The Rise & Fall of Sourdough Starter. | The History & Recipe

Who wants to make a blob of guck that turns into bread?!  I know.  Everyone does. I mean, it’s the year of Coronavirus where the two most popular things in the world are baking sourdough bread and thinking about baking sourdough bread.  To do it, you need to know how to make sourdough starter.

Sourdough starter hit its stride in the year ohhhhh 1500 BC or so. The Egyptians were all over it. For thousands of years it was the only way to make bread. Then something horrifying happened – progress.

With the invention of instant commercial yeast by Louis Pasteur in the 1800s, sourdough starter was abandoned by bakers.

Commercial yeast gave predictable results, was easier to use and a lot faster than the homemade levain people had been using for centuries.  All but the most discriminating of bakers (the French) switched to using the commercial yeast.

What breads made with commercial yeast didn’t have was the flavour of bread made with the traditional sourdough starter. But bakers were willing to give that taste up in exchange for convenience.

100 years after the invention of commercial yeast, around the 1980s, the popularity of sourdough starters began to rise again before levelling out in the 1990s. 

Nobody (except every infectious disease expert around the world, plus that guy who made the movie Pandemic) could have predicted what would happen in the spring of 2020.

The entire world would shut down.  And together we were alone.

Collectively, without prompting, the world knew what to do. We would bake bread.

The word “bread” spiked to an all time high in Google searches.  This was partly because everyone locked inside their homes wanted to do and eat something that was comforting. What’s more comforting than the smell of freshly baked bread and a warm hunk of it slathered in butter.

Even more explosive were the results for sourdough starter a week later when everyone started to realize yeast was suddenly sold out everywhere.

 

 

Overnight, sourdough starter and bread became the “it” thing.  Nothing like this had happened since the Cabbage Patch doll riots of 1983.

Winter is coming again, the virus is in its second wave almost everywhere and even though you might not be in lock down, the safest place for you to be is at home. 

So.

Who wants to make sourdough starter?

If you were alive and coherent in the 1980’s you might remember the fad with people passing around a gross glop of dirty looking glue. You were supposed to take a bit out and pass along the rest to a bunch of unsuspecting friends. It was like a chain letter but with if someone accidentally sneezed on it, you were going to eat it.  Blech.

THAT was sourdough starter.

Sourdough starters have been known to be passed on from generation to generation.

It’s a mixture of flour and water that’s been left to ferment and turn into liquid yeast. It does this by “catching” wild yeast that’s in the air.

Sourdough starter, which makes bread rise,  tastes different than regular yeast because it contains different yeasts and bacterias. It’s fermented and has a slight sour taste to because of that. It’s what gives sourdough the unique flavour it has.

O.K. NOW do you want to know how to make this miracle of nature that has you catching wild yeast from the air known as sourdough starter?

I thought you might.

By the way, catching wild yeast is a bit of a romanticism.  You are in fact catching wild yeast, but yeast is pretty much in abundance everywhere.  You know when grapes have that white haze on them?  YEAST!  Yup.  The white haze on grapes is yeast.

Yeast is in the air, on your hands, and possibly on the spoon you use to stir your concoction.  Which is lucky for we sourdough starter makers.

Before I get to the sourdough starter recipe I know you’re going to have this question:

What flour is best for sourdough starter.

What kind of flour? Most people like rye and feel it ferments more quickly than other flours.  BUT you can use whatever flour you want or have; rye, whole wheat, white …

I use rye to start my starter. Then for subsequent feedings I may switch over to white.

 

How to make sourdough starter

A bit about hydration.

This is for a 100% hydration starter. That means it has 1 part flour to 1 part water. Different hydrations of starter and breads create different results.  A lower hydration (more flour than water) will give you a more sour taste and needs to be fed less often.  A higher hydration (more water than flour) will be milder tasting and need feeding more often.

There’s a LOT more to it than that, but if you’re a beginner I think this 1:1 starter is a good place to start for you.

  1. Mix 1/4 cup clean room temperature (filtered or bottled) water with 1/4 flour.  

Stir everything together until all the flour and water have mixed well.

2. Cover it with a cloth and let it sit for a couple of days in a room that’s approximately 23C (75F).

I’m using a bowl but you can also use a glass or mason jar.

 

After just 8 hours you can see tiny bubbles starting to form.

