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Unsalveageable Starter?

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yy's picture
yy

Unsalveageable Starter?

Hi everyone.


For a while, I had a tartine starter going with no problems - I would reserve a couple tablespoons, then add 40g water, and 40g of a 50/50 whole wheat and white flour mixture. The feeding schedule was every 24 hours. It doubled reliably, always smelled pleasant, and never gave me any problems.


Then I started getting a little brazen and started feeding it only once every 2 or 3 days. Big mistake. It developed a rotten egg smell and turned a batch of dough into glue. I decided to rehabilitate it by feeding twice a day at the same ratio but with pineapple juice instead of water. After a week of doing this, I returned to using water, confident that the "infection" had gone away. After a couple days on the same twice a day feeding schedule, the rotten smell returned. I intensified the feeding schedule to 3 times a day, whereupon the smell returned to normal for a single day. I thought I was on the right track, but once again, it transformed back into the rotten egg/ baby vomit mixture. It's been 2 weeks and there's no improvement in sight.


I'm keeping the starter at 71/72 degrees F in a clean glass jar with a loosely fitting lid. Am I doing something wrong, or is this just a sign that I need to make a new starter?I was under the impression that if you just kept feeding it, then the undesirable bacteria will eventually go away. Is this starter unsalveagable?


 


 

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

One highly regarded professional and sourdough expert here(Mike Avery) seems to have anticipated your situation.


He seems to have the opinion that, within his context(approximate room temp, hydration, etc), the starter needs to be fed at least twice per day. Feeding less than that, now matter how things might seem day to day, is slowly starving the starter to death.


As he apparently makes(or made) a living at this, I tend to believe him, and follow that advice.


You would think that as long as there are a few specimens still living(probably are) that it can be revived, by feeding a tinly portion. Can't really say what's going wrong there.


But as far as keeping it going, once healthy:


http://www.sourdoughhome.com/maintainingastarter.html


Otherwise, if not able to feed twice daily, why not just refrigerate?


Good luck.

Sjadad's picture
Sjadad

I also use a Tartine starter. I try to bake at least once a week, but can't always swing it. When I don't bake I feed the starter once a week. Sometimes I go two weeks if extremely lazy. Between feedings I keep the starter in the fridge. I know there are purists who are outraged by this but my breads come out great. When I feed I use 50g starter, 50 g water (~70 degrees F), 25g AP flour, and 25 g WW flour. I leave that at room temperature for about 12 hours and then stash it in the fridge. My starter has been going about one year and keeps getting better. Hope this helps. Sjadad

yy's picture
yy

Thanks for the suggestions so far. I'm definitely planning to store it in the fridge once it's rehabilitated. The question now is whether rehabilitation is possible at all. If I keep feeding intensively, will it revive, or is it past the point of no return?

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Being that you say you have been at it more than a week...


At the same time, maybe start a new one. Then, when the new one starts growing, maybe "infect" part of the new one with the old stuff, and see what happens.


Not an expert on revival though. Recently I realized I probably wasn't feeding my almost year old, refrigerated starter enough. It suddenly got seemingly quite sluggish. But it picked right up once I "upped" the feeding"(frequency and ratios).


Like I said though, you gotta  think there is enough of something living in the old one to revive, but...


What is the hydration? My experience was that the more liquid starter is sort of hard to judge, especially in "mariginal" growth situations. Much easier to judge growth in "firmer" hydrations.


 

yy's picture
yy

I've kept the hydration at 100%, which is pretty loose. I like how easy it is to handle this way.

Pioneer Foodie's picture
Pioneer Foodie

... a microbiologist specializing in sourdough pathology, wrote a great book about sourdough called Classic Sourdoughs.  He also sells cultures from around the world on his website, Sourdough International.  In the book he says that when cultures seem to go bad, they often respond well to a good washing.  He says to mix the culture up, stirring vigorously.  Then pour out all but reserve one cup in a quart jar.  Fill the rest of the jar with water and stir it all up again.  Once more, pour off all but one cup.  Feed this remaining watery mix with one cup flour and 3/4 cup water.  Stir it well and ferment at 85 degrees F for 12 hours.  This process may be repeated a couple of times until the culture settles into a healthy place again.


If that doesn't work, you can send Dr. Wood $15.95 and he will send you a new, genuine San Francisco culture.  Or one from Paris... or Italy...

sfsourdoughnut's picture
sfsourdoughnut

Is your starter so dear to you that you want to salvage it? Just make/get more. My experience with feeding starter that sits on the counter, is that after feeding, 6-12 hours later, depending on how warm it is, it will max rise. Once it starts to fall back, then I feed it again. If you were only feeding every 2-3 days at 70 degrees, the poor little dears must've felt like they were in a concentration camp, with German Nazi nasties trying to kill the few remaining yeast souls off. If you are going to try to revive it, I wouldn't use organic whole wheat or rye, as they have their own wild yeast spores that may be substantially stronger than your poor weak yeast spores. I would use unbleached KA bread flour. It has higher protein in it. Also, 100% juice might lower the pH so much that the yeast die too. Try diluting the juice with filtered water (get rid of the Chlorine/Chloramine in the water by filtering it). You could also throw a Tablespoon of liquid malted barley in. Anything to give the dears some high powered food (sugars). Good luck!

yy's picture
yy

thanks, everyone, for the helpful and often colorful responses :-). I'll try the "washing" method and get a bag of nice organic flour while starting another starter in parallel. Hopefully it won't be long before another sourdough loaf comes out of the oven.