Making a sourdough starter from scratch is very easy. It seems like it would be difficult but trust me, it’s not. It just takes patience. My goal is to give simple, straight to the point instructions to help the novice sourdough maker get off to the right start. If you are not a novice, you may have your own way of doing things. That’s great! There’s more than one way to skin a cat! This is what works for me.
All that is needed to make a sourdough starter is flour and water (filtered)…and time. Any type of whole-grain flour can be used. I chose Einkorn Wheat berries that I sprouted, dehydrated/dried and ground using my Blendtec. Be sure to sterilize your jars and utensils (metal is only okay to feed and stir, not store) with very hot water or the sani-cycle on your dishwasher. You don’t need unwanted bacteria in your starter! In order to ferment, bacteria needs the sugars in the flour to feed on. This is why it is important to feed the starter daily during the initial fermentation process.
On day one, using a ratio of 1 to 1 flour and water (I use a half cup of each), pour into a mason jar and stir well. Only use filtered water as chlorine will kill the yeast. Cover the jar with a cheesecloth, coffee filter, or thin cloth. The starter needs the air to collect the airborne spores of wild yeast and good bacteria. Fruit flies and other bugs love sourdough starter so keeping it covered really is important.
On day two, stir the starter vigorously (I use a wooden spoon) and add another 1 to 1 ratio of flour and water. Some sources say to change the starter into a clean jar every day. I switch mine every other day and it fine. You may see some bubbles at this stage and maybe even some liquid separation. This is called “hooch” and can be drained off.
Repeat feeding the starter daily for seven days using the 1 to 1 flour to water ratio, changing jars every other day or so. As the jar fills, some of the starter can be removed and used for things like sourdough pancakes. This way you don’t have a huge amount of starter and it can really get going. I usually split starter into two jars around day 4, but I do not throw any away. Waste not, want not…at least during the starter process. Later on, you will have so much that you will be looking for friends to pass it along!
By day seven you should have a wonderfully sour-smelling, viable sourdough starter. If you live in a warm climate or it is summer, fermentation will happen more quickly. It is now ready to use in whatever recipe you would like to tackle first. Always reserve some of your starter when cooking with it so that you have some to keep it going.
Pat yourself on the back! You’ve accomplished something your ancestors needed to know to survive! It’s a wonderful skill to learn to stay in touch with your roots.
To care for your sourdough starter, leave it out on the counter in a jar, glass bowl, or crock, lightly covered. Feed it twice daily with your 1:1 ratio of flour to water. Always stir well. If you are like me and only use small amounts of starter at a time, store in the refrigerator and feed once per week. Just take it out 4 hours before needed and feed. It will do its thing and be ready for whatever you need it for. Super easy!
I’d love to hear your sourdough stories! What works for you and what doesn’t?
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