 

 

3. Once you notice bubbles and a yeasty smell (after 2 or 3 days) you can get rid of half of your mixture. Just scoop it out and throw it down the drain.  It may have dried out a bit. That’s O.K.  Add 1/4 cup of water and 1/4 cup of flour to the remaining starter, mix and cover up again. This is called feeding the starter.

Continue feeding the starter in this exact way every 8-12 hours for the next 2 weeks or so.

Remove half the starter, then add 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup of flour.  Wait 8 – 12 hours and do it again.

After several days of doing this you’ll notice the bubbles are starting to get bigger.


Sourdough starter not rising?

If you don’t think your starter is doing much you can:

  1.  Put the starter close to an open window so it has more access to wild yeast. (no idea if this is a fable or not, but I did it and it worked)
  2. Put the starter in a warmer part of the room, or warmer room in general.
  3. Increase the amount of flour and water you add from 1/4 cup of each to 1/2 cup of each.

 

By day 12-15 you’ll notice your starter will start to double in size after you feed it.  It won’t just get a bit bubbly, it will literally double in size!

 

 

Once your starter reliably doubles in size for several days, you can break out the cigars because you are the proud parent of glop.  Some people suggest you keep feeding it on the counter like this for up to a month to really get the sour taste.  

Those people must not have a life.  Because just feeding this starter twice a day for two weeks is enough to make a person crazy.  Trust me.  By the end of two weeks you’ll be as sick of feeding this starter as you are of feeding your family every night.

Once you have a successful starter you can stick it in the refrigerator until the day before you’re going to make bread.

Reviving sourdough starter

The day before you make bread the starter should be removed from the refrigerator and brought up to room temperature. Once it’s warm, add 1/4 cup of bottled water and a 1/4 cup of flour. This will help activate the starter and get it bubbly again. 8-12 hours later, do it again. Your starter should now be ready to use.

Sourdough Starter

5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Total Time: 17 days
Author: Karen Bertelsen

Ingredients

  • Bag of flour
  • Filtered tap water or bottled water

Instructions

  • Day 1 - Mix together 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup lukewarm water. Let sit for 2-3 days until bubbles form and it smells of yeast. During this time, stir the mixture whenever you think of it.
  • Day 4 - Remove half the starter mixture and dump it down the drain. Feed the remaining mixture with 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup water. Mix.
  • Continue to dump and feed exactly the same way every 8-12 hours for 2 weeks or until the mixture reliably doubles in size after feeding.
  • Store the sourdough starter in the refrigerator until the day before you're ready to make bread.  The day before, remove the starter, let it get to room temperature and then feed it.  (add 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup water)  8-12 hours later, feed it again.  It is now ready to use in the sourdough bread recipe of your choice.

So there you have it.  Sourdough starter glop.  Pass it on.

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The Rise & Fall of Sourdough Starter. | The History & Recipe

135 Comments

  1. Zofmui Acamundo says:

    Is “soft” water okay to use? From the tap.

    • Garth says:

      Yes, so long as it’s not chlorinated. Chlorine is designed to kill bacteria. Your starter is bacteria – don’t murder it.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Zofmui. People always say to you can’t use tap water because it will kill the starter, but I use chlorinated tap water all the time to make my starter and it’s fine. So if all you have is tap water, go ahead and use that. It could very well be perfectly fine. ~ karen!

  2. Dave R. says:

    So…yeah. I just went to the bakery this morning and bought a loaf of multigrain sour dough rye. It seemed like the easier option.

  3. em says:

    this sounds fun…and disgusting. right up my alley.

    I thing the only challenge will be the 75degrees. I’ll have to break out a space heater.

  4. Lee Hoy says:

    Ah, sourdough. As I read this post, I’m looking at my starter that my MIL gave me in 1986. Yep! still alive! After I feed it well then use some and it’s healthy again, I put it back into the freezer to rest for a few months. Got “Herman” , as she called it out of the freezer last week and he’s looking really good again. Although, at the time she gave it to me she called it Amish Friendship Bread dough starter. It’s a little sweeter. I’m going to make a coffeecake before it goes for it’s nap until the holidays. Love your posts. BTW thanks for the help on the luffas. They are little but very soft. I’m loving them. Keep up the good work. Lee

    • Karen says:

      Seriously? You been freeze/thawing something for 35 years and a. it still works? b. it hasn’t killed anyone yet?
      Do you let it thaw on the countertop, in the fridge?
      What sorcery is this??

