The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Making sure it's safe

  • Pin It
CathysMom's picture
CathysMom

Making sure it's safe

Hello, and thank you all for the great site!  I am making my first sourdough starter, almost finished, I have been fermenting it for fourteen days as per my recipe.  I started the starter by submerging a bundle of organic green grapes wrapped in cheesecloth in the flour and water batter, and stirring them around occasionally for the first six days.  I did this, and it all went according to plan except that the top of my cheesecloth bundle looked a little pinkish by about day three, and stayed that way.  My recipe said if there was pink liquid in the starter, it had spoiled and I must start over, but it said nothing about a slightly pink cheesecloth bundle.  After I removed the grapes and began regular feedings, the starter really thrived, and now it is looking lovely and alive and bubbly and smells good.  No signs of anything pink!  Having never made one, though, I wanted to check in and make sure I won't poison my family by using this starter.   Any thoughts?  

 

Hubitom's picture
Hubitom

I made mine from nothing else than some flour and water. I also bought a San Francisco Starter a few years back, and there was no difference in taste that I perceived. I try to follow the KISS rule, and it usually works. Just take some flour (white wheat, whole wheat, or a mix), some sugar, stir it into water to make a runny paste, and let it sit warm for a day, and you will notice fermentation to begin. Some people add yoghurt culture, or pineapple juice, etc. I didn't have the need to do so. If you want it the safe way, purchase a culture from a supplier, write to King Arthur for a free sample, or have any of the lurkers here send you some dried starter by mail. There will be more than enough options here for you.

But since you said that your starter smells good, I wouldn't worry about it too much.

Happy baking, and don't despair!

Thomas

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

There are few things more ugly or more disgusting than a new sourdough starter. The smells, textures, and colours are good enough to send one back to Wonder Bread.

While I don't think any of us would be comfortable affirming the overall safety of your starter, I'd be comfortable saying that it's safe if (a) the pink has not persisted, (b) if it smells good and (c) if it leavens bread.

If smells bad, I wouldn't even think about using it.

This is what my starter looked like with the grape bunches still intact (I called them grape tumors).

CathysMom's picture
CathysMom

Thank you guys!  That's about what my grape bundle looked like, too and it smelled gross, but then all was well...so I think I'll just try baking with it and hope for the best!  Thanks!

tomdrum's picture
tomdrum

I would be fairly sure that it is safe. I do not know exactly what the pinkish colour of the cheese cloth would represent but if it is healthy and doubling after each refreshment then it should be fine. Yeast fermentation produces ethanol, and most little critters that you need to be worried about don't much like this. Lactic Acid Bacteria found in sourdough cultures produce lactic acid through fermentation, again these lil beasties that can hurt you don't tend to like acidic environments. The baking of the bread is also another good control measure as once again most beasties wont survive the high temps reached while baking. Some nasty bacteria can produce spores that will survive high temperatures but they are pretty unlikely to be found in standard bread ingredients. I would say that  thomaschacon's advice of "If smells bad, I wouldn't even think about using it" is only correct to a point as the terms good and bad are very subjective. For instance most of the people that smell or taste my rye sour say that it smells horrible or disgusting! If you ask me I would say that it smells strongly acetic and alcoholic quite fruit and a little lactic, basically a good sour. But if you didn't know you might throw it away as it smells "bad". There are some spoilage organism's that cause putrefactive smells, and if you smell these you will know. They will make you gag and cough as if you just smelt a dead animal, and while I think that these are only spoilage and not pathogenic I would still chuck it and start again. Basically I would say that if about 12 hours after refreshment that it has doubled, smells either alcoholic, acidic or both then it will be fine. Enjoy

Hubitom's picture
Hubitom

concur what the last poster said. Everything is subjective.

One thing you might want to consider is getting a second sour, or take some of your sour and freeze it. You can also put it on some parchment paper, and dry it completely, put it in a plastic bag and freeze that. That way you will have a back up in case you need to discard your mother starter (happened to me once so far in of 5 years).

Thomas