I think this is the fun part.
First find a suitable jar. I used a pastabake sauce jar the first time, but felt it wasn’t quite big enough for what I wanted.
The plunger coffee thing died, so instead of throwing it out I’m using the glass jar and the metal holder part.
I’m using cling wrap on the top of it. Some people don’t use a cover on theirs.
The idea is that wild yeast in the air get into your starter and it is then a live thing.
A pet even. Mine is, of course, called the Feral007 Starter. If you’re local, you could have some to start your own sour dough bread off.
On the coast they have regular Starter Swap days apparently, and at the organic markets people are all merrily swapping starters to try out.
If You Are Starting From Scratch, Here Is The Way I Did It, With a Few Alternatives Thrown In.
One clean jar. With or without lid/plastic wrap.
I used spelt flour. Organic, and stone ground. Rye and White.
The recipe for a starter is equal amounts of water and flour.
Initially I used 50g water (from the tap, rainwater, no chlorine etc).
And 50g total of flour. 15g rye and 35g white spelt four (a mix of flours seems good.)
Some recipe’s say to use pineapple juice instead of water for days 1 & 2.
Others say to use a few sultana’s or a piece of rhubarb. We had no rhubarb and
my daughter loathes sultana’s, so I bought some local dried cherries and put
about 5 in the bottom of the jar.
Put the plastic/lid on top and leave till tomorrow.
Add 50g water, 50 g flour and mix.
You normally store your starter when you are not using it, in the fridge.
But when you are starting it off you want it to bubble and be busy, so unless the
temperature is very hot leave it out on the bench somewhere.
If you name it and draw a face on the jar with a marker pen, people who
tidy up and wash up are less likely to throw it out by accident. (not an issue in
house where science experiments can live in the fridge for….well a long time.)
Add 50G of water, 50 g flour and mix.
Here comes the hard part – discard most of the starter (pour onto the compost.)
Add 100g water and 100 g of flour (70 white/30 rye) and stir into old remains.
Discard again – just pour out most of the starter onto the compost and add)
Add 100g water, and 100 g flour and mix.
Discard most of the starter and add 100 g water and 100 g flour and mix.
Day 7 to 10:
continue to discard most of the starter and add 100 g water and 100 g flour and mix.
During this time the starter should be bubbling.
As it is a live culture it makes the starter bubble and increase in size, by 1/3 to 1/2.
If you don’t discard it would take over the whole kitchen (just be careful when you walk by the compost heap 😉 )
Things That Affect The Starter.
There are many, but these are the things that I take into consideration.
The type of flour. I like to use spelt flour, it is a cereal grain that is similar to
but different to wheat flour. I found that when I used a commercial bread flour
the dough was so sticky I couldn’t get it off me!
The water: if you use filtered water you will have taken out a ot of impurities.
We just used our tap rain water, which means that it has the air impurities and the roof and tank impurities, but it seems to have done the trick here.
Covering or not covering the jar: I had trouble not covering the jar. People in the house had colds and I just can’t hack the thought of all those germs…..But since the yeast that cultures your starter is meant to be wild yeast from the air it’s something to think about.
I compromised by putting a piece of cling wrap loosely over the jar. And when no one was in the room to breathe on it, I would let it have some air.
In the fridge I will leave a piece of wrap on it, in case it joins forces with the science experiments that sometimes get going at the back of the fridge.
The temperature: The live starter can live in cold temperatures, it just ‘goes to sleep.’
ie slows down. So you can keep it in the fridge when not using it. Or in our case, in winter you can leave it asleep in the cold kitchen.
The problem for me was getting the starter started in cold weather.
We were having -6 &-7’s C here overnight and only up to 9C or so during the day.
That is why I put the dried cherries in the starter, since I thought it would give it that little bit extra to get going in the beginning.
MIne did get going. Although I didn’t ‘see’ bubbles rising, I did find lots of small bubbles on the top each morning.
I didn’t get an increase in the size of the starter each day as expected, not up to 1/3.
But it seemed to be ok.
So I tried it and it did work. Not sure if it will be much more bubbly in summer.
Too high a temperature: Here is the main problem with a starter.
It is a live culture of yeasts and it will die at high temperatures 35-37C.
Ideal temperature for it is: above 10 C – 27C.
So I didn’t even get to the lower ideal temperature for my starter, but it
did get started, so they must be fairly tough little yeasts! Feral even.
So that’s how you get Started!
But once you have your starter how do you look after it?
Because it’s no joke that it is a live culture, and needs certain things.
Most people seem to keep them in the fridge, since lower temperatures
slow it down but don’t kill it.
Some people even freeze it if not using it for a while. I thought I’d freeze a
portion of mine in case something happens to the fridge model.
Ongoing Care of Your Starter.
Keep it in the fridge or other cool place. Covered or uncovered. Your choice.
If you are using it frequently you might want to discard half and add
equal amounts of flour and water and stir the day before you use it.
I think in hot weather you could use it in less that 24 hours.
Some people feed their starter every 2 or 3 days and use it whenever they
like. Whenever you take some out, you add equal parts water and flour.
Other people do not touch their starter (sometimes for months!) and then
revive it, or wake it up, by discarding some and adding equal amounts of
water and flour and waiting 24 hours.
For frozen models, thaw (obviously) then add equal amounts of flour
and water, mix and wait 24 hours.
If no bubbles start up, then you would need to do some days of
Discard, add water and flour and mix, until bubbles are happening.
Some people have successfully dried their starter and restarted it.
Sounds a bit fiddly to me.
Fridge it or Freeze it is my choice of storage.
How Does Your Starter Smell?
Well, it smells quite earthy or yeasty, a lot of the time.
Mine hasn’t had time to sit still yet, but people do say that
it smells quite acidic when it’s been sitting a while.
If it smells like a bad f@rt then it maybe not for general
If it’s growing moulds and such? Not really a good idea.
Although if it is just a very little bit of mould on the jar above the starter,
you can carefully spoon out some starter into a clean jar, and then
do the steps from Day 4 onwards, until it is looking very healthy again.
It’s quite good fun doing a starter. I feel fond of mine. I was sorry when
I had to leave it in the care of two teenagers for nearly a week.
It was really only in storage, but still…………
I need to find a nice spot in the fridge for it now.
Somewhere where it will feel safe and cared for.
Somewhere with a nice ambience, a little spirituality,
and a bluddy huge amount of levity!
I like a Sourdough Starter with a Sense of Humour!
Oh, and I meant to tell you a little about Spelt flour, here’s a link ………………..I quite like this link, since it mentions that in Poland (and other places) they use Spelt to make Vodka…………well you know, Feral cannot live by Sourdough Bread alone! 😉