      • Lee says:

        Hahaha. Love your sense of humor. I let it thaw on the counter then feed it. It’s really a Friendship Bread so it’s fed: milk, sugar and flour. It takes a few days but it does come round. I must admit that I have given it live yeast a few times too. It makes the best coffee cakes!

  5. Cheverly says:

    Ah, the 80s references have me misty-eyed. I remember well getting my Cabbage Patch doll in 1983. My little grandmother was so sweet and tiny. As the preacher’s wife, she was so cute up near the pulpit every Sunday morning translating the sermon into sign language for the deaf members we had at church. I wanted a doll SO bad, but (due to news of riots at the Toys R Us’) began to despair ever obtaining one. Imagine my surprise when I unwrapped it under the tree that Christmas Eve, AND learning that my tiny, cute grandmother emerged victorious with not one, but TWO Cabbage Patch dolls (one for a friend)! From then on, I understood she was a badass.

    Since we’re renovating a 100 year old house into our forever home and just recently added a stove to our halfway functioning kitchen (still no sink), I think I’m going to try this soon! Thanks for the inspo, Karen.

    • aA says:

      That story really nearly got me – a 61 year-old, 6’4″, 246 # Geezer – fairly misty! :D Thanks for the fond memory of yer little bitty Grandmother.

  6. Mia Pratt says:

    Oh Karen, I’m as fond of your writing style as I am of what you write about. At 0-dark-thirty this morning when I woke up and had to realize, once again, like a less optimistic version of Ground Hog Day, that I was relegated to hide away from friends and family in the middle of a pandemic, in a land far away from what was once my home (and where in 7 days an election is happening in a bizarre world that’s gone completely crazy)…I get your post and find myself laughing through tears, wishing I had a functioning 1st-world oven so I could bake me some sourdough bread (and slather it with butter). Sometimes it’s the little fantasies that save us, one smile at a time, from going completely nuts! Thanks for being the creative, talented and witty girl you are.👍🏻🤣

  7. Janis says:

    I was going to google search how to do sourdough…..I didn’t have to go far. Saw your question whether I’d seen your sourdough posts. Hadnt. Lucky me! Great easy to follow instructions and pics! I decided to check out your other STUFF……and for neat!!!! There are several summer projects I planned on doing that you have the “how-to” already figured out! So…..much a thanks from a “sister” that lives in the middle of rolling wheat fields in the Pacific Northwest!

  8. David says:

    I got in the habit a few years ago and it just feels so natural now that I’ll go out of my way to avoid bathrooms! But I suppose this is more feasible for those with apparatuses opposite most of the commenters here.

    Thanks for the dough ideas, by the way. I have a whole table of experiments going with different permutations of tap vs distilled and whole wheat vs rye.

  9. David says:

    I’ll second the suggestion for better uses of the discard. It shouldn’t be bad for the drain as long as it gets used regularly enough to rinse it through, but why burden the sewer system with something that will make perfectly good chicken feed or compost? Just tossing it into your yard is more eco-friendly. On that note, consider all the processing of sewage needed to make it into drinking water before flushing after ever toilet use (or again, pee in your yard).

  10. Jana says:

    Thanks, Karen!!! Guess what, my starter doubled. I’m so happy! I will keep doing it for a few days and hope it doubles consistently!

  11. sandy says:

    Thank you for the inspiration to do something I’ve been thinking about for a while – your method worked beautifully!

  12. Jana says:

    Hi, it’s been 15 days now and I am doing what you said, but my starter is not doubling in size. It’s not growing at all. It smells great and it looks good, but how long should I keep doing this before giving up?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jana – Try putting it in a warmer spot. For instance, when I had trouble getting one restarted I put it on my heated kitchen floor. Doubled in no time. You can try anywhere that’s warm (near a heat register, fireplace etc.) Keep trying! ~ karen

  13. Beth says:

    Ok – no way I am making this. But I do love sourdough bread and I now appreciate it much more. More importantly– the Little House references were hilarious!!!! I love your writing. Well done.

  14. Linda says:

    Actually I’ve been wanting to try this. Thanks! Now I feel like Mary Ingalls (minus the blind part)!

  15. Rondina says:

    I don’t remember us worrying about contamination as ‘glop’ was passed from neighbor to neighbor. That never crossed our minds. No flu vaccines. No Purell. No worries about germ-ridden shopping cart handles. The good ol’ days before we knew that bugs live on our eyelashes.

