Can I save this Starter?

Sourdough is a fascinating world to get into and I love every minute of it. I decided to let this small container of starter in the fridge for 3 months, unfed, to show how resilient sourdough starter really is. Yesterday morning, I removed it from the fridge. This is what it looked like.

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It sure doesn’t look very alive, does it? It looks kind of gross and yucky. If I would asked my family they will politely tell me where to put it!!

You can see how high the starter had rose and how much it has fallen. The black liquid called hooch I poured off. It smelled strong and like paint thinner. If you stir the hooch into your starter you will have strong sour tasting bread. To fed this starter I have been using a mixture of 1/2 King Arthur Bread Flour and 1/2 Prairie Gold Flour. I had 1/3 cup starter so I fed it 1/3 heaping cup flour and 1/4 cup water. I gave it an extra bit of flour since I knew it was starving. See the black mark on the jar? Let’s see how high it will rise in 8 hours.

Just before I went to bed — I remembered my starter. This is what I found. The starter had more than doubled. Just look at all the bubbles! And this was just one feeding!

There was still large bubbles on the surface and throughout the starter 24 hours later. The starter has a sweet yeasty smell. Much different that the day before.

The starter has fallen slightly from the highest point it had been. It had continued to rise overnight to an inch higher than it had been when I went to bed. This is to be expected since the bacteria/yeasts are very hungry from their long fast. The starter took around 14 hours to double which is longer than a starter which had been fed more recently.

I fed the starter again and in 5 hours it had more than doubled. This starter is now ready to make bread. The reason for this post is to show you how resilient mature sourdough starter is. Do not try this with a starter that is only 3-4 weeks old. It will starve in that length of time because the bacteris is young.

A few things to remember when reviving a starter that has been stored for a few month in the fridge.

  • Pour all the dark liquid (called hooch) off of the starter.
  • Feed you starter with slightly more flour than you have starter and a bit less water. 1 part starter 1 1/4 part flour and enough water to make a thick batter.
  • Remember—the bacteria/yeast is starving and it will need food.
  • Set the fed starter in a warmer place. It may take a few hours until you see any signs of life.

The Proper Feeding Ratio!

I receive many questions about how to feed a starter. The best ratio I have found in this one. 1 part starter 1 part flour and 2/3 part water. A few examples—1/2 cup starter-1/2 cup flour and 1/3 cup water—2 cups starter, 2 cups flour and 1 2/3 cup water. The next feeding you will have at 6 cups of starter. So if you feed it the proper ratio you will have an overflowing dishpan full. Can you see how fast your starter will double? This is were the next most asked questions comes !!

How do I keep my starter manageable using that ratio?

So!! what can you do to not have a bathtub full of starter? I will keep 1/2-1 cup starter in my fridge. When I want to make bread I will remove 1/4-1/2 cup and feed it 3 times. That gives me plenty of starter for my baking. If I don’t use it all a return it to my jar in the fridge. Every so often I will empty the jar. I reserve 1/4 cup to feed and I will make pancakes, or biscuits with the unfed starter. After i have fed the 1/4 cup I will return the starter to the fridge until I ma ready to bake. Always remember to reserve at least 1/4 cup of starter in the fridge for your next baking day.

English Muffins made with discard/unfed starter and fried in my 1920’s era Griswold cast iron frying pan. Watch for this recipe coming to my blog soon!

You will find many more troubleshooting, baking hints, and sourdough recipes in the spiral bound 600+ page Around the Family Table Cookbook. All recipes are sugar-free and label with the correct fuel. Books can be purchased using this link. You may also request a small jar of sourdough starter with the purchase of a cookbook.   Buy It Now.

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These spatulas are my favorite kitchen tool to use with sourdough.
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9 thoughts on “Can I save this Starter?

  1. Pingback: Sourdough for Dummies! | Around the Family Table – Food. Fun. Fellowship

  2. I have a mature starter from a friend. It looks and smells good, I have been feeding it and using the discard but it NEVER doubles in size. I’m using filtered water and unbleached flour, and it’s on my stove top, warm but not hot. I got annoyed at it, let it in the fridge for 2 weeks, poured off the hooch and fed this morning. I have bubbles, but zero rise. Any ideas?

  3. I have a starter that I bought from you. I had the most wonderful bread from it! Then I neglected it in the fridge since February. 🙁 Yesterday used 1 Tbs starter, 2 TBS water and 4 TBS King Arthur flour. I covered it with a coffee filter and set it on the counter overnight. This morning it looks like it rose a little but there’s only one lonely bubble. I had about 1/2 cup, so I fed it again using 1/2 c starter, 1/2 c flour and about a 1/3 c water. It seemed somewhat dry last night and this morning. I am hoping to bake tomorrow. How do I tell it my starter is still alive? How do I resurrect it? I have more starter in the fridge! Thank you so much for all the work you have done to help others in their sourdough journey! Lora

    • You can add a little more water if you feel it needs it. Set it in your oven with the light on. That will give some warmth to help it ferment better.

  4. Good morning Glenda, after following your instructions and bringing life back to my long neglected starter, I made a loaf of apple fritter bread. It was good but I’m curious, if I add a bit more baking soda, will that neutralize the last hint of “sour yeasty” flavor? Also, will adding more cinnamon and sweetener affect the loaf? Thanks for sharing your gifting with us~ Sandy

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