A cousin, who is just about to turn 21, has been experimenting with making sourdough starter recently. We’ve enjoyed times together in the kitchen experimenting with making different foods – especially salsa.
When a recipe for this just turned up in Grandma’s things (as I was searching for something else) I took it as an ‘attaboy!’ cooking sign for Brennan from Grandma.
To make starter, place 1 cup milk in a glass jar or crock (nothing metal) and allow it to stand at room temperature for 24 hours.
Stir in 1 cup flour (to speed the process, place in front of an open window to expose the dough to the wild yeast cells floating in the wind). Leave uncovered in a warm place (80 degrees) for 2 to 5 days, depending on how long it takes to bubble and sour.
*If it starts to dry out, stir in enough warm water to bring it back to the original consistency. Once it has a good sour aroma and is full of bubbles, it is ready to use.
Try to maintain 1 12/ cup starter. Each time you use part of your starter, replenish it with a mixture of equal parts of milk and flour. Leave at room temperature until it again becomes full of bubbles, the cover and store in the refrigerator.
Here’s a step-by-step sourdough starter making video series by Food Wishes.
“I had a slight resurgence in interest in sourdough a couple of months ago and looked up “how-to” on the internet. What’s written below is repeated over and over with very little variation (i.e. maybe mix the flour in originally) in many, many places. So this is the method. My bacteriology and mycology training just can’t seem to settle with this. It seems dangerous. Yet this is how people have done it for generations. ….There was one time when I sustained a sourdough culture for about 4-6 months and it worked great. But it was from a purchased “starter kit.”
“Wayne has some experience with sourdough starter I think. I clearly recall him talking about “throwing it a biscuit” every now and then, meaning replenishing it with flour & water to keep it going if you didn’t bake any bread for a while.” – Jeanette
“Sourdough is a wonderful hobby, it doesn’t take much luvin’ but one needs to keep it fed so it doesn’t go bad and get “ugly” and die. I’m told, though I never tried it, if you grow weary of your friend you can add enuff flour to make a pretty hard ball and just put it away. Then ,when you feel inspired again . you just squish it up in some water and VILOA! yer back in bidness 🙂 What a great friend !! Better’n a dawg or cat even.” – Wayne
“Thanks Jeanette. I was hoping you might have an explanation about how letting the milk “sour” sets up a fermentation process that kills germs. Now I know skepticism is okay. I have discarded sourdough starter that had the “pink, green or dark brown” look. It probably happened because I failed to “feed” it. In any case, I don’t like to experiment with my intestinal tract.” – Mary
Jeanette’s Online Research:
I “Googled” it and here’s the link: http://motherhood.modernmom.com/can-sick-baking-bread-bad-starter-9205.html
The use of a starter when baking bread shortens the rising time and gives the bread a complex, developed flavor not ordinarily available through the use of only yeast. Making your own sourdough — or starter-based — bread is not hard, but it is an act of commitment; the use of a bad starter is not only dangerous but could be deadly.
Starters work by creating an ideal place for wild yeast and friendly bacteria to settle and populate. If treated correctly, these friendly microorganisms will make the dough untenable for unfriendly germs — the friendly bacteria will produce lactic acid, which will make the bread tangy and the starter toxic to most microorganisms. However, if you allow the yeast in your starter to die, room will become available for germs and toxin-forming bacteria — such as E. coli — to settle in. While many bakers would argue that almost all starters can be saved — considering that there may be a chance of serious contamination — discard starters that show signs of distress to be safe.
Signs of Contamination
A starter should be white, light gray or light tan. It should smell like bread dough, of yeast or of its ingredients. It should bubble subtly and occasionally burp. If the starter has liquid on top of it — this is called hooch, and it is the alcohol the starter’s yeast produces from fermentation — it should be clear, white, light gray or light brown. If the starter or its hooch is pink, green or dark brown, discard the starter. If it smells or looks moldy, discard the starter. If the starter is fizzing or the starter has spots or patches — which are signs of foreign bacterial growth — discard the starter.
Lactic Acid Gone Bad
Lisa’s recommended Fermentation books:
click on the image to visit the book’s Amazon page.