  16. Karen says:

    Hi, Karen! I’m so excited for you with the sourdough, and I’m looking forward to reading about what you end up baking with it. I don’t know if this will be valid for you, but I’ve found that my sourdough starter is the most useful for me when I can use it for the things that I already bake normally. So, if I’m going to make pizza, I make sourdough crust pizza. And if I’m going to make pita bread, I make sourdough pita bread. I’ve also made sourdough bagels, dinner rolls, French bread, pancakes, waffles…etc. I use a Herman sourdough starter, but because I’ve converted it to 100% whole wheat, it tastes more like regular sourdough than something sweet. As always, thanks for the inspiration, Karen. And congrats on the magazine articles. That’s really cool! :-)

  17. Lilia says:

    Yay! Thank you, Karen!

  18. Feral Turtle says:

    Great post Karen. It really works too. I have done this with breads and loaves for many years and usually with great success. Have had a few failures too but we don’t talk about them…hehe

  19. cheryl says:

    This was definiantly a good article Karen, almost makes me want to start some starter again ! Well fooled ya maybe another lifetime ! Good luck to Sour Sue…

  20. Sara says:

    So fun! I recently read a cowboy cookbook. He talked about how baking skills would determine if a chuckwagon cook was hired or fired. While on the trail, the cook would sleep with his jar of sourdough starter to keep it warm enough on cool nights. Great read! Thanks for sharing this recipe.

    • Sara says:

      Oh! The chuckwagon cooks would name their starters too and some restaurants in West Texas still bake bread based on starters that began over a hundred years ago. So…what are you going to name your starter? :)

  21. Bols says:

    Funny you should mention the sour dough starter, Karen. I read very recently (like 2 wks ago) that making bread at home has become the latest obsession in Prague and just like you go to bloggers’ meet up, home bread makers go to sour dough starter swap events. So there you go, or rather, I think you should go, too (to Prague, I mean). You would not mind extending your popularity to Europe, would ya? :-)

    But God bless you for posting the recipe for sour dough starter. Although I love sour dough bread, for me, there aren’t enough hours in a day to try this at home. And why should I, when each week I go to the local farmers’ market where I buy the absolutely best sour dough rye bread with caraway seeds (as you can see, a low-carb diet is a real struggle for me).
    So now I am adding to the list of things I admire you for another item: “Makes sour dough bread at home”.

  22. Barbie says:

    I used to have sourdough starter that I kept going like a million bazillion years ago and made some incredible sourdough bread! Don’t know why I quite! I think I just got breaded out….probably because I made so much bread that I could have started a bakery…either that or I had to go get a real job or something….yeah probably it was that!

  23. Shauna says:

    Now then, how do I actually make the bread with this starter? Any old bread recipe?

    • Karen says:

      No ma’am. It has to be a sourdough recipe that uses sourdough starter. I’ve tried a few. And tomorrow I’m trying another, LOL. My goal is a nice crisp crust with sort of medium sized holes. I’ll let you know how it goes. ~ karen!

  24. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Around these parts it’s Amish Friendship Bread which is a sweet bread..but sort of the same because you make the starter and let it ferment and keep adding things until it is declared ready..while sharing baggies of it with all of your friends..or those people you no longer wish to have as friends..Anyhow when the pain in the ass part is done it is a very yummy bread..I haven’t done it in quite a while but I have figured out that people really like it but they would prefer that you go through the misery of growing it and just share a nice baked loaf with them..We used to give loafs out every year for Christmas..

  25. Lisa says:

    ok, I just started one. I bake my own bread most of the time, and I used to go mooch off my mom’s starter but then she quit doing it.

    however, I am fairly certain that you should not be dumping it down the drain, especially if you have old plumbing.

    We used to put it in the compost bucket, but now I wonder if you can feed it to the chickens. My relatives on a cattle ranch feed their cows a bit of fermented corn.

  26. Ivana says:

    I made sourdough starter 20 years ago, and went through an active bread making phase for about 2 years. Then I moved, and for some reason stopped baking bread, but now I want to start again. By the way, Karen, you say that making the starter is easy, but that making the bread is tricky. I have only ever made bread in a bread machine, and it was no trouble at all, and the sourdough loaves were very tasty. And that was using one of the very basic machines of over 20 years ago, when the machines first came out. These days, the machines are much better, and I plan to buy a newer, updated one, even though I’m sure my old one would still work just fine. Another interesting point of note relates to what you said about wild yeasts wafting through the air outdoors. That is absolutely true, and different strains of yeast live in different geographical areas. The reason that San Francisco sourdough is so famous is because the particular yeasts that waft about there are particularly tasty. Go figure. Lastly, since different yeasts have different tastes, would anyone who has a particularly sour, mature starter care to share? I like mine as sour as I can get it, and since starters get half dumped at every feeding anyway, maybe I can adopt someone’s monster reject. Maybe I have something to exchange for it. Perhaps Karen could connect us? I’m in the Toronto area.

