I am keeping my starter in the fridge for about two weeks now.
Do I need to feed it? How long can I keep it there?
I've left my starter in the refrigerator for fairly long periods measured in months. However, before I intend to store it away for a long period like that, I would give it a feeding, and thicken it up to at least a thick paste or even a firm dough consistency, then refrigerate immediately or at least before it has doubled in volume, say within a few hours.
You can leave it in the refrigerator without feeding it. When you do take it out of the refrigerator after a period of storage, feed it as you normally would, keeping it out on the counter at room temperature. Continue to feed it and let it rise repeatedly at room temperature each time it ripens, until the starter is fully vigorous, as it would need to be if you were to make bread with it. After it has been fully revived with repeated room temperature feedings, you can again go through the steps to store it away.
What you shouldn't do is feed it while it is in the refrigerator, i.e. you shouldn't take it out of the refrigerator, feed it, and put it back in the refrigerator immediately. The culture slowly dies out in the refrigerator, although it takes a long time. So, if you just put it back into the refrigerator cold and fed, the culture will be diluted and also have no chance to bounce back to full strength, which can only happen at warmer temperatures. That will dilute the culture without allowing the population to grow back to full strength and will eventually result in culture death if you were to continue to repeatedly feed it in the refrigerator.
Thanks for the info Bill,
I fed it before I put it in the fridge, the water did separate though and is on top of the flour mixture. Is this bad?
I hope it did not die.
What type of starter is it in terms of hydration and flour type? Is it more like a soup, a paste, or a dough, in other words, and is it fed with white flour, WW, rye, or other? They all behave a little differently.
I don't think it's necessarily a problem that it has liquid on top, especially if it is a starter of a more soupy consistency, as opposed to firm. If the liquid is very dark or orange or pink or some other weird color, or if it smells really bad, then you may have a problem. If it just smells sour and alcolholic, then it's probably normal.
The best way to tell if it's OK is to feed it. My normal routine these days with a white flour starter would be to feed 5g of starter with 22g of water and 25g of flour , let rise at room temperature, and repeat about every 12 hours. Normally, it would fully revive in just a couple of feedings, i.e. in about 24 hours it should be rising normally and show normal signs of vigorous bubbling and activity.
I think in volume that would be like feeding 1 teaspoon of starter with 2 tablespoons of water and 3 to 4 tablespoons of flour. Stir up and let rise for about 12 hours at room temperature. With that schedule and feeding ratio it should probably double in about 6-7 hours, but you can let it ripen for a total of about 12 and get good results, at least with my starter. Starters vary in speed of fermentation, so you have to see if seems to be healthy feeding it with that schedule.
Good luck. Hopefully, it's fine. If not, just keep feeding it as above for a few days, maybe adding in a little sprinkle of very fresh whole rye or whole wheat with each feeding, and it should come back to life.
It's starter I made from grapes, using the Nancy Silverton book. It is a white starter, the reason I put it in the refrigerator is because I am working with rye starter now (Dan Leader). I do have a backup of my white starter though. I feed a small portion of it while the rest stays in the fridge. I use 16 g of starter, 30 g water and 34 g flour. I found this on this board. And I have stored some dried starter in a sealed plastic bag as well, so two backups actually.
I just smelled the one in the refrigerator and it smells lightly sour, so I am guessing this is a good sign and I guess I do not need to worry.
Thanks a lot for the info guys!
That feeding ratio is fine, too. It's just going to rise in less time, more like 4-5 hours to double and 8 hours to be ripe. It probably would work well to be fed every 8 hours at that feeding ratio at 75F, but it would probably be fine fed every 12 hours, too. I've found that the 5g, 22g, 25g works well at 75F for every 12 hour feedings maintaining the starter at room temperature, which I've been doing lately. I haven't been traveling, so I don't really use refrigeration much right now. Starters vary in speed of the rise, so yours may have different timing than I do.