Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sourdough Starter

Before there was store bought yeast, there was “sourdough starter”. A fermented mix of grain and water used to create dough. During the late 1800’s, pioneers traveling the Western US used to carry “sourdough starter” in order to make bread. They were very dependent on it as a food source and many families would pass it down from generation to generation.

I am happy to say that I recently received a very special sourdough starter from my mother. I say ‘special’ because it is approximately 100 years old! I was excited to receive it because I know that if it is properly cared for, you can make really fantastic bread. It will be like eating a piece of history. Because starter is wild yeast, it can be very unpredictable. But with patience and proper care, it can be very rewarding. Here is what I found out about how to care for your starter:

1. When you receive your sourdough starter, be sure to keep it in a clean glass jar. Cover it with plastic wrap. If you use a lid, be sure it is loose. The starter releases gasses when it is feeding and they need to escape. if the jar is too tight, it can explode.
2. Keep your starter in the fridge if you are not going to use it. The cold will slow down its metabolism.
3. Feed your starter about every 2 weeks. Chances are starter will be fine if you don’t feed it every 2 weeks, but you don’t want to risk leaving it at the brink of death either.

1. Check to see if there is any dark liquid at the top of the jar. The dark liquid is called Hooch and it is alcohol produced by the starter after it is done feeding. The dark liquid is also a good indication that your starter needs to be fed. Too much alcohol content can kill your starter, so if it is very dark, pour it off. Otherwise mix it with a sanitized wooden or plastic spoon. Stainless steel utensils are ok, but not any other metals as it can kill the starter.
2. Pour your starter into a medium sized glass bowl. Ad 1/2 a cup of water and whisk. Then add ½ cup of flour and whisk again.
3. Cover the bowl and place in a warm dark place for 12 hours. I like to put mine in the microwave over night.
4. In the morning, you’ll notice the starter will be double the size. If you plan to cook with it, remove 1 cup of the starter for use and store the rest back in the fridge. Be sure to feed the remaining starter before putting back in the fridge. It will need 1 cup of water and 1 cup of flour.

These basic instructions should help keep the starter happy. If well cared for, the starter can live indefinitely. I plan to make sourdough pancakes in my next post so check back soon for the recipe!

For more information on how to make care for your starter or make your own, check this informative website or this.

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