  27. Deb J says:

    I had sourdough starter years ago. Got the recipe out of my bread maker cookbook and used it to make bread in the maker. Made a lot of it. Was no where near as complicated as this method – but probably didn’t taste quite as good either. Still, for us lazy ones, it is another approach. Or are bread makers too passe (my accents don’t seem to work!) now?

  28. Laura Bee says:

    This is great! I love sourdough & hubby has mentioned recently that I should make our bread. I had a friendship bread starter for ages that I finally let go. Gave away most of it so I wouldn’t get fatter than I was.
    If I want to give the glop away, how much should I give? And at what stage?
    Now I’ll have to wait two weeks to make some, guess I could make some regular bread in the meantime. Super cool, thanks Karen

    • Karen says:

      Hi Laura – Wait to give the glop away until it has finished it’s regular feedings. (so at the end of the 2 week period, once it’s able to double in size after a feeding) I have about half a mason jar to give to my sister which is tons. At one point when I was dumping it down the drain, instead of dumping it, I put it in a mason jar and started one for her. So I was feeding 2 mason jars of starter. Conversely, you could just take about 1/4 of a cup and give it to your friend. Even a tablespoon would be enough! ~ karen!

  29. Grammy says:

    Again with the ’70s. It was a very good time for those of us who like doing everything Karen likes to do, so it’s a delight to see a whole generation who missed out on that bringing it around again.

    Back in those “glory days” I was working 40 hours a week (and commuting about 6 more) and still decided I should be Wonder Woman and bake all my own bread and grow all my own vegetables (organically, of course) and canned and froze nature’s bounty for weeks on end so that MY kids would never have all those dreaded preservatives and pesticides pass their lips. Imagine my delight when I found out they sneaked out with their friends and ate at McDonalds because that’s what you do when your mom is crazeeeeeee.

    But sourdough starter is the one thing I resisted. I read books about it. I knew people who had starters. I was offered several little baggies of glop. But somehow I knew that it would take over what was left of my life if I let it in. This is one of the decisions of my life that I have never regretted. I still garden and bake bread, but it’s less of a “mission” now, at a more enjoyable pace, and I can get the best sourdough bread from a local bakery.

    Still, I look forward to seeing Karen’s post on making sourdough goodies. I might feel a little wistful about passing up my chance to start some glop back in the day that I could pass on to my grandchildren, but not for long.

  30. Susan says:

    I understand now why everyone was passing around baggies of glop in the 70’s. That seems much easier than the 10-cups-of-flour-over-20-days method of getting the starter. While I TOTALLY understand the whole romantic appeal of the Little House on the Prairie feeling from making the starter from scratch, I think I’ll make a gelli plate, instead, and try some mono-printing on fabric for the quilting I’m about to do. And I’m very glad to know how to make the starter, just in case the quilting doesn’t go very well.

  31. Jcrn says:

    This inquiring (nosey) mind wants to know: have you tested it and will be passing along a recipe ? How long does it keep in the refrigerator?

    And an aside- pretty clever to have that pop-up ad for Nirvana under this thread!

    I imagine some very Nirvana-ish (inducing bliss) bread could come from this starter. My mouth is watering already. .

    • Karen says:

      Jcrn – Fraid I can’t take credit for the ad. It must be one the fine folks at Google Adsense picked out for me. The starter will keep in the refrigerator forever. As in, for the rest of your life. I’m trying a new recipe/technique tomorrow with my sourdough bread. So if all goes well I’ll post it. With sourdough a lot is about technique more than the recipe. How long you let it rise, whether you do one or two rises etc. etc. ~ karen!

