Can You Freeze Sourdough Starter?
It's just too hot to conceive of baking bread...and I don't have AC. Can i freeze my starter for the next several months? Also, b/c of a bad bout of laziness, I forgot to stir it up every few days and when i actually opened it again, the liquid was a little on the grayish side. Is it done for?
Drying and freezing is the preferred long-term storage method for starter, but it's suggested you test before putting it all away this way.
Proof starter past peak, spread in thin layer on waxed paper, let dry, peel off paper, crumble the dried starter and store in 1 to 2 Tbsp amounts in ziploc bags. The reason you proof past prime is that while the yeast can handle the freezing, the bacilli don't as well. The longer proof maximizes the bacilli's (and therefore your starter's flavor's) chances since bacilli growth kicks in later in the proofing.
The grey hootch is normal for starters that haven't been fed for awhile, and is fine and safe. Just stir it back in.
thank you! one other question, so i spread all the starter out to dry and then freeze it? or just some, to test that its ok? i'm a little confused, being a neophyte to starters. then, (i guess this is 2 qs), when i want to start baking again, which i do weekly when not hot out, do i test the starter using the tbs of dried stuff but then use the 2/3 cup of actual thawed out starter?
I meant to suggest testing by drying and freezing just some of the starter (you dry&freeze all of what you want to store; you don't dry one batch and freeze another). After letting it sit in your freezer, take it out and proof to see (1) if the yeast will grow and (2) if you get back the flavor profile you started with. If it works out, then repeat with all of what you want to save. This all would of course have better been done earlier, as ideally you'd want to test freezing over the desired storage time.
(I suppose you could also test the dried&frozen starter just before baking, but I usually do several rounds of proofing, with the first involving very small amounts, so I guess that would serve as my test.)
If you need to put your baking on hold for just 3 months, the starter will stay healthy if you refresh it every 3 weeks or so, which is only about 5 times through the end of summer. A few drops of healthy starter can be refreshed with a couple of Tbsp of flour+water; toss the rest of the old starter each time.
Drying and freezing is better, but freezing it as a liquid will work, too, certainly long enough to get you past the heat of summer. If you're really set on keeping what you've got instead of having to start over, I would suggest feeding, then dividing it up at the height of activity and freezing half of it. The other half you can re-feed and keep in the fridge, feeding occasionally as tuskless suggests.