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What's the right way to clean jars and utensils that I use for my starter?

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tuziksmith's picture
tuziksmith

What's the right way to clean jars and utensils that I use for my starter?

Hello, 

I am getting ready to start my own sourdough starter but not quite sure what's the best way to keep things clean. Some people say they using dish soap is ok, some say they never use any soap, just hot water to clean jars and utensils. Also, should I clean the container  that I use for feeding the starter every day? There is usually some residue on the walls of the container. I would think that at warm temperatures that residue will harbor harmful bacteria. Your advice will be very appreciated. Thank you!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

then wash with warm soapy water rinsing in hot water.  Dry.  (just like regular dishes)  Yes, I also use the dishwasher after the container has been soaked clean.  I tend to juggle between two wide mouth easy to clean containers.  A deli container is good enough for a starter, one that doesn't seal too tight (leaks if you turn it upside down and shake it) and lets you see what is happening thru the sides.   I tend to change to a clean container about every 3 days with beginning starters, although the last starter I didn't bother for the full 6 days.  

tuziksmith's picture
tuziksmith

Thank you, Mini Oven. Your are always the first to jump in with help. Appreciate!

Olga

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

According to Emily Buehler in her book Bread Science, a rinse of the glassware with a baking soda solution followed by hot water rinse will remove any residue of soap, which can be harmful to cultures. 

-Brad

tuziksmith's picture
tuziksmith

That's a great idea, Brad! I thought about baking soda. Now I know I can use it.

Olga

I676's picture
I676

For cleaning jars I'll use for starter, I have used dish soap--even dreaded anti-bacterial stuff--as well as the dishwasher (harsh, dangerous-to-touch dishwasher detergent, plus rinse agent). It's a regular Silent Spring of biocidal horrors.

My starter is fine.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

I use a one-quart Cambro container which weighs 93 grams (knowing the weight of the container comes in handy).  Has a tight fitting lid (gasp).   When it gets too grungy, my levain gets moved to a clean Cambro.  The gunky one is cleaned out, washed in hot soapy water (Dawn detergent), rinsed well, then awaits its turn to be used again.  My (unrefrigerated) sourdough starter is over five years old and consistently produces great bread, so maybe ignorance is bliss. 

hanseata's picture
hanseata

Like Lindy, I'm blissfully un-anal about how to keep my starter, and trust the lactid acid bacteria to work against any outsider germ attacks. My starters are kept in plastic yogurt containers with lid, and now and then, when I empty them, they are cleaned, either in the dishwasher or by hand.

I keep my starters in the fridge, they work like a charm, and I never had any problems with harmful bacteria.

Karin

 

 

tuziksmith's picture
tuziksmith

I too used to be <blissfully un-anal>  about cleaning my containers and utensils. After a couple years of no sourdough bread baking I am trying to get  back into it, and so far having difficulties even with store bought cultures. Now I know I can put my fears about cleaning to rest. It must be something else I am doing wrong. I'll just keep trying:)))) Thank you all for your contributions!

Olga

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

too high a pH maybe.  Try starting with unsweetened pineapple or orange juice instead and be patient.

Davo's picture
Davo

I have been baking SD for about 5  or 6 years now, and have kept my starter in a small ceramic crock. I broke the lid, so now I stop it drying out by using a pice of cling film wrapped on with an elastic band, over the rim. Mostly it is in the fridge, coming out for a two-day regular-feeding wake up in prep for baking, and then going back in, at usually 1-2 week intervals. I have cleaned it by soaking in water and scrubbing out and drip-drying. I think I have done this about twice. Never had any invasion problems. I wouldn't worry too much about it, but hey if you like scrubbing...

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I do clean my mother starter jar when I restock because I'm making a fresh batch using a clean jar and don't wash the old jar until that new (mother, seed, firm) starter is rising & refrigerated.  Then I clean up the old jar and have it ready in the cupboard for inoculations.  