  32. Tammy Rizzo says:

    I love sourdough bread, and I’ve been the proud ‘momma’ of a starter several times in my life. I’ve never successfully started my own brand new one, but I’ve gotten King Arthur Flour’s starter a couple of times and had great success with it. I have a special crock I keep on the counter for my starter. In the past month, I’ve made bread three times, and I’ve re-learned that you don’t actually have to feed an established starter twice a day. You can actually get away with feeding it like three times a week if it’s on the counter, and like once a week if it’s refrigerated. It might taste better if it’s still fed twice a day once it’s established, but it’s not a necessity. Making sourdough pancakes or muffins with the ‘discard or use’ half three times a week when feeding isn’t too onerous, even if I’m not making bread that day. Well, it wouldn’t be too onerous, I suppose, if I had bothered to look for a recipe for them yet. ;-) So far, it’s just gone down the drain. I anticipate a large GlopMonster come Halloween.

  33. Kristin says:

    I have a starter I’ve been nurturing for 13 years. I’ve given it away, even dried it and mailed it across the country, and I keep a backup container of it in the freezer, just in case someone thinks the bubbling thing on my counter is something very, very rotten and throws it away. I want to say, by the way, that I’m tired of people saying that they killed their starter. If it gets gray liquid on the top, it’s fine. Pour the liquid off and feed the starter (the liquid is alcohol–drink it if you dare!) If it gets orange fungus on top, scoop it off and feed it a few times. If fruit flies start gathering around it, strain it through a fine mesh sieve and then feed it (and protect it from future fruit fly infestations with cheese cloth or other breathable cloth.) I have rescued mine from all of these situations.

    So will you show us pictures of your sourdough bread?

    • Karen says:

      Hi kristin! I’ve been experimenting with a few recipes and techniques. I’m trying yet another one tomorrow, LOL. Shorter rise and a slightly less wet dough. If all goes well, I’ll post the recipe, technique and pictures. ~ karen!

      • Kristin says:

        I’m a professional pastry chef and baker, and I have a big passion for artisan breads, especially pizza (which I make in the pizza oven I built in my back yard.) I teach pizza-making classes part time, and I use my sourdough starter in my recipe. For sourdough boules or batards, it’s cool to try getting your starter really really active and using NOTHING BUT STARTER as the liquid (no additional water), basically adding flour and salt to a bunch of starter. Keep the dough soft and moist, give it a slow rise punctuated by a couple of turns (this is where you fold the dough like a business letter, then fold in half crossways; it gives a soft dough more structure and eventual height), then shape, proof and bake (use the dutch oven method for an amazing crust.)

      • Jennifer says:

        I’ve been dabbling in sourdough for a few years (I started my starter in 2007, using the method you described in this post–and yes, the Creature, as we call it, still lives) and the best bread recipe I’ve found so far was from a Martha Stewart magazine. It’s fussy, with weighing and everything, but it’s made the best bread so far http://www.marthastewart.com/907240/chad-robertsons-tartine-country-bread I also like making pizza crust with the starter–a good way to use some and keep it fresh when you don’t want to make bread all the time (because you will eat. the. entire. loaf.)

  34. Patti says:

    Hi Karen
    REALLY? Down the drain? Were it can grow into a hideous swamp creature? Just in time for Hallowe’en!

    • Karen says:

      Patti – Don’t be ridiculous. I don’t just throw it down the drain and walk away. I dump it down the drain, then fire a couple of rounds from a 12 gauge after it. Sheesh. It’s like you think I’m an amateur. ~ karen!

  35. Jeannie B says:

    Seems to me, that this used to be called “MONSTER dough. I remember doing this for a while and not being able to keep up. with all the baking. Mostly coffee cakes in my case. There was another thing too, made with fruit. I think it was called, “Brandied fruit”.You had to feed this too,. Fruit and sugar if i recall correctly.It looked pretty, sitting there in a glass container, fermenting on your kitchen counter, But, like how often did you want it as a topping on ice cream, pound cake, etc.? Bit of a nightmare hearing, “FEED ME”, coming from the kitchen when all the people and pets are asleep.

    • Ev says:

      I remember that nightm… I mean stuff! I saw it growing on other peoples’ counters. Luckily i knew it for what it was! Monster Indeed, and if all was quiet, you COULD hear it moaning “Feed Me”! So I ran screaming and would not accept some even though they begged me. Unfortunately I did succumb to Amish Starter. Was glad when that was over! Whew!

    • kate-v says:

      oh, this is definitely a flash back to the 70’s (and late 60’s) what with the Karen’s sourdough starter, Julia’s ‘Friendship cake”, and with Jeannie B.’s brandied fruit thing going on … now all we need are a few jars of sprouts and I won’t be able to see my again counter – my, my, how this dredges up the memories — where are my prairie dresses when I need them? — even though I will never be able to get into them again

  36. Leslie says:

    Annoying question: Can I use well water, unfiltered?

