I am often asked if I will share my sourdough starter, my response is always “no”. Not because I am selfish but because I know that it is so fun to capture your own culture! I made my culture on a whim just to see if I could succeed and look what became of the experiment, Pacific Sourdough, our business! While I will not sell or give away our starter I am always happy to tell people how to start their own. So for all of you who would like to try your hand at capturing a starter culture, here is how.
To make your own sourdough starter:
First, go to your local Farmers Market and buy some grapes, or other fruit that will have wild yeast on the skin, such as plums or apples. Buy organic if you can, but above all, make sure the fruit is local (this means it will have the local wild yeasts that are unique to your area). Bring the grapes or fruit home but don’t wash them!
Make slurry of organic flour and water* in a ratio or about 1:1 to equal about 4 cups, you want a mixture that resembles pancake batter. Dump in a bunch of grapes about the size of your fist. Do this all in a non-reactive container, like a glass bowl or gallon jar. *I used tap water, but make sure your water is non-chlorinated, as chlorine will kill wild yeasts and prevent proper fermentation. Check on your city’s water website to find out. If your tap water is chlorinated, use filtered water.
Place the container with the flour/water slurry and the grapes in a warm spot. The best place is an insulated box with a heater, don’t panic, you probably have one. If you don’t you’ll be in dire straights to bake a loaf anyway…..I am talking about your oven! Simply put the bowl or jar in your oven, turn on the light and close the door, voila! An insulated box with a heater, the light bulb produces just the right temperature. Now just wait. After day, 24 hours or so, check the container. You should see bubbles on the top of the mixture, if you do, then fish out the grapes and discard them.
Next pour out all but 2 cups of mixture and refresh with an equal mixture of flour and water, again to resemble pancake batter, this is called “feeding”. Return to the insulated box (oven with light) and leave overnight. You will need to do this for 7 days to “build” your starter before you can use it to bake. Once you have a strong starter you may use it for all sorts of sourdough baked goods from pancakes to biscuits to bread.
To feed your starter:
Every time you remove some to bake with, you can also replace that with a mixture of equal parts water and flour. Mix up the feed in a separate bowl and then add it to the starter.
Follow your recipe, and pay attention to if a room temperature starter is needed, one that is cold from the fridge can be used, or if the starter needs to be “active” meaning feed recently (not RIGHT before you use it, but probably a day or two before you use it).
When using your sourdough starter and you are wanting a more sour or stronger tasting final product, you have two options. You can start feeding your sourdough starter a little dryer feed. If you like a more sour tasting sourdough, use a little more flour then water, like 1/4 cup water to 1/2 cup flour. For more information on adjusting the sourness of your starter, see this article. For instant results, you can add 1/2 teaspoon – 1 teaspoon citric acid (available at brew supply stores or online) to your recipe (not to the starter).
So have fun baking with it, reserve some for the next time (about 2 cups) and keep it in the refrigerator where it will go dormant for longer storage (3 months or longer).
Stay tuned for a recipe for Sourdough Waffles!