Sunday, September 9, 2007

Sourdough Starter

Getting a sourdough starter going in your kitchen using nothing but flour and water is the most challenging way to acquire one, but it is probably the most authentic. Why it’s important to be authentic is a whole other discussion, but good place to start is by reading about it in Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon, with Mary G. Enig, Ph.D. Sourdough bread has been around for over 3000 years, and a good argument can be made that it is better for you than modern yeast breads.

There isn’t any one recipe for sourdough starter that is going to work for everyone. Differences in the water that you drink, whether you live in a city or a rural setting, and in what part of the world you live in, will determine the sourdough starter that you will be able to make. You can use commercial yeast to get a starter going, you can buy a sourdough starters on the internet, you can get a culture from someone who has one going, or you can start one from scratch in your own home.

The sourdough starter that we have now we made from scratch using flour, water, and vinegar. The first starter we made was right out of Nourishing Traditions, and it worked. The next time we tried to make a starter using the same formula we ended up with a smelly mess. Fast forward a couple of years, and I find myself wanting to try my hand at sourdough again, so I poked around on the internet to see what other people are doing. The made from scratch recipes all seem to be about the same -- flour, water, cover with cloth; add a little flour and water each day -- takes about a week. Unfortunately, in less than 24 hours I had another smelly mess on my hands. Not all bacteria are good for starters, and sometimes one can get going that isn’t going to work. The water where I live is pretty hard, so I needed to add a little vinegar to it to change the pH, which seems to have done the trick.

So here is how I got my sourdough starter going:
In a large glass bowl mix:
2 cups rye flour
2 cups water
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
The next day add:
1 cup rye flour
1 cup water
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
On the third day add:
1 cup rye flour
1 cup water
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

After the third day, I didn’t add any more to the mix, but I did keep my eye on it. It didn’t seem to do anything for a couple of days after that, but once it started to bubble it was clear that it was going to work.


Brian Glass said...

Peter Reinhart recommends using pineapple juice in the starter to get it going.

If you're using raw vinegar with the cultures still alive in it, the bacteria in the vinegar may become part of the sourdough culture. I'm not sure, but it may affect the flavor the sourdough produces.

Donald said...

In Bradford Angier’s Wilderness Cookery, he mentions reviving a starter that has lost its vigor with a tablespoon of unpasteurized cider vinegar -- something he learned from the old-timers.