Sourdough Starter troubleshooting
June 24, 2017 11:07 AM   Subscribe

I tried my hand at creating a sourdough starter for the first time and need some help verifying if what I have on hand right now is healthy fermentation or something that needs to be thrown out and started over. Photos inside.

I began making the starter about two weeks ago using equal weights of water and flour, keeping it on a dark shelf with good airflow and a porous covering (cheesecloth). I fed it daily with, again, equal weights of water/flour and stirred. After the first day it was already very active and bubbling and remained this way as I fed it over the course of five days.

I then screwed a plastic cap on top of the mason jar and set it inside the fridge, where it had been for the last week without any stirring or feeding.

I took it out today and noticed it had a layer of hooch on top (normal, I realize) covered with some white powdery stuff. It is currently sitting out on my countertop so it can get to room temp before I pour off the hooch.

Photo 1

Photo 2

What I am trying to figure out:

- Is this white stuff on top normal?
- Should I be storing my starter differently? (Freeze it? Keep it at room temp and feed more often? Keep in fridge but use a porous lid, and/or feed it more frequently while it is in the fridge?)

I tried to find the answer in my copy of "The Art of Fermentation" but I would feel better about keeping and using this starter if someone else can look at the photos and tell me if I am in the danger zone or not.

Many thanks!
posted by nightrecordings to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
As far as I can see in the photo, looks fine and normal to me. Stir, feed, and use. Also, enjoy!
posted by songs_about_rainbows at 11:18 AM on June 24, 2017

It looks alright to me. If anything, you may have put it in the fridge before it had a chance to become really active. A good test is to give it a fresh feeding, and leave it at room temp for a few hours. A really active starter will show an obvious honeycombing and bubbling activity. You could also try the float test, but your starter is still young.

It may take several more months of feeding before it really starts to pop. That doesn't mean that you can't bake with it in the meantime - you could use some starter along with commercial yeast to get the wild yeast tang but still get the rise you need.
posted by Think_Long at 12:08 PM on June 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Looks good to me! Starter will be pretty obvious if/when it's gone bad. It will turn new and interesting colors. (My first attempt some years ago became an interesting shade of green).
posted by Captain_Science at 12:16 PM on June 24, 2017

Ohh also if you want to give it a boost with out using just normal yeast check out Friends of Carl send them a SASE and they still send you a ziplock with a few tsp of a dried established starter.
posted by Captain_Science at 12:17 PM on June 24, 2017 [4 favorites]

Yes, looks fine. Pour off the hooch. A mason jar might be too airtight? I keep mine in a plastic container with a lid that doesn't fit that tightly. And I agree with keeping it out for a couple of hours before refrigerating. Also, a stiffer starter (more flour stirred in) keeps better in the fridge. I keep mine in the fridge and feed it weekly, and it tends to be sluggish. I normally just add a pinch of yeast to my recipes, but if I want it to become more active I need to take it out of the fridge and give it two room-temp feedings in a row, normally 12-24 hours apart.
posted by chickenmagazine at 6:52 PM on June 24, 2017

The other thing I would check, though I've only done this once or twice: does it smell like sourdough? That familiar smell is supposed to be a sign that you've got the right bacteria.
posted by Lady Li at 12:56 AM on June 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

This looks totally cromulent to me, so as long as it smells good, hook in!
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:36 PM on June 25, 2017

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