September is a busy month for food producers and food lovers in our region. The York Food Festival takes place later this month; Organic September sees local independent retailers promoting and celebrating organic foods and organic farming; and last but by no means least, it’s Sourdough September!

Launched six years ago, Sourdough September is a national event run by the Real Bread Campaign with the aim of encouraging people to enjoy genuine sourdough bread and support the independent bakers who produce it.

True sourdough bread contains only flour, water, salt, and the starter culture that triggers the fermentation process and natural leavening. This is a sharp contrast to the litany of ingredients listed on shop-bought breads such as emulsifiers, thickeners, stabilisers, improvers, bleaching agents, acidifiers and colourings.

More than three-quarters of bread made in the UK is produced using the Chorleywood process: a time-saving method of producing dough with minimal fermentation time. The process requires extra enzymes and yeast, and preservatives and mould inhibitors are also added to give the loaf a longer shelf-life – hence the long list of ingredients on bread bags.

Baking a sourdough loaf requires time and patience and brings with it an understanding of what real food – slow food – truly is.

The process cannot be rushed, the end results are different every time, but the flavour and taste are worth the effort!

A potential nutritional advantage of true sourdough is the way the fermentation process reduces gluten levels. The natural bacteria in the starter culture ferment and breakdown a lot of the wheat proteins, including gluten, making them easier to digest. The final loaf isn’t gluten-free but can contain much less gluten than a regular loaf, making it an option for people wanting to reduce their gluten intake and still enjoy real bread.

When buying sourdough do watch out for what the Real Bread Campaign call ‘sourfraux’ – fake sourdough bread. Thanks to the rise in popularity of artisan breads like sourdough, many supermarkets and bakers are producing imitation sourdoughs that still include additives and haven’t gone through the full fermentation process. It is worth asking how the bread has been made and whether the proper starter culture has been used, so you can be confident of buying a genuine sourdough loaf.

Sally Duffin is a Registered Nutritionist (MBANT). Find her online at or join the Facebook group ‘Nutrition in York’