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Jul 14, 2009 09:57 AM

can I save my sourdough starter?


Need to know, even though I pretty well do know, if theres a chance I can save my trusty 10 yr old starter?

I just recently went away on holiday. A couple days before leaving I'd poured off a bit, and re-fed my starter fully intending to stash back in fridge after a few hours.
Needless to say the starter was forgotten about in my planning, packing, leaving on time frenzy.

My starter sat for over two weeks on my kitchen counter. Also was very hot while I was away.
The top layer of my starter has turned orange from sitting out so long, a sign that it should be discarded I know.
But on pouring off the orange color liqid and discarding most of the starter, theres a small amount in the container that looks perfectly fine.

My question is do any of you think its wise to salvage at least a tablespoon or so of the starter to get another going? Have any of you ever done so?
I know all my notes, books, etc eyc say to discard, but I'm still hoping theres a chance.


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  1. I say go for it. Some people save their starters for YEARS!


    1. Try it. What do you have to lose besides flour and water?

      1. i'm adding my question to this thread, although i've done something much worse:
        a friend gave me some of his beautiful SF sourdough starter when i was in the middle of a crazy stretch of 70-hour work weeks, and i completely forgot about it. the jar sat in the back of my fridge for about three months, unfed and untouched. it is now separated, grayish and funny-smelling. my guess is i killed it dead, but is there anything i can do to try to bring it back?

        1 Reply
        1. re: eeejo

          I know this was a long time ago, but for the benefit of anyone with the same predicament in the future, here's what I would do to determine whether the starter can be saved in extreme cases like this:

          Scoop out the portion that looks untainted with a wooden spoon, and smear a thin layer onto a piece of saran wrap or parchment/wax paper. Discard the rest. Air dry. When completely dry, sample a tiny flake and really examine the flavor. It will be pungent whether or not it's spoiled, but If it's pungent in a way that's reminiscent of a good sourdough bread you'd want to eat, it can probably be revived. If it's disgusting, then you've probably just given yourself some terrible bacterial infection. Sorry. Desperate measures.

        2. The encouraging news is that a new starter is easy. Just mix a touch of yeast with flour and water, let sit at room temp for several days and refrigerate. If you keep feeding it, after a month or so it will mature.

          1. I don't think so. What I've read indicates that when you get those colors or a rank -- as opposed to sour -- smell you've cultivated noxious bacteria.

            It's a shame to lose a 10 yo starter -- KUDOS, by the way -- but it's better than sending someone to the hospital.

            For the next starter, when it gets good, take a bit of it and smear it on a silpat or a piece of plastic wrap and let it dry completely. Crunch up the dried bits and put them in a jar in the freezer as insurance. When you need it, dissolve it in water just like a commercial yeast and start feeding it. I soooo wish I had been able to share that before you lost your special one.