Sour Dough Starter Tutorial

Thanks to Rhonda, a dear reader, for the great tutorial that follows. Her sour dough has been alive for years.

With bread prices on the rise (tacky pun fully intended. If a writer doesn’t intend a pun, they should use a dad-blasted thesarus. Sorry. Pet-peeve.)

Oh dear, where was I?

Ah yes, expensive bread. Making your own is a great alternative. However, yeast prices are no picnic either. So, sour dough it is. Once you get it going, your set. And there are ever so many thing you can do with it.

I do love expert advice.

Here it is, pasted directly from the e-mail

Hi Nancy,

Well, I finally found a few spare minutes to start this sourdough “recipe” (if you can call it that).

First of all, let me stress how important it is to use organic ingredients at least to start your starter to help your starter get a good start in life. Water needs to be non-chlorinated, and the fruit you use should be organic. Just bear with me. I use Bob’s Red Mill, but I live in the Pacific Northwest and his mill is local (less than 40 miles from my house). Grinding your own is good, too, if you have your own mill (the fresher the better). For water, please use filtered water or good tasting well water with no chlorination. Alternatively, you can buy good spring water from the grocery, or if your tap water tastes good, just set some out overnight (lightly covered with a kitchen towel to keep the bugs and dust out, the chlorine will dissipate over 24 hours). Don’t use metal with your sourdough, just a plain old wooden spoon will do just great.

So, you will need:

3 organic apples for juicing or a bunch of organic grapes
5 pounds organic wheat flour (either whole wheat or all-purpose)
2 pounds organic rye flour (rye is a traditional flour for starters… it just seems to really jump start your starter)

That’s it for ingredients. I will walk you through day-by-day… (all are estimates, depending on the “growing” conditions in your kitchen – I have a relatively cool house, 60 degrees during the day and about 68 in the evenings, you definitely do NOT have to keep your house at 85 degrees. )

DAY 1: Juice three fresh organic apples (or a bunch of organic grapes to equal about 1 cup juice), strain and place liquid in a partly covered jar or jug. (I use a quart canning jar with plastic wrap placed over the top, poke about 7-10 holes in the plastic with a toothpick).

DAYS 2-7: When the juice is obviously bubbly and fermented, pour it into a glass or ceramic (not metal), add 1 cup flour wheat flour (all-purpose or whole wheat, or a mixture of both) and ½ cup rye flour and leave, covered with plastic wrap poke with holes or in a loosely tied plastic bag.

DAYS 4-10: Add another 1 cup flour and ½ cup rye flour and ¾ cup water, mix well and leave on your counter. At the end of day 10 (or before 10 days), there should be visible bubbles in the mixture, but if not, no worries, your starter is just taking its time and developing some lovely flavors for you. Don’t stress out over this, it is NOT brain surgery or rocket science, think of it as a garden, some seeds just take longer to germinate is all.

DAY 11: Add another 1 cup of flour (again, white or wheat), ½ cup rye flour and ¾ cup water. Stir and leave on the counter, loosely covered.

DAY 12: Discard half the mixture and add another 1 cup of wheat flour, ½ cup rye flour and ¾ cup flour, stir and leave on the counter as before.

DAY 13 AND BEYOND: Repeat the above every day until your starter is alive and jumping. You will know this because the starter will rise up the sides of the bowl in between feedings and will start to smell sharp and cidery (before you stir it down it might smell like alcohol – this is just fine, it is a by-product of the yeasts and bacteria “breathing”). If you feel the need to get the starter going more quickly, feed it twice a day. I know this seem a little wasteful, but you will only be throwing it away (put it on your compost pile) for only a few days. When it doubles in the container in less than 24 hours we are ready to make some bread, cake, waffles, pancakes, biscuits, et cetera.

The starter as it gets mature, after it sits for a day or two will usually develop a layer of liquid on the top. It will range in color from clear to gray to black. Any of these colors are just fine, this is called “hooch” and is normal. If, though, you see a pink or red color on the top of your starter, just throw it out and start over again. Usually if you keep your starter fed and happy you will not have off colors or smells.

Seems like a lot of work, but it is more like a pet, you have to feed it, water it, and clean up after it, but the end result is beautiful, yummy baked goods, and no more reliance on the grocery store for that expensive dried yeast.

Nancy, next week I will walk you through your first loaf of bread and give you some ideas as to how to use up those discards. I will also teach you how keep your sourdough happy and how to store it in the refrigerator. I use my starter three to four times a week, so I don’t usually keep it in the fridge, but when I go on vacation, I cold sore it, either in a really cold root cellar or in the refrigerator.

Hope this is helpful, if you have ANY questions, don’t hesitate to shoot me an e-mail.

Sorry, no pictures; that is a little out of my comfort zone. 🙂

Gotta go, my sourdough is calling me, she’s hungry and ready to help me make some lovely waffles for tomorrow morning.


Well, I don’t know about you, but I fully intend to hold her to the further sour dough lessons.

Feel free to ship question to me and I will bundle them and forward them to our new beloved expert.

Thanks Ronda!

Who wants to go with me to her house for waffles? I have a gallon of maple syrup from this years harvest to bribe our way in the front door.


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