Thursday, May 14, 2015

Capturing wild yeasts to make French bread

Thanks to Louis Pasteur, the French microbiologist best known for developing pasteurization, in 1857, the western world learned that alcohol fermentation is due to living yeasts. It’s not surprising that a Frenchman would be the one to declare that yeast is a living organism, especially considering the important role of yeast in many of France’s preferred foods: wine, bread, cheese.

Wild yeasts and lactic acid bacteria are present in the air and form a symbiotic culture when housed in a mixture of flour and water. Together they create unique and local flavors of sourdough bread. So, starting today, I will be setting up a yeast trap to capture some Canoe Island yeast and next time you come visit us, we can have our very own Canoe Island sourdough baguettes! Le baguette de tradition is such an important food in France that by law, only the following ingredients are allowed to be used in its making: wheat flour, water, yeast, salt. I suppose we’ll have to call our loaves les baguettes de Canoë!

A bubbly San Francisco starter in front of my very first yeast trap!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Imagine gliding over glassy waters that surround Canoe Island at sunset or traveling to a campsite nestled in the San Juan archipelago.  With the arrival of our new 29-foot Langely Voyageur Canoe, this experience will be one of the countless magical memories that campers make at Canoe Island French Camp this summer. Our canoe was built in the style that the French fur traders used across Canada and even into Washington.  It can comfortably fit up to 12-14 paddlers with plenty of freeboard left for camping supplies.

            Shipped to Bellingham from Clipper Canoes near Vancouver B.C., our big canoe was brought across the Salish Sea by Executive Director Joseph Jones with the Ferry Queen. On the prow was hung a cedar wreath made from cedar that Camp Director Connie Jones gathered on Canoe Island.  The cedar wreath was in the tradition of those we have seen on the native canoes that often come through the San Juan Islands on the annual Tribal Canoe Journey, 

Paddling a big canoe takes group cohesion and determination. The Voyageur Canoe took its maiden voyage paddled by volunteers at our Spring Work Party on May 3, who lived up to both of theses requirements, and our paddle around Canoe Island was a success! As we tossed the cedar wreath into the current of Upright Channel, we wondered where this spirit of exploration and friendship will lead us in the Voyageur Canoe this summer.

Tossing the cedar wreath into the Salish Sea