Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sourdough Starter

There are only a few things you need to get your sourdough starter going.  Flour, water, a nonmetallic vessel to put it in, and a wooden (or any non metallic) spoon to stir it with.  Metal and sourdough don't go together always use glass, ceramic, and wooden spoons.

I have found over time what works best for me to get the starter going real good, meaning lots of bubbles and rise, is fresh rye flour and wheat flour, I say fresh meaning recently bought from a store that goes through their product , and gets new shipments regularly.  I like to grind my own grain, but also buy flour from the store.   

Mix about 1/3 a cup of rye flour, 1/3 cup of whole wheat flour, and about 1/2 cup of warm water, or enough to make a thick but pourable mixture.  I mix this in a bowl with a wooden spoon, you will pour the mixture from the bowl into a glass pint or quart jar.  I like to use a glass jar because I can watch the sourdough create bubbles, and see what's happening, and know when I need to feed it again.  Also the lid should be left ajar to allow the wild yeast in.

Sourdough bread is a wholesome carbohydrate, and has been eaten throughout the years.  Before mass produced bread it was common for long lived people to soak their grains overnight and allow them to dry in the open air until they were partially germinated or sprouted, they soaked and fermented lentils, beans, and other legumes.  Adding them to the sourdough whole grain bread.  I am looking forward to showing you how I  make  pancakes, muffins, and bread with my sourdough starter.

To get the starter going it needs warmth.  I place my jar on the mantle next to the wood stove pipe.  If you have a gas stove you could put a thermometer in and check first to see how warm it is with the pilot light, and that is another good place. It likes to be at around 85 degrees. I have found it also works good on a kitchen counter at room temp.  It just takes longer. 

I watch it for bubbles and rising, depending on the temp, and the thickness of the dough. In the few days of sitting out, you'll want to watch as it rises, creates bubbles and peaks or goes back down, then take about half out, and add more flour and water.  I just mix the flours in a bowl and add water to the right consistency.  Then I add about half the starter to the new flour and water mixture, and toss the other half out.   I always rinse the jar, and repour it back in.  I do this to keep the side of the jar clean, and refresh everything.   

I also smell it to check how strong it is, if it smells strong and the bubbles are mellowing, you will know it needs more flour and water.  If it smell bad you need to take half out and add more flour and water.  It needs to be fussed over and fed for a few days to really get it going good.  I usually feed in the late morning and evening.  It will begin to smell like sourdough and will have a nice tang, I think it's a good smell.  You will get the hang of when to feed by watching and smelling and adding more flour, measurements are not real necessary, it's more about the consistency, it it's thicker it takes longer to ferment, thinner will need to be fed more frequently.  Don't worry too much about messing up, if you do it's easy to start over. 

The sourdough starter will be ready to use after 4 or 5 days.  You will use some, and save the rest by refrigerating.  I put mine in a pint jar, and store in the refrigerator where I will see it.   Use  it regularly and always refresh with more flour and water.  It will last in the refrigerator indefinitely if you keep adding fresh flour and water to it every week or two.  You will have to remove some every time, or your jar will be too small as it rises. After a couple weeks the starter really gets a good aroma and flavor.  At this point is a good time to freeze some in a plastic bag.  I do this because I have left sourdough starter too long in the refrigerator without adding to it and it goes bad.  If you have a back up in the freezer  you can thaw it out, and get it going again once it's warm and is fed, you will save the 2 weeks time it takes to get it just right.

I will share how I use the starter to make bread, pancakes and muffins over the coming weeks. 


Joseph and Emma said...

Awesome .... thank you so much! One of my goals this year is to learn how to make my own sourdough starter and keep it alive. And even better, learn how to cook with it! I am very excited about this series of posts and I hope to follow along with you on the journey. Best wishes!


jewel said...

Thanks Joseph and Emma for
following along with my homesteading adventures.

Kimberly said...

When you say take half out and add more flour and water are you saying to add more of the same original mix to the existing starter?

Jewel said...

Hi Kimberly,

The most simple way to explain how I get the starter going. Is to start with the original recipe with wheat flour and rye in a jar, watch it, smell it, and add a little more flour when it looks like it needs to be fed. You will know it needs to be fed because it will form a little liquid on top, or smell, in the beginning it takes a little while to smell like sourdough. I don't go by measurements but just add a little
more flour, usually a little of both wheat and rye.
If the jar gets too full, empty some out (that's the whole reason you empty some out)

It needs warmth like when bread rises.

My first couple attempts at sourdough starter, I ended up throwing the whole batch out because I didn't do it right, one time it got mold, because I didn't feed it soon enough, another time I fed it too much and could never get it going good. Finally when I started using rye, it worked, I also put it by the woodstove, and the heat got it going.

Getting sourdough starter going
is tricky, and every place has differences with the wild yeasts in the air. Keep trying, good luck

Kimberly said...

Thanks Jewel! And thanks for your post re: Valentines day. Oh and I agree on the bread and ice cream, I recently switched to weight watchers. :) I love your blog!