread. Frieda Huber (middle) has yeast that’s at least 100 years old. Also pictured are Anna Huber (left) and Linda Rounds.

Reprinted with permission of the Hazen Star. 

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller