The Fresh Loaf

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very odd surface to starter

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josordoni's picture
josordoni

very odd surface to starter

Has anyone ever seen a film on the top of unfed starter like this?  I have taken some of the sludge, and plan to feed it but am feeling rather anxious it might be toxic? 

I was at a friends house, she said she hadn't fed her starter for ages, we took the lid off and it looked like this:

 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

I have never seen a starter surface that looked like that!  

Since there appears to be mold growing on container walls (the white dots on the left-hand side), I'd give it the heave-ho and start a new one.

Paul

josordoni's picture
josordoni

Hi Paul, yes there was a little mould, but mainly on the side of the container, where the starter had risen and fallen. There is just that one spot of white mould in the corner. I took my spoonful out from low down in the container, at the opposite side of the mouldy bit.  Now wondering if it is safe to feed it on and try to make a good starter from it, or just call it a day for this Quatermass thing.

 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Go ahead and feed the bit you retrieved as you ordinarily would.  If it smells right and raises the dough as desired, it will probably be a well-balanced community of yeasts and lactobacilli.  If it doesn't smell right, or exhibits odd colors (pink or orange, for instance), chuck it.

While you're at it, fire up a new starter.  If both thrive, you can combine them.  If the "rescued" version is eventually discarded, you will still have a functional starter on hand already.

Paul

josordoni's picture
josordoni

Good idea Paul, thanks.  There is no colour on the film other than beige and few spots of normal white mould. So it has to be worth a try :)   I have got so many people worried now that I will die ...

Boron Elgar's picture
Boron Elgar

The starter froze in the fridge at some point.

josordoni's picture
josordoni

Oh that is an interesting point, I'll check with the owner of the original.

 

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

By accident the thermostat of the fridge had been set to "1" and we had about 15dC  in there - my starter had simply used up all food and was starving.

josordoni's picture
josordoni

hmm could well be a temperature thing.. did you chuck your starter or re-feed it? 

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

fed the old and made a new one.

I kind of remember that it recovered.

josordoni's picture
josordoni

I've got another sample from a different pot of the same starter that just threw hooch but didn't actually mutate... I'm feeding that up and it seems nice and lively.  Have put the pot of Mutant sludge in the fridge for the moment, to see if it throws the film again.

ninjacito's picture
ninjacito

that looks really cool, how did it smell?

josordoni's picture
josordoni

it smells rather cheesy, rather like Parmesan. Not horrible at all. 

pongze's picture
pongze

But not as thick-appearing.  I decided to create a starter when I had some 90% hydration yeasted dough sitting in the fridge (I was doing the no-knead approach back then) and left it too long.  I read through all the great posts on this site, and saw the sentiment that the commercial yeast wouldn't survive and the cultures in the starter would become the general common flora around.  It's been several months since, caring for it as per Chad Robertson's Tartine.

Often, I would save my discard at room temperature, maybe feeding it once while making sure that my new starter stays viable.  Every time that I've saved the discard, after several days, it gets a surface like that, but not quite as developed.  It actually looked like commercial yeast overgrowing the top, but I didn't think that was necessarily the case, because the surface was very dry.  But then again, I don't know how commercial yeast is produced.  At this point, watching it happen fairly routinely with my discard over the last month, it looks like it slowly happens as the surface dries out.  But it also coincides with the food for the discard running out.

Anyone have any other insight into this?  I am in southern California in case that matters.

G-man's picture
G-man

It looks very similar to a pellicle on a wild yeast beer during the fermentation process. There are a ton of different ways a pellicle can look on wild beer, it's funny that it looks so similar to this.

My bet would be that you've starved it and something started growing. The individual whose wild beer looked this way is still alive so I'd bet against this being horribly toxic.