The Fresh Loaf

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ANyone had a Sourdough Jack starter in constant use since the 60's?

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clazar123's picture

ANyone had a Sourdough Jack starter in constant use since the 60's?

I am intrigued. A couple summers ago,at a fleamarket, I found a Sourdough Jack Sourdough Pot completely intact with the tag,instructions and packet inside the pot. I was very new to sourdough and din't feel expert enough to revive it. Now I'm ready. I realize it is old, has never been stored in ideal conditions and who knows what will come of it. But it may be fun.

After reading the instructions, I can't believe how simple he made it (if it works) and wonder if anyone has had a Sourdough Jack in use since the beginning. Does it work to simply remove 1 cup Basic Batter (preferment,I would call it) and save 1 cup to refrigerate as the mother? How long has it been successfully left? I just left my starter unfed for 2 weeks in the refrigerator and it is in very bad shape. Sourdough is inherently designed for frequent use. Interstingly enough, the one starter that is reviving very quickly (I have 4) is one I got from someone who has had it for 70 years!

 Sourdough Jack's instruction for revival is to mix the powder packet with 3/4 c flour (hard white winter wheat recommended) and 1/2 c warm water. Cover(in sourdough pot),set in warm place for 48 hours and it is ready to use. Then all his recipes in the jar have you use the 1 cup of the starter and make a basic batter (preferment)2 c warm water,2 1/2 c flour,1 cup starter. Let set overnight and before you add any ingredients the next day, remove 1 cup and put it back in the Sourdough Pot. Place it in the refrigerator.If you don't use it in a while, stir in the liquid and use as usual. No maintenance feeding schedule.

So does anyone have an old starter or Sourdough Jack starter they keep in this manner?How long can you just refrigerate and not feed? Does the simple overnight Basic Batter method work when the starter has just been taken out of the refrigerator?

cranbo's picture

It discusses Sourdough Jack, some folks have had it active for a while:

In any case, the feeding technique of saving old dough from the pre-ferment you make is just fine, and will be totally effective. 

To answer your other questions:

How long can you just refrigerate and not feed?

Potentially for months, but your starter will probably be weak, and undesirable bacteria might move in. Realistically probably 30 days without feeding should be a maximum. That said, getting it back on a regular feeding schedule (2x per day) will revive its health. 

Does the simple overnight Basic Batter method work when the starter has just been taken out of the refrigerator?

It will probably work fine, but it depends on how many days the starter has been in the fridge. If it's been more than 1 week, feed the starter for at least 1 day at room temp, and then it should be ready to use. 

dcochran's picture

in the 1970's, i spent 5 years working in the U.S. Capitol building in Wasington,D.C.  My boss was born in So. Carolina.  At time, he was approaching retirement age.  He gave me an old Coolwhip container filled with sourdough starter that came from a mother batch that began before the civil war... or so he said.  his was an old time, southern family. this was long before i ever thought of baking anything. i used it to make pancakes...tons of them. when i moved to Salt Lake City and lived in a dorm, the starter "lived" in the trunk of my VW.  when i forgot to care for it and it was reduced to a hardened, unrecognizable lump, i added water, some cider, and a touch of sugar and it came back. sadly, it is no more. but, while i lasted, it served as the basis for amazing pancakes. thank you, nathan stinette!!!!

richkaimd's picture

I've tried without success and through many unintended mistakes to kill my starter.  I'm convinced that nothing anyone is likely to do, short of throwing in gasoline, will kill the thing. 


thomaschacon75's picture

They really are tough to kill once you get them going, and not just in starters.

I recently found them in my water bottles (I use for cycling), mold that is. Appalled, I added a lot of salt to each bottle and then filled them with boiling water, saying to myself, "If that doesn't kill them, then they deserve to live."

Result: I killed the weak ones; the strong survived.

Thinking I killed all of them, I used the bottles for a cycling trip the next day.

Result: Food (or fungi) poisoning: I ended up lying in bed for two days waiting for my immune system to defeat the little bastards. Not fun.

Fear the fungi, for they are strong. :D



cranbo's picture

Sorry to hear you got sick! Yes mold can be very tough. The only mold that really isn't as harmful is cheese mold.

For your bottles, a chlorine bleach solution would probably work better for getting rid of the mold, or hydrogen peroxide. Of course, you might be dealing with some bleachy flavors for a little while, but better than getting sick! 



clazar123's picture

It has been 24 hours since I mixed it up and ,I'll be darned, it's active! I'll re-post when I bake with it.

Amazing-its about 30 yr old!

clazar123's picture

Jack doesn't taste very good and he doesn't work too hard to raise dough...yet. He will need a little work after his long sleep.

I revived him following the included instructions which were just mix with some flour and water and let set for 48 hours and then refrigerate until used. I refrigerated him after 24 hours because the rascal had doubled (it is a bit warm in the house).

He was chilled for 2 days before I could baked. As per the instructions, I made a basic batter (a pre-ferment,really) with 2 1/2 c flour and 2 c water and all the starter,which was 1 cup. This was to sit at room temp for 8-12 hours and this is what it looked like-nice and foamy but too watery to really rise.

