The Space Cadet’s Guide to Keeping a Sourdough Starter

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No one has ever accused me of being Type A, worked up about to-do lists and deadlines, or obsessed with organization. It’s not that I don’t like to-do lists and organized spaces, it’s just that chaos follows me around like a dust cloud follows Pigpen in a Peanuts cartoon.

Part of that is my general forgetfulness. Part of it is that I walk into a room with one intention, see something that triggers a reminder of something else I was supposed to be doing, and then end up forgetting what I walked in to do in the first place. So, yeah, I’m not exactly task-oriented.

But I make sourdough breads – wheat, rye, gluten-free – and every type of sourdough pancake you can imagine. That, along with kefir and kombucha, require tending. Since some days it feels like “It’s the children or the ferments, they can’t both get fed,” I sometimes forget to feed them. The ferments, that is.

But, again, I need that sourdough starter to create those delicious breads and pancakes. So, how do I keep it alive?

Well, not very carefully, but here it is anyway…

I only refrigerate my starter in extreme conditions – or when I remember to – so generally it lives with us at room temperature. I cook something with it most days – my boys have finally begun to complain about those sourdough pancakes – so it works well for us.

I try to feed it every day. I know that sourdough is better off being fed morning and night, but that almost never happens. Once a day seems to keep it alive, at least when it’s not 100 degrees in my kitchen.

On the day of putting that bread together (and the day before, if I remember), I feed it a lot. I usually only bake breads with it once or twice a week. Two or three times per day I add a bit of flour and water and give it a whirl with a wooden spoon. This insures that it is at it’s best when I want to truly use it as the leavening in the recipe.

When kahm yeast, or other funny looking situations take hold on the top of my starter, I try to save it. So long as it smells fine, I will scrape back the dried out/yeast-covered surface and take a spoonful of the starter from underneath it. This gets mixed into a fresh jar of water and flour and I’ve got a shiny new/same starter.

When the heat turns up, I either discontinue the starter and wait til fall to start a new one, or I preserve it. You can preserve it short-term by keeping it in the refrigerator and feeding it once a week or so. You can preserve it long-term by dehydrating it.

So, that’s how this space cadet keeps her sourdough starter (barely) alive. I don’t necessarily recommend it, but for me it’s better than the alternative, which is killing it all together. While I think it’s good to keep in mind the durability of starters and real life scenarios, these articles will help you take great care of your starter if you’re not a space cadet like me.

Shannon

Shannon is a mama to four small children, homesteader, freelance writer, and picture-taker. She lives with her husband on their off-grid homestead where they make and eat kefir, kombucha, sourdough, and fermented vegetables.

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Comments

  1. Jenny F. says

    I can totally relate to this! Are we twins separated at birth??? No, we aren’t, but I have found a kindred spirit. lol Thank you for sharing your experience with ferments in the day of a life of fellow forgetful and distracted mom. I am encouraged. :0)

  2. Sarah says

    This post made my heart happy. This is pretty much my approach to sourdough as well. And I have lost a few cultures to my general forgetfulness. Thank you so much for being real and sharing this post!

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