  37. JebberJay says:

    Cool. Here’s a cool reference from Wikipedia on SF sourdough. “the San Francisco variety has remained in continuous production since 1849, with some bakeries, e.g., Boudin Bakery among others, able to trace their starters back to California’s Gold Rush period.” Yum yum yeast.

  38. kate-v says:

    – it’s like the 70’s all over again – what’s next? quilting and granny squares? is this deja vu? a flashback? time travel through the internet?

    • Denise Leavens says:

      You don’t visit the latest in diy (do it yourself) blogs do you? Take a look at the magazine section and you’ll see.Quilting and crocheted granny square everything is BIG again! Yes, just like in the 70’s!

      • kate-v says:

        OH, Denise you are so sweet to let me know all this is back in a big way — I actually don’t visit very many diy blogs. I do check out the knitting and crocheting websites as that feeds one of my hobbies. Honestly i find reading the computer very time consuming so try to stick with research or a few favorites – like taods. I am a ‘square’ granny you might say – I have 8 grandchildren and 3 great grands — let me tell you the time she does fly – whether you’re having fun or not. uh oh, about now is when the granddaughters would start gently dragging me away – when I start reminiscing and sharing platitudes with strangers…

        • Denise Leavens says:

          I’m the generation just after yours. My daughters are the ones who not-so-gently are dragging ME away when I start sharing too much! They keep saying to me, “T.M.I., Mom.” Too Much Information. So glad you and I both found this lovely lady, Karen, and her immensely informative, humor-filled and REAL blog!

    • Catherine says:

      It’s not a real flashback until they bring out the macrame’ again.

      • Dolores says:

        OMG Catherine! My granddaughter is a senior in college and she is all into macrame-she even has an Etsy shop. I could. not. believe. it. I guess everything comes around again.

  39. Becky says:

    Why dump the extra starter down the drain? I put it in my pancake batter, muffin better, etc.

    • Karen says:

      Becky – LOL. Well, for “starters” (heh, get it?) I’d have to be making pancakes and muffins twice a day to use up the dumped batter. And by day 5 of feeding the starter, quite frankly I’m happy to chuck it down the drain. Good riddance. ~ karen!

    • Mel Robicheau says:

      Do you do this after it is ready in a couple weeks or can you do it from when you initially start it?

      Heh I know this was from 2.5 years ago but after making kombucha I’m finally ready to start fermenting other things!

  40. Wendy says:

    Can’t wait to try this! I made Amish Friendship Bread (same concept) and my husband was quite disgusted that people actually do this.. He even named the mixture Frankenstein! He’s gonna lllloooooovvveee this one! ;-)

    • cheryl says:

      Wendy, that’s a hoot he named it frankinstein !!!

    • cheryl says:

      YOU now know why they called it friendship bread all those women couldn’t throw it out, so they gave it to their friends…And i remember this is how mom made paste for us at home ! So maybe you could take it to the school everyday and they would save on all those bottles of glue !! hehe

  41. Chavella says:

    Wow, finally instructions that I don’t need a degree in chemistry to use. Thank You. love you and your blog.

  42. Kristina says:

    …I thought Mary never got married? Just in the tv show? I am tickled that there is someone else in this world who drops Little House references as much as I.

    • cheryl says:

      Kristina, Mary of little house did get married to her blind teacher instructor named Adam, they had a child which died in a fire ! And yes i’m a huge little house fan ..hehe I tried one of those starters that someone gave me years ago when i was first married , it was a flip flop and my husband told me to forget the homemade bread it was costing more then buying an wasn’t edible !! hehe have a greaaaat day peeps cheryl

  43. Maureen Locke says:

    I’m not a fan of sourdough bread… actually I just plain don’t like it.
    I do however love homemade bread, especially brown bread. I think I’ll stick to yeast in a bottle though. I really don’t think I have the patience to feed that thing so much. I know I’d just throw it out in a fit one day. Hence the reason all my anticipated patio plants are in the compost heap out back. Nothing worked the way I had hoped and I got fed up and threw them all out. Maybe I’m just getting old and cranky. I want to retire so I’ll have time to do all these things I want to do properly. I just don’t have enough hours in my day. :( Hopefully someday.

  44. Sandy says:

    I don’t know if it’s true, but I once read that some artisan bakers are working with starters that are 100’s of years old.

