More on Leavening agents
As promised, I did some research on the use of lye or potash as leavening agents. This is what I found on the website for King Arthur Flour http://www.kingarthurflour.com/tips/quick-bread-primer.html.
They provide information on the use of potash and of all things powdered deer antlers for leavening bread
See the following from their website.
Things That Made Quick Breads Rise “yesterday”:
Salt of hartshorn (Ammonium Carbonate).
Hartshorn is one of the oldest of “chemical” leavens. It was actually in use for many centuries before the predecessor of modern baking powder was developed in the middle of the nineteenth century.
The original hartshorn, as its name implies, was ground from deer antler and used primarily in Scandinavian countries. Today it is almost unknown although there is a chemical version of the original, better known as “baker’s ammonia,” available from King Arthur Flour – The Baker’s Catalogue.
A dough that contains hartshorn produces a strong smell of ammonia when it’s in the oven, but the ammonia dissipates completely during the cooking process leaving no aftertaste or odor. Its unique action makes extremely crisp cookies and crackers.
Pearlash (potassium Carbonate)
On this side of the Atlantic the early colonists were blessed with hardwood forests as far as the eye could see. Aside from being a logical building material and fuel, hardwoods provided another important resource, ashes. Ashes were a major export two hundred years ago, both to Canada and Britain. They were valuable for sweetening gardens and providing lye for making soap. They were also a source of potash and its derivative, pearlash, another creative leavening agent.
To make pearlash, you first have to make potash which itself is made from lye. To make lye, you pass water through a barrel of hardwood ashes over and over until an egg can float on the residue. (To make soap you boil this “lye water” with lard or other fat until it is thick, pour it into molds and harden it into cakes.) To make potash, you evaporate lye water until you have a solid.
Pearlash is a purified version of potash. It is an alkaline compound which will react with an acidic ingredient such as sour milk, buttermilk or molasses to produce carbon dioxide bubbles, the very same thing that yeast produces. Pearlash was used primarily in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries but because of its bitter aftertaste, it not only did not replace yeast but was eventually replaced by “saleratus.”
Saleratus (Potassium Bicarbonate or Sodium Bicarbonate)
Saleratus (aerated salt) is an old word for modern baking soda. It actually was used as a name for both of the above compounds, but, like pearlash, potassium bicarbonate had an unpleasant aftertaste and fell out of use early in the nineteenth century. So “saleratus” came to mean just sodium bicarbonate (bicarbonate of soda) itself. You’ll find it in nineteenth century recipe books used just as baking soda is used today.
Saleratus was first sold on this side of the Atlantic by John Dwight, who, with his brother-in-law, Dr. Austin Church, started manufacturing it in their kitchens. It was called “Dwight’s Saleratus” with a cow as a trademark because of the necessity of using sour milk to activate it in baking.
Homemade Baking Powder
Since baking powder does tend to lose its leavening powder after a while, rather than being caught empty handed, it’s useful to have baking soda and cream of tartar around in separate containers. Then you can make your own baking powder in an emergency. These are both available separately at your grocery and, separated, have an indefinite shelf life.
To make the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of double acting baking powder, mix 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar with 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (two parts of cream of tartar to one of baking soda). This single acting backing powder will work very successfully but you must remember that when you use it, get whatever you’re baking into the oven right away.
As you can see in the past, some strange things were used for leavening agents. After TEOTWAWKI we may have to resort to the use of some of these old techniques.