I was originally going to make a loaf according to the directions but I didn't want to make 3-4 loaves of a really enriched bread. Also, of interest, is that the recipe for bread calls for 1 1/2 tsp yeast. Hmmm. I was beginning to wonder if the packet was merely for flavor.I didn't really have a recipe from this point so I just added bread flour,salt,a little oil and some kefir (I currently have an abundance and thought the lacto would give it a little extra lift.). I made it a fairly wet dough and with the whole amount of the basic batter it really was a high percentage of pre-ferment. The dough was NOT very active and had a very non-yeast smell-smelled like paste. After 7 hours at 80F and barely rising half, I did interrupt things. I decided to do some stretch and fold to see if I could strengthen the gluten-it was a VERY slack dough. Here it is immedicately after I shaped it a bit. Right after the pic it pancakeds out.


The dough was shaped into 2 batards but just a few minutes after shaping were pretty flat. I proofed for 20 min and there was NO change. Cut my losses,tightened them up a bit and baked,hoping for a smidge of oven spring.

Not even a millimeter of spring. This dough just looks terribly overfermented and underyeasted to me. Here is a crumb shot. I was hoping that the flavor would come thru but it is truly awful. It tastes very much like old paste and leaves an unpleasant, chemical tange in your mouth. I hope the birds may like it.

So my plan is to treat the starter as I usually do and continue to feed it. I hope to "wash out" whatever was in the powder (30 yr old powdered milk?) and encourage the yeast to grow. I believe there are yeasties still living but the starter is not ready to be used as is.

The adventure continues.



MangoChutney's picture

I, for one, am enjoying reading about this experiment.  Imagine yourself as one of a group of people stranded on a space station with a Gigaton of sterilized flour.  After years of living on flatbread, you find this packet stuck in a crevice of some old packaging material when you go to unpack a new million dollar toilet.  Will leavened bread once again be known to the citizens of your little community?  Also, will Earth ever build a new shuttle, and send more toilet paper?


cranbo's picture

Congrats on the first bake! It looks like you might have had some problems with the activity of the starter, as suggested by the texture and flavor of the bread.

Get the starter on a regular feeding schedule, 2x per day, and leave it at room temp, no refrigeration. Do this for at least 7 days days before your next bake; this should help the starter become more active and will help the dough to ferment more quickly.

Once your starter has been active and happy at room temp for at least 7 days, maybe try a different sourdough, there are plenty on this site. 

billkaroly's picture

Never ever put starter into a metal pan. Stainless MIGHT be ok but nothing else. Use a glass or ceramic container. 

pmccool's picture

Metals that are easily etched by acids, such as aluminum, cast iron, tinned steel, and copper, should be avoided.  Even then, it will take prolonged contact before there is a noticeable effect on the sourdough starter flavor or performance.  Stainless steel containers aren't going to be affected by sourdough any more than they are affected by OJ or tomatoes or other acidic foods.

The universal prohibition of metal contact with sourdough needs to be replaced by an understanding of how the foods and the containers interact with each other.


clazar123's picture

I have "washed" the culture several times with radical discards and feedings and I have to say that this is an active culture!! By next weekend, I may be able to try another bake and see what happens. It still has a rather mild odor but the "old" smell is gone. I believe I will just try a basic french for the trial loaf just to keep the variables to a minimum. More will be posted with that bake. Sourdough Jack may live,yet!

cedadams's picture

In 1963 I was in San Francisco and bought a Sourdough Jack book with the starter packet inside. I kept it going for several years but eventually lost it. I have tried several starters since, but have never had the taste nor the success I did with Sourdough Jack's. How is your starter doing now? If it can be arranged, I would sure be interested in buying a bit of the starter from you.

Contact me at

clazar123's picture

I thought I'd revive this thread. I have continued to feed and use Jack since his re-birth and he is living up to his reputation. He is actually the best starter I have,right now (I have 4 others). So an old dog can do new tricks! He only slept for about 40 yrs- a lot less time than the Egyption yeasts they have found at dig sites and revived to make beer.

cedadams's picture

You are a lucky guy! I had a pot of Jack that I found back in the early 60's. I kept it for several years but got busy and lost it. I would love to have a new start. Best pancakes I have ever made. Eat them right out of the pan, with maybe a little butter or sour cream. Lots of times with nothing on them. They are really good with cane syrup. But use the long recipe from his book. Don't cut corners.

I also made loaves of bread with it and the taste was wonderful! Almost as good as the aroma when you first cut the loaf. If you would be willing to share, I'll certainly be glad to pay for a start. Contact me at (remove the 'nospam' from the address.)

billkaroly's picture

A friend just told me he has some Sourdough Jack starter he's been using for over 40 years. Says he's going to give me some. I cannot wait! 

clazar123's picture

I found my little container with the packet inside at a flea market all dusty,dirty and in the sun. Your friend probably bought his when the item was new on the market. It is the best starter I have and quite strong when well fed. Enjoy it!

Skibrain's picture

I was trying to find some information on Sourdough Jack's strain and found someone on Craigslist selling the full kit SD-12. Never used. Pan, pot, culture and recipe's. I started it up last night and it is doing well. ( Must be 40-50+ years old based on the box and what i've read.

I'll show some pictures and try it out after a few cycles of proofing.

Thanks for the site and info. 

I had a strain from a family camping back in the 60's when I was a kid. I finally lost it and so did my Mom when I graduated college. I've had a few since but they weren't as resilient as that strain. So let's see how Jack does!