  45. Janet says:

    http://wholenewmom.com/recipes/gluten-free-sourdough-starter/

    Here’s a link to a good explanation for how to make gluten-free sourdough starter, for any of your readers who may have celiac disease. (Like me.)

    • Laurinda says:

      I made sourdough starter many years ago & thought the resulting bread, with it’s rock-hard crust was a failure. It turns out however, that my husband & kids disagreed, & ate the whole thing in one sitting!
      So let that be a lesson to everyone- even mediocre homemade bread is delicious!!

      Thank you SO MUCH for the link, Janet! I don’t have celiac, but I do get pain & bloating after eating gluten, so I’ve been cutting it out of my diet. I’m so excited that I’ll be able to have a tomato sandwich again!

    • Cathy Heagy says:

      Thank you for sharing, I have some sourdough from my mother’s that was started around 1974. But I have two nieces that are sensitive to gluten, so I know I should make a gluten-free version for them to be able to share Mom’s recipes with their families. I got mine in 1985 and I use it mostly to make pancakes and biscuits but it does make a delicious bread. Unfortunately, Mom’s original starter was thrown out by my step-mother; Dad kept using it after Mom died. She (my step-mother) didn’t know the smell and appearance was normal and thought it had gone bad. I have friends who asked for some and I intend to give some to family members (those who can eat gluten bread) and keep it going.

  46. Marti says:

    There are two things that Americans will come after you with a gun for: sending them a stinking chain letter and slipping them a “friendship” or other dough starter. Like a blasted needy mewling infant with none of the dirty diapers and vomiting payoff.

    Sigh.

    It’s getting cold here. When is that squash going to be ready? Still waiting on the garden…

  47. Julia says:

    Was given a similar thing a couple of years ago… Herman the German Friendship cake.
    Cosseted it for 10 days, made my own cakes (fairly edible) and then tried to give the starter away.
    Considered renaming it ‘Herman the German (Why Are My Friends Looking At Me In That Way?) Cake’.

  48. Shannon says:

    This is great, thanks! I did one of these chain-letter things years ago and we called it “Friendship Bread.”

    Do you know how long you can keep your starter in the fridge once it’s ready for that? Like indefinitely?

  49. CJ says:

    I love that I now know this.

    There’s not a chance in the world I’m going to start baking my own bread, it just helps to know these things when paying for beautiful artisan sourdough bread.

    • Tigersmom says:

      I’m right there with you, CJ.

      Even though this is probably the one form of plant matter I could manage to keep alive, the knowledge of the time and aggravation I’m saving myself makes it infinitely easier for me to justify buying bread that came from someone else’s time and aggravation.

      I received a Ziploc of glop a few years back and it grossed me out and promptly went in the trash.

  50. TorontoBoy says:

    This was a very informative article. I love homemade bread so I am definitely going to give it a try. I had no idea that there was such a thing as wild yeast and that it exists all around us!

    • Karen says:

      There is indeed such a thing! But I’m going to forewarn you … making the actual bread is 10X as complicated as making the starter, LOL. Or it can be. You can use less starter (which creates a stronger sourdough taste), or more starter … you can let it have a warm rise or a cool rise … the possibilitie, combinations and recipes are endless! ~ karen

      • Toronto Boy says:

        Thanks for the warning Karen! I guess I’ll have to prep my mind for a bit of trial and error before I am able to enjoy my first homemade slice my first successful sourdough bread (lightly buttered of course) with my afternoon tea! ;)

        Incidentally, I tried Oxiclean on 15 of my white t-shirts and vests which had varying degrees of stains! Here are the results:

        I managed to get 10 shirts and vests pure white. 3 shirts where relatively white to the naked eye but upon close inspection there was a faint sweat stain under the armpits. 2 of my “work” T-shirts still had the sweat stain however I should mention that these shirts were teh worst of the bunch and compared to their original condition prior to using Oxiclean, they looked 10 times better. I plan to put these 5 stained items through the Oxiclean test once again to see if I can get rid of the last remnants of the stain out! Thank to you I am an Oxiclean convert! And to think I was going to throw out 15 perfectly good shirts into the trashbin! :)

        • Karen says:

          Yay! I’m so excited you discovered the wonderous world of Oxyclean, LOL. ~ karen!

        • KatyMary says:

          For best results with Oxy or Borax use the hottest temp. Water that your fabric type will allow. I usually only use cold water So the first time i used Oxy with hot water I was blown away!

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