How to Care for Your Sourdough Starter

Making and caring for sourdough starter can be a rewarding and delicious experience, but it does take time and attention. Sourdough starter is a live active yeast culture that needs to be fed regularly in order to remain alive and healthy. With the right steps, you can keep your sourdough starter alive for years! I am an avid sourdough caretaker and I’d love to give you some tips on how to care for your own starter so you can enjoy the perfect loaf of homemade sourdough bread and countless other recipes.

Homesteader at Heart

Living a self-sustaining lifestyle can be an incredibly rewarding experience. It is something I wish I had more time for. Instead, I embrace the homesteader spirit and do what few things I do have the time for. Caring for a sourdough starter is a great way for me to feel in touch with my homesteader dreams by doing this one small thing. Slowly but surely… While tending to a sourdough starter requires more than just regular feedings; it takes dedication and diligence to maintain its longevity and quality. All accomplishments that make me feel proud to achieve.

For those looking to master their own homemade breads, understanding how to properly care for a sourdough starter is key. From learning the basics of how to create your own starter—as well as what ingredients are most appropriate—to knowing when and how often you should feed it; these steps will help ensure your sourdough starter remains happy and healthy for years to come.

The history of sourdough

The history of sourdough fascinates me. To think about how long ago it was being made, and to consider the oldest, still living sourdough starter could be over 100 years old? Mind blowing.

Sourdough has a long and varied history, spanning as far back as ancient Egypt. It is believed that the discovery of sourdough was accidental, when wild yeasts in the air combined with flour and water to create a spongy dough. For centuries, this recipe was passed down through generations who used it to make breads and other baked goods. Sourdough was an essential staple in many cultures’ diets until after World War II when manufacturers began producing commercial yeast.

Today, more people are returning to traditional baking methods due to its health benefits and convenience. As interest in sourdough has grown so too have recipes for using it; from pancakes to pizza crusts there are endless options available for creative cooks. Although baking with sourdough requires some effort and practice, it’s a worthwhile endeavor that can yield delicious results.

How to make your own starter

Having your own sourdough starter can be a great way to bake homemade bread with the unique flavor of natural fermentation. But before you can get to baking, you must first make your own starter. Making your own sourdough starter is easy and inexpensive – all you need is some flour and water!  If it helps you, this is a great kit for beginners that includes so many of the main essentials for you.

Here’s how to get started.

First, measure one cup of whole wheat or rye flour into a bowl. Slowly add one cup of filtered water while stirring the mixture with your hand until it forms a thick paste. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or cheesecloth and let sit at room temperature for 24-48 hours. Over this time span, wild yeast will begin to form in the mix, creating an active culture that can be used as a sourdough starter. The mixture will become foamy and bubbly, showing that the yeast is active. It should have a distinct sourdough aroma as well. Once your starter is ready, you can make your first loaf of bread!

Sharing sourdough starter is an amazing idea! If you have a family member or friend who has a starter that they are willing to gift to you, take it! An established starter is going to be more flavorful than a new starter. And sourdoughs can taste and behave differently depending on where it lives, geographically! Crazy! My sourdough starter was given to me by my older sister. I used to feel like I was just going to kill it, but with a little knowledge, I realized I could do it! And it’s still going strong 3 years later.

Feeding your sourdough starter

Feeding your sourdough starter is essential for maintaining its health and keeping it strong and active. Properly caring for your starter can be daunting at first, but with a few simple steps you can keep it alive and healthy for years to come.

To begin, make sure you have the right ingredients: all-purpose unbleached flour (or whole wheat if preferred) and warm water. Always use filtered or unchlorinated water as chlorine can inhibit fermentation. Once you’ve gathered the necessary items, feed your starter by adding equal parts of flour and water (by weight) every 12 to 24 hours until it becomes active again. The amount of time this takes will depend on how old or “hungry” the starter is. Once it’s alive and kicking, you can begin using the starter for your bread. I personally use 1/2 cup starter, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup warm water. This means you will have some of your starter remaining after feeding. Look up some starter discard recipes!

Starter storage

Sourdough starter should be kept in a glass or plastic container. The reason for this is because sourdough starter is acidic. Prolonged contact of your acidic starter with metal will discolor your metal utensil and dissolve tiny amount of the metal into the starter if you leave it for, say, weeks.  I use these Weck jars and they are the perfect size!

Knowing how and why to store your sourdough starter in the fridge vs the countertop is essential. A starter left out on the counter needs to be fed at least once per day. The downfall is, that before you know it, a week has gone by and you have more sourdough than you know what to do with. Refrigeration is a fantastic tool for those of us who simply don’t bake every day. Refrigerating a sourdough starter is like hitting pause in the fermentation process. It slows down significantly, making it possible to go a week or more without feedings.

You’ll notice that after some time in the refrigerator, your starter may develop a grayish liquid on the top. This is called the hooch and it is totally normal! It only means that the starter is hungry. Before using your starter, you can dump the liquid off the top or mix it in. Mixing it in could add even more of that sourdough flavor.

You can also keep your starter on your countertop, so long as you are using it! I keep mine in the fridge and take it out to feed it the day before I plan to use it. It will be overflowing and bubbly, ready to use the next day! If you are not planning on using your sourdough starter within a day or two, it is recommended to refrigerate it.

I could ramble for days about the nuances of maintaining a sourdough starter, but this has been your introduction! It is really easier than it seems.

And now for my favorite recipe. These are to die for and I can’t help but eat them plain!!! They are also, obviously amazing with fajitas and tacos.

Sourdough Tortillas

  • 2 cups flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, melted lard or melted butter
  • 1/2 cup water or milk
  • 1/2 cup starter

Instructions

  • Mix flour, salt and oil/lard together.
  • In a measuring cup combine starter and water/milk.
  • Combine the wet and dry and gently knead into a uniform dough.
  • Let sit 6-18 hrs, 12 is best. If you want to push to 24hrs, put it in the fridge for the full 24 hrs.
  • Divide into golfball sized balls, roll thin as you can.
  • Dry cast iron frying pan on medium heat, 30-60 seconds a side, until there is little brown spots/bubbles.

ENJOY!