The answer to last week's puzzler is... Clostridium perfringens. This little bacteria thrives in a very warm, moist saline environment, usually around 113-115 degrees Farenheit. The recipe from last time gives basic direction for creating a petri dish friendly to the bacteria. As the culture progresses, the bacteria multiplies, at the same time exuding gasses which smell like ripe cheese. This is no coincidence-- the same bacteria culture is found in many cheeses, which undergo a 100+ degree culture in their first stage of preparation.
As we mentioned a month or so ago in the post titled, "Spontaneous Generation of Mice" the Mormon pioneers didn't know anything about microbes and bacteria, but they were adept at culturing and manipulating them. This is another example of their skill. Pop cultural understanding of microbiology didn't come around until the 1890s, but Mormon pioneers kept all kinds of cultures going anyway.
In the recipe, it instructs to scald the cornmeal. It seems that it should be scalded in milk. I tried the recipe with water and cornmeal, and it failed to culture. But it worked with milk. Some recipes instruct using potato water instead of milk. If you're really interested in trying to make salt rising bread, first visit this site: http://home.comcast.net/~petsonk/
Next time: my review of the Providence Sauerkraut Dinner.