Most likely, they stirred water and flour together and set it in a warm place (such as in the warm ashes of the day's left over cooking fire) overnight. By morning, they found their mixture foamy and thus able to leaven dough when more flour and water were added. Standard leavening agents, such as baking powder and baking soda, were not commercially available in the United States until the 1850s.

There are several theories about how salt rising bread got its name. One theory is that salt rising bread was named for the method once used to keep the starter warm during fermentation. The starter was sometimes set over night in a bed of warm rock salt to maintain the required warmth. Another theory is that pioneer women kept their starter in the sun-warmed salt barrel atop the wagon wheel as they traveled during the day, which allowed the starter to ferment and be ready for making into dough by evening.

Text Box: Salt is not a necessary ingredient for making salt rising bread.

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One of the unique characteristics of salt rising bread is that it utilizes naturally occurring bacteria, rather than commercial yeast, as its rising agent. This may have been one of the reasons that this bread was first made. Pioneer women were  unable to purchase yeast for their bread baking, so they had to utilize an alternative means of bread fermentation.