The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Blackberries instead of grapes to seed new starter?

Hank Gurdjieff's picture
Hank Gurdjieff

Blackberries instead of grapes to seed new starter?

I'm ready to try sourdough again, now that I learned that my bad luck was likely caused by trying to use up all the bleached flour I have by feeding it to the starters I made.

I've read about using organic grapes to innoculate a new starter - any thoughts on whether the blackberries from my yard work? If so, should I do anything different?

I just noticed that the bush has enough berries to bother picking for the first time in years. Not a whole lot, but I was able to pick a scant pound to bake a berry breakfast bar thingy. Chose too sweet a recipe, but... Yum! There will be a bunch more ripe in a day or two.




jvafis's picture

The reason grapes are suggested is because of the bloom on the skins that contains yeast spores. I doubt if blackberries have a yeast coating on them. I don't think you really need either. If you use, organic whole wheat flour to start you should have plenty of yeast from the grain alone. Once the culture gets going, you can feed it with all-purpose flour. I'm no expert, but I think you don't need to use any fruit.


Grenage's picture

You really don't need to use anything other than water and flour.  Many people here use stuff like fruit juice, yoghurt, grapes, old tyres, whatever; you don't need anything, it's just personal taste.  I wouldn't bother with blackberries, for the reason John stated.

If you can get fresh organic flour, you've got a good chance of quick success.

Ford's picture

Debra Wink suggests that one use pineapple juice for beginning a new starter.  This gives the medium the righ amount of acid for optimum activation of the yeast and lacto bacteria that are already in the unbleached wheat flour.  Some have recommended starting with whole wheat flour, or withrye.  I think it does not make a great deal of difference.  The organisms are there and just need to be awakened and nurished.



mwilson's picture

While it's true that all you need is flour and water, using fruit will bring acidity and this will shave a couple of days off the process. The first bacteria that take hold are undesirable: Read The Pineapple juice solution.

I would use those blackberries. So that when you pass the culture down a generation you can say "I started this culture long ago using blackberries from my garden" Rather than "Mixed flour and water,  smelt like socks for a bit, then it raised bread".

Also I advocate using Rye. I have started cultures with just whole wheat and water - I got lactobacillus but no yeast/lift. Once I added some Rye it took off.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

And think of the color!  Any other starter is pale in comparison.  

Picked a pint the other day and froze them.  There's a small bowl chilling in the fridge and I'm  thinking to pour cream over them and relish every bite.  Outside, I have mirror shiny mylar strips  (wrapping paper) in the bushes keeping the birds out.  So far I've managed to get to them first when ripe.  Those silly birds were pecking at them before they turned black!  Today I forgot to pick but they will be extra sweet in the morning -- sneaking up on them in the dew dripped grass.

Good luck on your purple starter.  Might be fun to note color changes as oxidises and ferments.  Would also like to know if the seeds and berry middles soften during fermentation.  I would just cover about 6 berries with a heaping spoonful of flour (to cut down on wild squirts) and then squash or mash with fork. Might want to add a teaspoon or two of water to get a thick batter.  

Hank Gurdjieff's picture
Hank Gurdjieff

:) Yeah - the whole berries vs. socks made the call for me.

I'll try it just in case it works. I picked up some pinapple juice and will try that with it. That link to the pinapple solution helped, I got the juice because I'd read about it long ago but had never seen that writeup. Much more information, and I enjoy the science aspect of cooking almost as much as the eating aspect. I'll get some rye, too. might as well give it the best chances. Hadn't thought about getting those tiny seeds in my teeth when eating the bread. Like that old ritual of seeing who gets the hard bean in the cake, only different.

I'm jealous, Mini Oven - you have my bushes beat hands down. Ours used to make a huge wall at the back fence until the neighbors hired someone to cut them all down on their side... and much of ours before I realized what was happening. They've spread alone another side fence where we're just now getting berries, but the huge bush is history. Can't complain - all the rest of the neighborhood are fantastic, and that one is otherwise never noticed.

Off to pick some berries and start a starter!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

an Ilex tree.  Each year about this time, the new shoots or branches are growing for next year.  I cut the tip off so they can branch out this year to get more berries next year.  If trimmed too late in the summer, the new little branches freeze.  The branches are then supported in the Ilex tree which gets one heck of a trim as the berries are blooming.  Otherwise, I can't find the berries for the leaves and letting in the sun makes for ripe berries.  

My neighbor loves picking the berries that wander over the fence into his garden.   I tell him when they are ripe.  Time to raid the garden!  :)   Maybe I'll get another pint!   ...I'm still laughing about the socks!

dabrownman's picture

bleached AP to any established SD starter.  Do it all the time no problem.  I had great luck using whole wheat, a little water and 1 tsp of milk and 1/8 tsp of cumin using Joe Ortiz's method for WW starter.  Go to sweetbird's blog to get the skinny.  She did a fine post on how to do it. 

Hank Gurdjieff's picture
Hank Gurdjieff

dabrownman - I now have no excuse left for killing all my starters other than pure user error and neglect! Oh well. :) I guess I'll have to actually pay attention to what I'm doing this time.

cumin? That's totally new to me. I'll read her post as suggested.


Hank Gurdjieff's picture
Hank Gurdjieff

MiniOven - I overlooked your last post. Have to tell you, though, it is 1:30AM here and I just finished cleaning up after making another berry oatmeal breakfast bar thing. See, you're description of the berries stayed in my head until it drove me back out to pick another batch! Only I had to wait until my wife went to sleep to cook it because she has a routine fasting blood sugar test in the morning and it seemed too cruel to cook it when she couldn't eat it, but the berries go bad fast. It will be here when we return. I'll read up on the pruning. I want to encourage the bush as much as I can.

I wandered a bit off topic here, sorry.

Thanks all for the help!