The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What on earth happened?!?!

JessicaT's picture

What on earth happened?!?!

Shame on me for admitting this, however I have not baked sourdough in over a year due to a much too busy life. With that being said, I pulled out my jar of rye start tonight to discover the horror's of MOLD!! Why is that the case? I always use clean stainless steel utensils when handling my starters and always make sure my hands are clean as well. Also, is the starter salvageable, or should I just toss it? I will upload pic's when I can find my camera cable. 

Syd's picture

You left your starter too long without refreshing it and it has gone moldy. I have heard of starters surviving six months in the fridge, but longer than a year is probably more than the average starter can stand.  Having said that, someone is most likely going to reply to this thread and say that they never fed their starter for a year and it was fine! Whilst starters can take a lot of abuse, they are not indestructible and are best maintained by refreshing, at least, once a week.

As far as I know,  if it has gone moldy, it is unsalvageable.  You'll have to toss it and start over.



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

After a long period of forced hibernation, the best place to take a sample is usually at the bottom middle of the jar with the least or no discoloration (more cream than gray.)  It can be a tricky job to clear the top of the starter and get to the bottom in a liquid state.  Use several spoons or utensils or carefully wash with each scraping trying not to contaminate the lower layers.  It might be helpful to sprinkle on flour to soak up moisture (keep starter cold) and form a firmer crust that you can more easily remove to the compost.  If the starter is very firm a year ago, your chances are better of reviving.  Will know more with more detail but right now, mold does not sound good but rye can be very durable.   Then use the clean sample as a supplement to starting a new starter.  Use unsweetened pineapple or orange juice instead of water and a good dose of patience with your rye.  

Did you dry any starter while it was still viable?   :)  

DerekL's picture

You had  mold spore on your utensils or your hands, and thus mold got into your starter.  Even though your utensils and hands were clean, they weren't sterile and mold spores are <em>tough</em> little buggers.


mwilson's picture

The air. Eliminating your starter's contact with the air will prevent mould growth.

In my mind bringing an abused starter back to life isn't any different from starting a new one.

Only takes me 24hrs to get an active culture from scratch. I don't see the point in keeping it unfed for that long.

fermento's picture

I think mold, even though it is only apparent on the surface, permeates the whole mass.

I had a similar experience with rye, though not over a long period. Mold appeared on the surface of the starter - I carefully removed it, and all appeared to be fine, but the resultant loaves went moldy after a few days. That has never happened to me before - a rye loaf is usually very long lasting.

I created a new rye starter, using my normal starter as a base, and all has been well since.

Danai Wangsiri's picture
Danai Wangsiri

I have experienced the same problem and after trying the advice from someone posted inTFL ,I never have that problem again.

I do this;

-I change my starter to stiff one, stiff starter is less likely to have mold.

-take the clean portion (as possible)  from old starter then feed as normaland adding one teaspoon of yoghurt

-clean inside the jar with vinegar,

-do not completely seal the  jar, left some hole for air circulation . Mold loves humid ,enclosed environment.

Hope you can rescue it back.


JessicaT's picture

Sorry for the late reply.

That's the mold. I ended up making the decision to toss this starter completely as the odour was actually quite offensive as well. I keep my starters at 50% because I knew that I will not be baking often. I'm not worried about starting over though, as I do have another jar going that seems to be doing fine, hence the befuddlement.