Make Your Own Sourdough Starter

Sourdough bread has been around for centuries. It’s recognized as the original leavened bread, showing up in civilizations as far back as the Ancient Egyptians. In today’s society where our children simultaneously suffer from malnutrition and obesity, there’s no denying that real food is a precious resource, which is just one reason that my sourdough starter is so important to me.

It is easy to make your own sourdough starter, but just as easy to ask someone you know for a little of theirs. Because a starter needs to be fed regularly, almost everyone has extra to share. There are plenty of technically-specific instructions online for starting a sourdough culture, but I started mine four years ago without being exact about anything and it is a happy, healthy culture just the same.

A few notes:

  • Wild yeast is what we’re attracting, so it is a good idea to use non-chlorinated water as chlorine kills yeast. If all you have is tap water, just pour it from the tap and let it sit for a few hours first.
  • The sourdough culture is naturally acidic, so it is best stored in a glass container. Prolonged contact with metal may cause damage.

Here’s how I created my sourdough starter:

Day 1

  1. I start by adding about 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup of filtered room temp water to a bowl and stirring it well until everything is incorporated and some air bubbles show up to the party.
  2. Next, I carefully pour the mixture into a pint-sized wide-mouth canning jar and cover it with cheesecloth and a rubber band or a fine-mesh sprouting jar lid like the one in the photo.
  3. Leave the jar on the counter in a reasonably warm area (the 70s are ideal) for about a day. When outdoor temps are in the 70s, I place the jar on the porch to introduce the wild, local yeasts from the air.

Day 2

Some bubbles may be visible, but don’t feel like a failure if you don’t see any yet.

  1. Pour the starter into a clean bowl and repeat the process of adding 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup of filtered room temp water and stirring well.
  2. Transfer to a clean canning jar or similar vessel and cover with a breathable lid (sprouting lid, cheesecloth, or tea towel).
  3. Allow to sit for another day.

Day 3-7

You should see bubbles and notice a yeasty odor in the starter over the course of this week. Depending on the temperature and conditions, it may be a few days.

  1. Pour the starter into a clean bowl and discard half of it. Repeat the previous days’ process of adding 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup of filtered room temp water and stirring well.
  2. Transfer to a clean canning jar or similar vessel and cover with a breathable lid (sprouting lid, cheesecloth, or tea towel).
  3. Allow to sit for another day.

In most cases, a new starter will be ready to use after 5-7 days. That being said, there’s no harm (other than wasting flour) in continuing the starter process for a couple of extra days if you don’t feel like it is ready.

Care and Feeding

I’m sure you noticed that it takes a lot of flour to make a starter. The beauty of sourdough is that it is alive and living things require food, so don’t hesitate to feed your new baby. Once your culture is ready, you can store it in a sealed container in the refrigerator, feeding it (using the same flour:water ratio above) once a week or so. At this point, you can share your extra starter with others – when you’re not using it to make delicious bread, that is.

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