On Food: A Pet Sourdough

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Note:  I wrote this several years ago, in another space.  My question to you all is at the bottom.

Having sourdough starter around is much like having a pet.  It has to be attended every day, its “bedding” cleaned regularly, and needs either a pet sitter or to go into hibernation when you are not at home.

The simplest sourdough starter is made with just flour and water in more or less equal proportions.  Keep it in a large glass or ceramic jar, stir with something plastic or wooden (an old chopstick works just fine) and make sure that the opening “breathes” a little.  Every day (twice a day for the first couple of weeks) add more flour and water, pouring out some if needed (the container should be no more than 2/3rds full at most) and stir again.

 Store someplace out of the way at room temperature (I have a fireplace that has been blocked off and diverted to a wood stove.  My sourdough lives in that old fireplace).  After a couple of days, it should start to bubble when fed (and have some bubbles before feeding).  It’s okay if the water has separated out on top and smells like a brewery.  That’s “hooch”, and yeah, it’s alcohol.  If it bothers you, pour it out.  If not, stir it back in.

The point of sourdough is to domesticate “wild” yeast, which lives in the air naturally.  In most environments, a good flour and water mixture is all you need to attract the yeast.  Some people add white grape juice to their mixture, others add honey, and still others insist that the flour MUST be organic and the water MUST be filtered.

I used city water and several different types of flour I had on hand to get started, and after about two weeks, I was able to make absolutely delicious bread whenever I wanted to.   Before that, I “supplemented” with about an eighth of a teaspoon of yeast, and though it wasn’t as sour, it came out fine.

I named my yeast culture “Harvey”, for the mayor of the town I lived in as a little girl, because he was bubbly and sour, too.  I name each loaf I make from Harvey “David”, for the mayor’s life partner.  I also divide out a small amount of Harvey’s colony about once a week or so and make injera batter with it, which I name “Jerry”.

Why, in this day and age, go through the trouble of regularly making my own bread?  And why sourdough, of all things?  I make it because it’s cheaper, tastier, and better for me than most store bought bread.  And it’s sourdough because I love the taste and because I like the discipline (which I lack naturally) of caring for a living being that is dependent on me.

If you feel adventurous, start your sourdough colony today.

And my question: Should I re-start my colony?  And if so, do you want me to blog about the process?

 

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