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Sep 23, 2008 11:13 AM

Sour Dough Starter

Can someone tell me where to get good sourdough starter?

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  1. I recently got one from my local artisan baker. I rang him up and offered to pay for it, but he gave it to me for nothing. He was more than happy to help a fellow, if novice, baker!

    2 Replies
    1. re: greedygirl

      Okay, I suppose I could give that a try. Thanks.

      1. re: MaxCaviar

        I hope it works for you. I should have said that I am absolutely shameless - and it's part of my job to talk people into doing things!

    2. Once you learn what a healthy mother dough looks/smells/acts like, it's pretty easy to catch your own. Flour, water, sometimes potato, sometimes grapes or raisins, you double it three times over five days, and if you're lucky you get a beautiful expression of your terroir. I'd learn to take care of one first (either from a commercially available base, or better from a baker). Then, ask again about *how* to get a good sourdough starter, not where :-)

      (Oh, and as for where, somewhere in the Bay Area with an ocean breeze is my favorite, even beating lower Bavaria and rural inland Provence. Haven't tried the LA area, though)

      3 Replies
      1. re: tmso

        I tried "catching" my own on a few occasions already. I don't think the good stuff is floating around the air I live in. I just want to cut to the chase. I could always keep a health ball jar of starter going, it just never tasted so great.

        1. re: MaxCaviar

          Everything I've read (and possibly heard?) suggests it's not really feasibly trying to get a good sourdough starter going in any major metro area - the pollution really screws with the flora and fauna (and you need both for a good sourdough.) I don't know if it's still around but there's a commercial starter that's been around at least since I was a kid ("Gold Rush" or something San Francisco or Klondike-ish like that). Also, I never bothered buying any of his starters but a guy named Ed Woods has been collecting starter cultures since forever and apparently he's got a website these days (as well as books) - trying Googling sourdoughs and antiquity.

          FWIW, once you get a decent culture going, you can freeze and or dry it for future use without having to deal with the pain of keeping it fed if you don't expect to use it on a regular basis.

          Oh, and lastly, the King Arthur baking company was selling one or two cultures for a while, I don't know if they still carry them but I imagine they have a website these days, too...

          1. re: MaxCaviar

            If you really don't want to borrow/beg/steal a starter from somebody else, you can buy one online.


        2. I can't vouch for the legitimacy of this one but maybe it's worth a try:

          Maybe we should start a sourdough starter testing program where each one purchases a commercial starter (like the one of the listed web site) and works with it. Next person purchases a product from another supplier. We could develop a rating scale? Just a thought ...

          1 Reply
          1. re: todao

            thank you all - - this is definetly enough leads to track something down

          2. You can culture a culture a local sourdough but that does not mean that it will taste like the famous SF sourdough. King Arthur sells a really good SF sourdough, but you must be very vigilant with it or it will revert to a local sourdough in a few months.

            From the KA catalog; Classic Fresh Sourdough Starter
            Item 1522

            1 Reply
            1. re: Kelli2006

              "Or it will revert to a local sourdough in a few months." We read this often, but micological research reported by Scott and Wing in the appendix of their book indicates that, once established, a culture is very stable, even over decades. My heritage starter, which was brought from Russian California to Kokiak Island and then to Seattle and thence to the midwest and now DC, after 200 years, remains very similar to the starters I made from scratch in Berkeley. Ed Wood, too, notes that cultures are stable. What does happen is that changes in climate affect the fermentation. So Madeleine Kamen noted that her SF culture changed in character from summer to winter depending on the maritime influence. If you ferment your starter in a cooler environment, fewer lactic and acetic acids are produced. In a warmer environment, there are more because the yeast and bacteria grow at different rates. I don't know if anyone has studied the influence of temperature on other byproducts that affect flavor. Someone else mentions freezing a starter. I have read of successes in freezing them, but mine does not freeze successfully. I haven't tried drying it--the technique Carl's Friends use, but the old cookbooks all mention that possibility.

            2. I've always wondered the same thing. Can I also get fresh yeast from a baker?

              1 Reply
              1. re: BamiaWruz

                If I remember correctly Nancy Silverton uses grapes for her starter. I do believe it was in her book.
                I have purchased fresh yeast from an Italian bakery near my house. But it comes in pound blocks. That was not a deterrant. We sat there with wire cutters (as for cheese) and divided that piece into the same size it would have been had we purchased it at the market. Wrapped each piece and tossed it in the freezer. I suppose that defeated the "fresh" thought but we were going for "cheap"