I have had my sourdough starter for a while now. It is still going strong and has developed a wonderful sourdough flavor. I remember my grandmother feeding her sourdough every day. A little bit of flour and a little bit of water. To her, measuring was not a thing when it came to her starter. She was clearly by eye. She had the same sourdough starter that she started when she got married back in the 1930s ish ( if I’m not mistaken she married my grandfather around the late 1920s to early 1930s). She passed in the mid-1990s. She had her starter for quite a while. My love for natural sourdough came from her. She made tons of things with her sourdough. She made things like cinnamon rolls, cakes, pancakes, bread, and even made fried chicken with it.
Once you begin your sourdough starter it can transform into a sourdough love like you have never known. I started my sourdough a while back. It has developed a beautiful flavor and it is so delicious.
Many people believe that sourdough starter is hard to start and keep. It truly is not hard to tend to. A little care and a little flour and water and you are doing good. You don’t need many ingredients to get started. Just flour and water. I will explain as we go but first here is what you will need in measurements.
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup to 1 cup filtered water
That is it. Nothing more. Nothing less. Now, let’s go over how to get your starter going. This will take about 7 to 10 days depending on how warm or cold your house is.
Mix your flour and water together until well combined in a glass bowl, glass jar, or large mason jar. Place a tea towel on top and leave it on your counter for 24 hours. You can attach a lid but it has to be loosely fitted on the bowl or jar. If it is too tight the gases can not escape and you may have a mess on your hands. I prefer a tea towel. Make sure you place it in a warm place. It should be about 70*.
Remove the tea towel and discard (throw away) half of the mixture. Add 1/2 cup of unbleached flour and 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of water and mix to combine. A few lumps of flour in the mixture are ok. It will work itself out later. Cover with a tea towel and let stand in a warm place for another 24 hours.
DAY 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – AND 7:
Repeat instructions for day two. By day 5 you should start to see bubbles forming in your starter. This is how you know your starter is on the right track and is active. If you do not have an active starter by day seven or if you just want to continue for 3 more days, continue with the same instructions as day two. I know it seems wasteful to throw away half for such a long time but with it staying in the starter you are hurting the starter more than helping it.
ONCE YOUR STARTER IS ESTABLISHED:
If you notice on day seven that your starter has risen and is very bubbly, then this is a sign that your starter is active and ready to be used in your next sourdough recipe. Now there is no more discarding half of the sourdough mixture. All you have to do now is use it and feed it. You can feed it before using it if you need a very active starter for things like rolls, bread, or buns. If you go this route then make sure you feed the starter about 4 to 8 hours before using. This ensures that the starter is highly active.
ADDING FLOUR AND WATER TO YOUR STARTER:
When it comes to how much flour and water you add to your starter is really up to you. I would not go so far as to add more than 3 cups of flour at a time or you will be swimming in Sourdough starter. I recommend adding as much as you are going to need. Adding up to 3 cups of flour to your starter is going to make you have way more starter for recipes that require you to use either straight sourdough starter, or about 1 to 2 cups of sourdough starter. Recipes like this are things like cinnamon rolls, buns, pizza crusts, and bread. Those are some of the recipes that require more starter than others. I would also use unbleached or freshly milled wheat or all purpose flour.
As for water, I would add as much as you need to make a thick pancake batter consistency. It will loosen up as it ferments and become a more liquidy consistency.
This is a liquid that sometimes forms on the top of your sourdough starter. There is nothing to worry about. Just stir it back in and feed it. This is more likely to form during the first 7 days and when it is hungry.
CRUST ON THE TOP OF SOURDOUGH STARTER:
If you leave the starter on the counter it can sometimes form a slight crust. This you can either discard or stir it in. I usually discard it. I find that it may sometimes make the starter lumpy.
COUNTER OR FRIDGE:
You can leave the starter on the counter if you use the starter a lot. If you go this route then you have to feed and use the starter daily or every other day. I typically do not leave my starter out unless I feed it or tend to use it the day after feeding.
I put my starter in the fridge and feed it only when I use it or once a week. You can go up to 2 weeks without feeding your starter in the fridge. I will take the starter out of the fridge and feed it and then use it the next day or between 4 to 8 hours after feeding it.
CAN I USE DIFFERENT FLOURS TO FEED MY STARTER? :
Yes. You can as long as it is unbleached or freshly milled flour. If you use bleached flours to feed your starter it could disrupt the fermentation process. I have never had a problem switching out the flour that i feed my starter and I never use bleaced flours of any sort. You may have to adjust the water depending on the flour your feed it.
CAN I USE UNFILTERED WATER IN MY STARTER?:
Yes, but I do not recommend it. I have a filtration system on my water lines so all of the faucets are filtered. If you do not have a filtration system just fill up a large jug or jar with water and leave it uncovered over night. All of the chemicals will evaporate from the water and you are now ready to use.
CAN I USE THE DISCARD FROM THE SOURDOUGH STARTER?:
Yes! after day 4 and your starter is active and bubbly you can use your discard for things like pancakes or waffles. It will not have the sourdough flavor and will not have the benefits of the fermentation but you can use it.