When I inoculate flour and water for a recipe, and see a need more mother starter, I keep back a little freshly made starter and let it finish fermenting a few hours (after removing most of it for my recipe) before adding flour and water.  This lets my culture go through a complete cycle of rising and falling before being fed fresh flour for refrigeration.  I let the starter then rise about a third so it has enough bacteria and acid to defend itself and enough flour to grow on before being chilled.  I use after 3 days. It keeps easily 3 weeks.   I use about one heaping teaspoon of starter to inoculate 120g each flour and water in warm weather to prepare an overnight starter.   During cooler months I use a larger inoculation.  The jar is just a vessel.

This is very different from Davo's (last post) method which puts a peaking starter (with less available food in the starter) into refrigeration and requires 2 days of feeding cycles to to "wake up" starter activity.  It defends itself well but looses strength as yeast numbers drop, food runs out early during refrigeration.  

Starter hunger aside, this does make me think about the dynamics of the crusty jar and the starter build up.  Do the sides of the container also contribute to lowering pH when the starter is reduced and fed?  As water and flour raise pH in the starter, does acid then leach from the old starter build-up and lower it?  Faster than the starter all by itself?   Would be interesting to investigate how much and when, if this is happening.  Would the starter take longer to "wake up" if removed from the crusty starter jar at the beginning of the 2 day feeding period?   

Oops sorry, the original question is about cleaning starter jars when beginning a starter...   sorry my mind does wander and think sideways.  Yesterday, upon looking toward the setting sun, I saw the back of a rainbow.  Neat.

tuziksmith's picture
tuziksmith

Hi Mini,

I agree with your thinking and will try to use a clean container every time I have to feed my starter. It could very well be that the crusty ring around the container is acidifying the starter too fast. I don't know but will give it a try. The thing is the recipes I've read on how to make your own starter or how to activate a dried starter don't even mention the fact that one should feed the starter in a new clean container every day. I watched a number of videos and they don't show that people transfer their baby starter into a clean container every day for a week or two while they try to get it going. Am I missing something? What did you do, Mini, when you made your starter from scratch with pineapple juice? Did you use a clean jar every day for a week or two while making your starter? I know you use a clean jar for your starter when you feed it but that's already an established one, right?

Thank you for your feedback!

Olga

Donkey_hot's picture
Donkey_hot

tuzik, you are worried way too much...  a healthy culture perfectly survives and functions in normal kitchen conditions at room temperature with no need turning it to a lab.  The walls of the jar covered with a thin layer of dried culture actually protect it, as Mr. Forkish conveys in his video tutorial.  :)

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Keep in mind, tuziksmith, that it is reported that sourdough originated around 1500 BC.  During the Alaskan Gold Rush, "Experienced miners and other settlers frequently carried a pouch of starter either around their neck or on a belt;"  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sourdough#History_of_sourdough

Those folks were lucky if they got to wash their underwear once a month, let alone the container holding their precious sourdough.  Yet they managed to bake wonderful sourdough bread and keep their cultures alive and vigorous.

Don't worry about mundane things; just mix water and flour and let it work its magic.   Debra Wink's tutorial is a great place to start:  http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10901/pineapple-juice-solution-part-2

tuziksmith's picture
tuziksmith

Thanks, Lindy D! I will follow the link. I didn't used to fret over my starter, but it's been 2 years or more since I stopped. Going back to it when temperatures are still rather cold at night is proving to be a challenge. I got the point, will try to be easy-go-lucky about it, and will keep trying till I get my starter going:)

I676's picture
I676

I wholeheartedly agree. It'll happen. Nature will take its course. Between stirring at each feeding and scraping down the sides of the jar, you'll go far toward preventing mold. Beyond that, I don't think the method of cleaning jars is likely to have much of an effect.

And I'm also another happy graduate of the Pineapple Juice School of sourdough starters. That method seems to work for lots of people, and the write-up LindyD linked to is a good all-around primer.