The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Friends of Carl Sourdough starter

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braber's picture

Friends of Carl Sourdough starter

I received my dried starter from Friends of Carl in August.  I haven't used it yet, since I have plenty of another starter.  How long will it keep until I activate it?  I've been keeping it in its original plastic baggie in a cool, dry place in my kitchen.

DavidEF's picture

Dried starter should keep for years. How many will be determined by how it is kept. If you keep it cool and dry, as you've said, it should really last a very long time! But, if you have plenty of the other starter, you may never need the Carl's starter. I suppose it can make a good backup, in case you kill your other starter somehow. But then, you can dry some of your other starter yourself, also as a backup. Maybe there is someone in your life who would appreciate and use the Carl's starter? Perhaps even two someones, because when I got mine, it was enough for two starters, following their instructions for reconstituting the dried flakes. Carl was a generous man, and his friends are being generous as well. Perhaps this is a good opportunity for you to do the same!

tchism's picture

In the past few weeks I revived some of Carl's starter that had been stored in a zip loc bag in my freezer for 2.5 years. It revived fully after two feedings. I built it up and used it to bake this loaf.

I've been amazed on how fast the starters that I use can be revived.

twcinnh's picture

I have some of Carl's starter as well but am unsure how a starter continues itself. Wouldn't any starter evolve to reflect the local biological environment; in other words has Carl's starter, and any starter; evolved over time into something different from the original?


Tom C

DoubleMerlin's picture

All of my food science professors disagree that a starter would lose its original character completely. Then again, every sourdough person I know knows that sourdough starters do their own thing.

As a corollary to that, my yogurt has begun to taste like my sourdough, because I make the two in the same kitchen.

Janet Yang's picture
Janet Yang

I began a starter from scratch back in August, and it works, but for comparison I also reconstituted some Carl's starter last month. They get refreshed on the same schedule, but the scratch starter doesn't double as quickly even though it's been growing longer.

Maybe the two starters would eventually have the same characteristics, but I lost interest in the experiment and feeding two starters. I figure that the more vigorous strain is the one to keep, so I just combined the starters to let them slug it out amongst themselves, 

Antilope's picture

added a different flavor/sour to my bread than my recently started wild starter. I prefer the wild starter taste in breads I bake now. 

clazar123's picture

I believe that cultures do integrate with each other but some do maintain more of their original characteristics.

I have a Sourdough Jack starter from a revived dry packet that is very unique in its behavior. I revived it several years ago and I have always had at least 3 starters going. Jack remains my most reliable and active starter and the others have gained some of Jack's character but not totally. The taste is also a little different. They are fed about the same but develop a preferment a bit differently. Jack also seems less vulnerable to abuse (like not feeding for a few weeks when gone.)

The yeasts are pretty much on the flour when it is milled. That is why LOCALLY grown flour will give you a LOCAL culture. When feeding a culture with a different flour, the yeasts from that flour may integrate into the culture but the original yeasts are still present and can be for the life of the culture.They may or may not predominate depending on their character.

Have fun! 

Capn Dub's picture
Capn Dub

twcinnh:  "Wouldn't any starter evolve to reflect the local biological environment?"

Good question.  Since yeast reproduces by budding, i.e., asymetric asexual reproduction, each cell will be exactly like its parent.  Thus, there are only two ways a starter can change: mutation or contamination.  Since we know that starters do change over time, then the cause must be one of those two.

Further, it stands to reason that a starter would likely acquire more than one strain of yeast right from the git-go.  It seems to me to be equally reasonable that the strongest strain would eventually crowd the others out, which would account for the changes we observe when we create a new starter.  In other words, whoever reproduces the fastest wins.  The same can be said for the LAB, but I'll restrict my comments to the question of the yeast.

To carry this line of reasoning still further, consider what happens when we create a new starter: initially nothing, because the yeast and LAB need time to wake up.  Furthermore, the amylase needs time to break down the starch in the flour into maltose.  Since the yeast cannot metabolize the maltose, still more time is needed for the LAB to break it down into lactose and glucose.  The LAB utilize the lactose and convert it to lactic acid (or acetic, depending upon conditions), leaving behind the glucose, which the yeast can metabolize.  Since the pH starts out rather neutral, the LAB can be several species,. some of which cause food spoilage and that nasty smell that some people report during the first three or four days.  Meanwhile, acids are being produced and the pH is falling, which eventually kills off the bad guys and favors our friend, Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis (usually).  Meanwhile, the yeast is multiplying, because the glucose leftovers from the activity of the LAB is exactly what it needed, and the starter begins to bubble, since the yeast is quite tolerant of the low pH.

Now, if the preceding theory is correct, why does the starter continue to change for a long time?  I assert, without evidence to back me up, that there are various species and various strains of the same specie present in the flour.  As said before, surely the stronger will dominate and conquer, because that is Mother Nature's way.

Why, then, does a starter seem to change even after it is alive and vigorous?  Mutation?  I suppose, but it seems more likely that we are constantly introducing new strains as we feed the culture.  It also seems likely that sooner or later we will stumble across one that is stronger than that which we already have --  In other words, contamination.

Since not only different strains, but perhaps different species, are found in different starters, it seems to me that if one were to mix two starters together, the stronger would eventually completely take over, to the exclusion of the weaker.