DO I HAVE TO FEED MY STARTER BEFORE USING IT?:
yes and no. I often pull my starter out the day before making bread and feed it so it is nice and active when I make bread. You can pull straight out of the fridge and use it as long as it was fed and active when you put it in the fridge. I often do this as well. It really depends on the recipe and how you are feeling that day.
When it comes to breads like cinnamon rolls, buns, sourdough bread, or a long fermented bread I will pull it out the day before and feed the stater. I do not discard any at all. I just feed it. I cover with a tea towel for about 5 hours or until it is doubled and bubbly. I take out what I need for my recipe and start that recipe for the next day. I put the lid back on my starter and put it back in the fridge until next time.
When I am frying with starter or making thin crust pizzas I just remove what I need then feed it. Cover it with a tea towel for 5 hours and then put the lid on and back in the fridge it goes.
Sourdough is very forgiving and as long as you keep 1/3 of the starter in your jar and feed it you are going to be fine.
MY SOURDOUGH HAS A SOUR SMELL. IS THAT OK?:
Yes. That is part of the fermentation process. Your sourdough is going through a lot right at the beginning so it is going to have a few different smells. It should never smell putrid or foul. It should have a slight vinegar smell to it but nothing over powering. This just means that it is on the right track and is becoming sourdough.
If your sourdough starter begins to smell rotten or foul then discard and start over. This means that something went wrong in the process and has become overpowered by the bad bacteria instead of the good bacteria that the starter needs to become active.
MY STARTER IS GREEN ON THE TOP. WHAT SHOULD I DO?:
If your starter has become green on the top then you should discard right away and start over. This is mold and is not a good sign. This usually happens when the lid is on to tight or you did not cover with tea towel or covered with a lid loosely. This means your sourdough took a turn for the worse and is not salvageable. Throw it out and start over.
Once your starter is established this should no longer be a problem.
DO I HAVE TO USE A MASON JAR FOR STORAGE?:
No. You can use any glass jar that has a glass lid or lid. I use a 10 dollar glass flour jar with a glass lid from Walmart.
HOW OFTEN DO I NEED TO CLEAN MY SOURDOUGH STARTER JAR?:
Not very often. I wash my jar when the sourdough become completely stuck to the top of the jar and the lid will not shut completely. I try to scrape off any excess into the jar so I don’t get tons stuck to the top of the jar. I wash mine about 3 maybe 4 times a year.
I do not recommend washing it everytime you feed or use it. This may disrupt it and cause it to be less active or go dormant. I always keep a back up glass jar to swap when this happens and then I just wash the dirty one and put it up as a backup.
CAN I FREEZE MY SOURDOUGH STARTER?:
yes and no. It really depends on your starter. You can try with about 1 cup in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid or a ziplock bag with the aire removed. It should be ok for up to 3 months. You can remove it and let it come to room temp in a warm place. Be sure to cover with a tea towel. When active you can start feeding it again.
With this being said some bounce back and become active and some starters die. It truly depends on your starter. when you notice your starter is active and bubbly again you can start using it.
CAN I DRY MY STARTER?:
yes. all I do is line a sheet tray with parchment and spread a very very thin layer of starter onto the tray. Let this sit at room temp (around 77*) uncovered. This should take between 5 to 10 hours depending on how warm or cold your house is. You can also place in an oven uncovered and let it dry out as well. I do not turn my oven on but I do turn the fan on low to help speed up the process. When it is fully dry, break into pieces and store in an airtight container, preferably a mason jar with a tight fitting lid.
To wake up a dry starter all you have to do is add about 30 grams of your dried starter and about 60 grams of luke warm water to a glass bowl. Make sure to submerge the flakes in the water. Stir the flakes every 20 to 30 minutes to reactive. Once the starter is active, feed it. When the rehydrated starter is bubbly and active you are ready to use.
CAN I GIVE SOURDOUGH STARTER AS A GIFT?:
of course you can. Make sure the sourdough starter is fed, active, and bubbly before gifting to your loved ones or friends. I would not recommend giving more than 1/2 cup of your starter. They can feed it when they receive it to start their own or they can make their very own by the instructions above.
Once they receive their starter they then have to start building up their starter. Start with a little bit of flour (1/2 cup) and water (1/4 to 1/3 cup) to make a pancake batter consistency. Cover with a tea towel and let ferment for 24 hours in a warm place. Do this for about 4 to 5 days (discarding half as stated in above directions) once the starter has re-established itself you are ready to use.
I hope that I covered everything in this post and if I missed anything or if there is something you are curious about with sourdough starter you can reach out to me here, email, Instagram, or youtube. I am always happy to answer any of your questions. I have some sourdough recipes coming to my youtube channel and future blog post/recipes so keep your eyes peeled for that. I wanted to address the starter first so you can establish your starter first for your very own recipes, making my recipes, or making someone else’s recipes.
Sourdough is very easy to make and maintain. I hope that this blog post shed some light on FAQ’s I typically get about sourdough starter. I hope that you find that this post is easy to follow and allows you to easily maneuver your sourdough starter.
If you want to see any future videos on my sourdough (which should be going up soon if not already) you can check out my sourdough playlist on my youtube channel. Link is below.