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Old 04-03-2012, 11:50 PM   #1
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Default How do you maintain your sourdough starter?

I've finally got a good and tasty starter going but I've read many different ways for maintaining it, most of which involve refrigeration. I want to avoid that if possible because I'm not one to plan my bread making that far in advance, and if I wake up one sunday morning and want sourdough pancakes, I just want to grab a scoop of ready to go active starter and get cooking.

So, what is the preferred non-refrigeration method? I've seen some people talk about feeding it up to twice a day when leaving it out while others say once a week, and others say refrigeration is necessary (which I know is BS).

For the past month or so I've basically just been stirring every day or two and then do the full discard some and feed every five days and maintain about 75% hydration. It still smells fantastic and is making great breads, but I'm concerned this method/schedule may not be appropriate for the long term. But I don't really know, so I figured I'd ask here since I'm sure there are others who maintain sourdough.

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Old 04-04-2012, 11:05 PM   #2
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A good starter is to be cherished. Your method should work well. As a backup, what I've done in the past is split the starter and refrigerate a portion in a tightly sealed jar. That way, if the active starter goes weird, I could restart with a known good jar. Replace the refrigerated potion every second or third feeding.

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Old 04-05-2012, 02:04 AM   #3
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Yeah, I've done exactly that. I put some in the fridge as a backup just in case the one I'm keeping on the counter goes bad.

So far the only issue I've had was at one point getting a bit of a finger nail polish smell from it, but after a few days of feeding it went back to it's usual sweet and sour smell. I guess moving it to the basement during these warmer months might help as well since it's nice and cool down there.

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Old 04-22-2012, 06:14 PM   #4
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Hmm. Maybe I'm doing it wrong...

I made a starter awhile back. now it lives in my fridge with a lid on (it's in an old pickle jar or something). when I need to use it, I pull it out, measure what I need and then feed it with equal parts water/flour. then I put it back in the fridge w/ the lid on....

Should I not be doing that?

also, my starter smells like Elmers glue....

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Old 04-24-2012, 02:20 AM   #5
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I try to feed my starter once a day. I use about a tablespoon of starter, and an equal amount (by weight) flour blend (1/2 whole wheat, 1/2 bread), and water. That method is from the Tartine Bread Book by the way (I book I'd highly recommend).

Of course I don't always remember to feed my starter. I find I can let it go for 3 or 4 days without much ill-effect. When I know I'm not going to feed my starter for a while, I like to feed it once, wait a couple hours and put it in the fridge. This works well when I'm heading out of town or know I'm not going to bake for a while.

I find that my starter is much more predictable if I pull it and feed it for a day or two at room temp before I bake with it.

In commercial bakeries, sometimes their starters are remarkably old like 50-100 years! As such, their regarded with a mystical sort of reverence. But all it would take for someone to kill off the whole thing would be one dumb mistake (think forget to save a portion and bake the remainder in the days bread), so, they keep an insurance policy: they freeze your starter. You can too. Every couple months, after you've seeded the new batch, instead of throwing out your left over starter, toss it in the freezer. If your starter dies, thaw the frozen one, and baby it for a few days to get it going strong again and your good as new!

pnj: I've heard of people using their starter like you describe. But I've never done it. Elmers glue sound to me like your starter may be very young, as in the smell after you first mix it. As your starter sits it builds first lactic and then acetic acid. The lactic acid smell fruity and just slightly sharp, but if it sits for a day or two more it starts to build the acetic acid which smells like vinegar. People have different tastes for how young they like their starters. Still, yours sounds young, I'd pull a portion out and let it sit on the counter for a day or so and see if you like it any better.

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Old 04-30-2012, 05:32 PM   #6
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Has anyone purchased a starter? Mine is a few months old but I'm not really happy with it. I keep leaving it out on the counter, with the lid off but I don't think it's getting any better.

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Old 04-30-2012, 06:49 PM   #7
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I've never purchased one. But if you ask at a couple bakeries they may give you some of theirs. Tho, I have had trouble in the last couple years when I've tried to get pizza dough. Apparently pizza places (and likely bakeries), aren't allowed to give away or sell "raw" products. Maybe just a San Francisco thing tho.

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Old 05-09-2012, 01:18 AM   #8
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I feed mine every 12 hours if its at room temp (and if I can remember). I move it to the fridge most of the time but I feed it right before. It last about a week before it starts to get nasty. I hear the sourdough starter from king Arthur is good. Also try reading WWW.sourdoughhome.com. It is a pretty good reference site. He also has a few places listed to get a starter relatively cheap on that site.
You can store starter at room temp you just have to feed it everyday the those yeasties are hungry at that temp.

Oh I forgot to add don't put a starter in a sealed jar it could build pressure and pop the lid.

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Old 05-09-2012, 04:37 AM   #9
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Thanks for the tips, everyone. I gave up on the room temp starter because frankly, I'm too lazy to feed it that often, and I don't bake sourdough frequently enough to make it practical. Boy, do I miss sourdough pancakes, but I'll just have to learn to plan ahead with the starter I've kept in the fridge. I can handle a once a week or so feeding there.

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Old 05-22-2012, 09:48 PM   #10
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There is no way that I can have a starter living on my counter top until I die....

Hopefully storing it in the fridge will be fine.

I did just get some of the King Arthur starter in the mail. Mixed it w/ flour and it was bubbling away this morning... Hopefully it's still in the bowl when I get home and not on the flour/counter tops...

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