The Fresh Loaf

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My rye starter is ill...

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AdelK's picture
AdelK

My rye starter is ill...

Hi all

I need some urgent medical input for my seriously ill rye sourdough starter. I'd left it in the fridge since Tuesday and I decided to give it a feed last night. As I stirred the starter I noticed that it had a tinge of redness to it, I wouldnt call it red but rather just a shade of pink almost. I did the normal feed and left it in my room overnight. This morning when I woke up I was alarmed to the fact that it had hardly grown after 12 hours!! It has probably just grown to about 1/8th the original height now. I'm seriously worried about it because normally it would have doubled in height overnight. What should I do now? Should  I give it another feed or wait for to double? I have a feeling that is never going to happen.. I can see small bubbles forming in the starter but it's just not increasing in volume.

I have to confess that I just found out that the communal kettle in my kitchen has got lots of debris in there and I have been using half boiled warm water from that kettle for my starter. Could that have been the reason? It was fine with the same water in the first few feeds it's only since last week that things started to go a little pear shaped. Back then I'd left it in the fridge for too long without feeding and it had half an inch of alcohol on the surface. I fed it and it grew fairly well overnight(though not exaclty doubled or like how it used to be) and I left it in the fridge on Tuesday.

By the way it doesn't smell like it's gone off and neither has it gone mouldy.


Any advice is much appreciated!

Regards

Kong

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

and let the starter at room temperature as long as necessary until it recovers. Feeding it generously every 12 hours with boiled water and wholemeal rye flour and it will come back to business in short. rye starters never let you down!

AdelK's picture
AdelK

I've fed it last night but so far it's been 18 hours and it still hasnt doubled in volume. Should I wait till it has done that before I feed it again or should I feed it anyway regardless of whether it has doubled in volume?

So far it still smells OK so that's reassuring in a sense.

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and feed.  If it takes 18 hours to peak, even just a little, wait that long.  Rye can give a false peak and stay up even if the starter under the skin has fallen so poke it now and again gently.  

I don't expect a rye starter to rise much after that amount of time due to the enzymes already developing. The proteins just won't be able to trap gas anymore after about 8 hrs. but that doesn't mean the yeast aren't growing.  Taste it and see if you can taste yeast.  Then reduce the starter in size to about 20g (rounded tablespoon) and double the volume with water, then add fresh rye flour to thicken to a very soft paste.  Spoon/pour into a clean jar, cover, mark level and let rise out of drafts.  Each time you do this, the yeasts will increase in number quicker and raise the starter sooner before the matrix falls apart.  Do not refrigerate. Keep it at about 75-78°F.   Later, when the starter is peaking under 8 hrs, reduce the amount of starter to a heaping teaspoon or increase the flour feed amounts and keep roughly inside  a 12 hr schedule.  Add less water to slow down fermentation, more to speed it up.  

Also if you want to keep it in the fridge (a good week from now) make it thicker and wait a few hours before chilling.  Let it rise about 1/3 up to peaking and then tuck it away.  If you want to store longer than one to three weeks, like a month or more, add enough flour to the starter to make a firm dough ball, and put a few spoons of flour inside the container to absorb moisture (under and over the starter.)  Then when you want to revive it, take the middle of the starter, add water and flour, all roughly equal amounts and let it come back to life (no discarding adding only flour and water for a few days) and go from there.  

You have a living group of organisms and they do need to be taken care of.  They also need to grow and have enough byproducts to defend themselves from pink invaders before being chilled.  Too many byproducts triggers dormancy in the yeast.

I suspect what happened with your starter is that when the starter was ignored too long, it retreated into dormancy from lack of food, a survival skill, spores which take a few days to awaken.  Then when fed and not allowed to wake up from that dormancy, got diluted with each feeding and then the starter couldn't defend itself from invaders.  After a long "sleep" it is important to watch and feed carefully for the next few days as the yeasts build in the starter.  

If you find the pink invader coming back, I would suggest starting a new starter.  

AdelK's picture
AdelK

It did rise a bit yesterday after I left it beside my radiator. I fed it again last night but this time it has done almost nothing. So far there havent been a lot of bubbles. I'm just going to leave it beside my radiator again and see what happens. I'd be so upset if it dies on me.. I bought it from a Dutch bakery not long ago and I really don't want to lose it. :(

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

it's very easy doing it from scratch from rye and water. Rye is the easiest starter to give life to.

varda's picture
varda

Hi,   It shouldn't take you any longer to make a new rye starter than to heal this one, and you will feel more confident that it doesn't have an infectious disease.    I have pitched several starters over the last few years and never regret making a new start.   There is no basis to the idea that because a starter is older it is better - it just makes people feel good to have the continuity of the same starter over a number of years.    Since I learn more and more each year, I think my starters have gotten better and no need to hang onto old mistakes.   -Varda

AdelK's picture
AdelK

So Francis has been sitting beside my radiator for 18 hours now and it has just risen by about 1cm. There is a layer of liquid accumulating at the top as per yesterday and I can confirm that it is acidic and not alcohol. Should I leave it beside the radiator for even longer in the hope of seeing it rising more?

I think I will start making a new batch at the same time tonight just in case Francis dies on me..