I have done some work with sourdough breads before but I wasn’t retired at the time. Sourdough requires some extra planning and care so I didn’t really have time before. Now that I have retired I decided to give it a try again.
I have read about the method used by the Yukon gold rush miners to make a sourdough starter. They didn’t have mail order and anyone who already had a starter usually guarded it dearly. They would make their starter by mixing flour and water and letting the wild yeasts and beneficial bacteria make the starter. I decided to give it a try.
I like the taste of whole wheat flour but the texture of white flour. So, I use a mixture of white and whole wheat flour for most of my bread recipes. I decided to make a 1/2 whole wheat starter. If you want to make a regular starter, just use all white flour. If you want 100% whole wheat, just use all whole wheat flour. I have heard you shouldn’t use chlorinated water but I have well water and didn’t worry about it. I have also read that chlorinated water is fine if you
let it sit for a few hours before using it.
I mixed 1/4 cup all purpose flour and 1/4 cup whole wheat flour with 1/2 cup water in a glass jar. You can use glass, plastic or ceramic but not metal. The old timers said to put it over the wood stove. Not having a wood stove, I put it on top of the fridge.
The mixture sits for 24 hours and you add 1/4 cup each of white and whole wheat and 1/2 cup water to the starter and back to the fridge top.
You continue to add the flours and water for 3 more days and the mixture should start bubbling about the fourth day.
On the fourth day, I had nothing, nada, zip, zero, not even a bubble. I made my final addition but was resigned that the effort had failed. I even called a friend who had a working starter and asked to borrow some to make a new starter using some of their proven sourdough. Then I went to throw out the starter and it was bubbling like mad. I guess I just needed to scare it.
You’ll note in the pictures there is a clear liquid that forms as the starter works. This is just alcohol produced by the starter as a byproduct. Just stir it in.
You may wonder why I bothered to name my starter. A sourdough starter is a living thing. If you don’t feed and water it, it will die. It is harder to let something die if you name it. I named mine after Sam McGee from the poem by Robert Service, The Cremation of Sam McGee.
You must use or throw out a cup of your starter each week and replace it with a cup of flour and water for it to feed on. If you do, it will keep on going indefinitely.
I will describe how to use the starter in recipes as they come up.
So Sam, welcome to the world!
The Old Fat Guy