The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

"Tupperware odor"

chris319's picture

"Tupperware odor"

This is a totally bizarre question but it does have relevance to baking.

Does anyone else know what I mean by "tupperware odor"? I don't know how best to describe it other than to say it is kind of a "plasticy" odor.

Come to learn that Tupperware, and also Rubbermaid I think, food storage containers are made of low-density polyethylene, or LDPE a.k.a. plastic #4.

I was moving my sourdough starter into a tupperware-like container which I believe is made of LDPE. A few hours later I checked the starter to see if it still smelled yeasty. It had gone uncharacteristically soupy, as if a lot of proteolysis had taken place. It didn't smell that yeasty but "tupperware odor", or LDPE odor, was unmistakably present. It got me to wondering if there was some kind of chemical reaction going on which put the kybosh on my starter. Stranger things have happened. I had been keeping my starter in a plastic picnic cup not made of LDPE with no "tupperware odor" and had no trouble whatsoever. Over the summer I was having fits trying to get a starter going and what kind of container do you think I was using? LDPE! My successful starters have been made in plastic picnic cups.

I am going on vacation next month and want to bring my starter with me. Yes, I know it's strange but I think I would rather do that than leave it in the fridge. I stir my starter once per day so I will be able to do that. I want some kind of unbreakable or hard-to-break sealable container with a fairly wide mouth. Do they still make peanut butter jars out of glass? That's one possibility. Peanut butter jars used to be made of kind of a heavy glass. Something ceramic would also do. I don't think a mason jar would be break resistant enough. Glass mayonnaise jars tended to be tapered toward the mouth, not good for stirring.

I will be driving so I don't have to worry about being beaten senseless by a TSA thug who thinks a fermented mixture of flour and water could bring down a jetliner.

aptk's picture

Currently using an old coffee carafe, but in the past I've used ceramic cannisters, I was able to get a deal on a set that had a broken one, but the flour canister was perfect, and I've used a small ceramic container with a wire bail to hold it shut, didn't use it for very long because it was too small for my needs. Pyrex makes glass containers with plastic snap on lids, they're pretty sturdy.


embth's picture

I use a Kilner glass jar but I removed the rubber seal from the glass lid (held in place by a metal clip) so that it is not airtight.   A starter needs to "breathe"….. with a "starter"in a tightly closed container TSA might have good reason to be alarmed.  : )

Instead of taking your starter on a road trip, consider freezing it.  When I travel, I send my starter on an "Arctic Vacation", by dropping the hydration level a bit ,and putting a cup or so of starter in a tight container inside a freezer zip-lock.  I have held the starter for a month this way and brought it back to active with 2-3 days of room temperature feedings.    Embth



chris319's picture

There are places on line where you can order all manner of sturdy glass jars but you have to order them in cases of 24, Maybe I'll see if I can pick up a glass mason jar locally and treat it carefully. "Caution: Contains Sourdough Starter".

I once had TSA confiscate a half-empty tube of toothpaste. You never know. I  could have had plastic explosive in that tube. I've never tried to fill a toothpaste tube back up but I imagine it's not worth bothering with. BTW I haven't flown sincee.

chris319's picture

I've tried freezing starter before and it didn't come back quite the same. I'd feel better about keeping it at room temperature.

Good point about airtightness, though. The CO2 would have to be able to escape.

Antilope's picture

the scent of dish soap. If you use scented dish soap, you will notice that the scent remains on the plastic (on Tupperware and Rubbermaid) and cannot be rinsed off.  I've found that using an unscented dish soap (like Ivory) at least gets rid of the unwanted fragrance.

pmccool's picture

For normal use, I keep my starter in the refrigerator in a glass jelly jar that is loosely closed with a plastic screw-on lid.

When I traveled back to the U.S. from South Africa, I used two different techniques to prepare the starter for travel.  Upon arriving back in the States, I rehydrated the starter to get it up and running again.

My experience in keeping a starter as a stiff dough in the refrigerator is that it takes about a week or a little more to peak.  By the end of the second week it is fully collapsed.  At the very worst, it's ready to go after just two feedings.  Many times, only a single feeding is required to bring it to fighting trim.  Consequently, I don't worry about it being home alone while we are on vacation, so long as it has been given a good feeding before we leave.  If I do take it on vacation, it's because I want to use it.  And in that case, I don't dry it first.  If traveling by air, it either goes in my checked luggage in a clearly marked container or just a tiny amount in my hand luggage, also in a clearly marked container.  Or both, if I'm feeling somewhat paranoid.


chris319's picture

I used to use Palmolive dish detergent on plastic vessels and found out the hard way that they retain the scent and taste of the soap -- not pleasant.

To my surprise I found a 100% glass peanut butter jar in the supermarket today and have repurposed it for starter. I can leave the lid on loosely or tighten it down for travel. But no more plastic. I will just have to be careful with the glass.

chris319's picture

Handy household tip: the smell of peanut butter is not easily washed away.