This is why it is so important to have a backup sourdough starter hanging out in the back of the fridge or freezer. You know how important it is to back up data on your computer? Well, backing up your homemade sourdough starter might be even MORE important! (At least in MY house, it’s right up there!)
It started with a long, hot, busy, humid summer. I didn’t bake much bread but I did keep an eye on my big bucket of sourdough starter. I refreshed it periodically because I gave away quite a bit to folks who wanted to start playing with sourdough. Suddenly, at the very end of the summer, the mold in my kitchen bloomed and seemed to cover every surface with a fine gray-green coat. I think there may have been some kind of invasion into the starter because I pulled the bucket of starter out of the fridge one morning and experienced that smell and sight of Sourdough Starter Gone Terribly Bad.
Remember that in other posts I’ve said over and over, if you just WONDER if your starter is bad, then it’s not. When it’s bad, you have NO DOUBT and you won’t ever ask yourself, “Is this sourdough starter spoiled?” again. And there was no doubt. The entire bucket was a vivid pink and orange vile-smelling mess. So into the trash can the entire thing went.
After just a short moment of panic, I went digging around in the very back of my fridge, looking for an old backup starter. I found several that also needed to be thrown out but I did locate a 1 qt. canning jar that had been in the fridge for about four years without being touched. There was an inch of black liquid on top of the starter–the “hooch” that naturally occurs on top of starters. I poured that off and spooned out about 3 tablespoons of old starter. This old starter was the texture of spackling paste so I was a little worried.
I mixed the old starter with 2 T. of water and 4 T. flour and put the lid on the container.
The following day, it didn’t look like anything had happened. I added 2 more T. of water and 4 more T. flour and covered it back up.
The following day, it looked like something might be stirring, so I threw away half of the container and added another 2 T. of water and 4 T. of flour.
I did this for about week, keeping the container on the kitchen counter the whole time.
At the end of the week, I was starting to see bubbles in the starter when I went to refresh it. I stopped throwing away half and grew the starter a little bit larger.
After about three weeks of nursing the starter along, I tried making bread with it and this is what I got:
It was delicious but not as sour as I’d like yet, so I’m continuing to baby this newly revived starter along. Each new batch has a little bit more of the sourdough character that we love.
If my backup hadn’t been revive-able, I had a back-up to my back-up! Over the years I’ve shared a lot of starter and I had at least six local friends who were more than happy to share my starter back with me. Fortunately, I didn’t need them, but it was sure good to know that I did have that back-up.
Moral to the story: in addition to sharing your delicious sourdough bread, share the sourdough starter itself as widely as you possibly can!
Since we haven’t talked about Homemade Sourdough Bread for awhile, I wanted to point you back to a few posts that are our go-to posts for all things sourdough.
And finally, a step-by-step tutorial with photos that I posted on a website called Instructables. Barb’s Sourdough Bread Instructable .
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