The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter Jar and Additives

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Torch404's picture
Torch404

Starter Jar and Additives

First a great Thank You to SourdoLady whos wonderful instructions got me a healthy bubbling yeast starter with zero problems. Now well on it's way and living in the fridge. I've made a few loaves and they were wonderful. Thank you SourdoLady!!

However, I noticed with the daily feedings what a pain it was to get my hand in the jar to clean it. I am using a quart sized canning jar and my hand does not fit in the opening well enough to clean the jar comfortably. So now I'm on a search for the perfect starter jar. My requirements are fairly simple. I would prefer glass and clear enough that I have some idea what's going on inside. It should be big enough to hold a fair amount of starter and more importantly have big opening for easy to cleaning.

What are you using to keep your starter in?

 

I've been making a "sponge" to start my loaves. It seems to work well for me. My question is does any one add things to their sponge? I put a little lite molasses in one. The sponge came out smelling a little rummy and I thought I could taste it in the bread. Does anyone add other ingredients at this part of the process or can it muck it all up?

 

umbreadman's picture
umbreadman

I have a jar that sounds similar to yours. I want to ask though, do you take your starter out to refresh it? and do you clean the jar every time? If you do....why? the bacteria create an environment in the dough and the jar, and cleaning it sounds to be unnecessary added work. Cleaning it every couple months or something for sanitary reasons is understandable, but I don't know if regular washing of the starter container is something you should/need to be doing. I scrape any excess dough on the sides back down into the starter dough and mix it in, since it is all fermentable.

-Cyrus

Torch404's picture
Torch404

I'd have to clean it. I live where everything rots, right on the coast. I know the starter would be fine but the stuff stuck to the side that dries out would rot. Also as with any pet it is advisable to clean their cage on occasion.

I've only been at this three weeks so I don't have a regular rutine with my starter yet, but I have a hard time scooping it out too...I got big ol Monkey Hands.

goetter's picture
goetter

I use 1-qt Nancy's Yogurt containers, of which I have a seemingly infinite supply.  Unfortunately they aren't clear as you would prefer.  If they get too gunky I have no problem with throwing them away, or recycling them into compost discard mini-buckets before throwing them away.  The different types of yogurt come in different color schemes, which I use to differentiate my different starters.

I prefer to leave my sponges unadorned, the better not to disrupt the developing relationship between yeast and flour. 

Larry Clark's picture
Larry Clark

 

I keep my starter (25-50g) in a one cup plastic ziploc bowl. They come in packages of four or five for about $3. 

When the mood strikes, I put my sarter into a clean bowl and wash the older one. They are very easy to clean.

 

-Larry 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Torch404. 

I experienced the same frustration you describe working with narrow openings in jars. Searching for a better solution, I found what are called "French terrine" jars. They have straight sides all the way up, with no narrowing at the mouth. I have two in the refrigerator usually, one with a wheat starter and one with a rye sour. I'm very happy with these jars.

Here's a link to my source:

http://www.containerstore.com/browse/Product.jhtml?CATID=74177&PRODID=65152  

And I don't add anything to my starters besides water, flour and starter.

David

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Hi, Torch404,

I have arthritic hands and have had problems cleaning jars, but then I found a couple of quart jars in a thrift store. They have the metal clip fastener but the rubber rings were perished so I removed them. The necks are wide enough for cleaning and adding the ingredients. I don't clean them every time but when I do I measure the old starter to keep and dispose of (or use) the rest and put everything into the clean jar. Then I soak the "dirty" jar in cold water to loosen up the dried starter. One of the stiff brushes designed for washing dishes works wonders. My old jars were both made in France and cost around $3 each. I have smaller jars too but am wary of the starter overflowing - very messy! A.

Torch404's picture
Torch404

I have seen those and like them. That is what I was thinking about getting but I wanted see what other people were using before I laid my money down.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Annie.

It sounds like your jars are similar to the ones I recommended. (See above.) The link in my previous comment will take you to The Container Store web site. They have replacement rubber rings for these jars.


David

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

No David, these are the old fashioned type with the slightly narrow opening. I tossed the rings because I understood that it isn't good to seal the jar tightly - don't want any explosions in the refrigerator. A.

breadnerd's picture
breadnerd

Seems like a wide mouth canning jar might work for you. Easier to get your hand in.

 

I found a ceramic crock at a garage sale that I use, works great. One thing i do is feed and mix mine in a seperate bowl, and then rinse out the crock and put the refreshed starter back. I found that the mixing kind of spreads it around the sides off the jar, and this keeps it neater. I don't really wash, just a good rinse out every time I feed it. This seems to keep things relatively un-crusty for me. When I'm building the starter up for a baking, I use a larger pyrex bowl. Then I put a little starter back in my crock right away so that I don't forget to save it. Just in case I mess up or forget to save starter out before I add salt, etc, I have a reserve of my starter to fall back on :)

Torch404's picture
Torch404

It did not occur to me that I would be taking it out to clean, but I would have to. I guess it doesn't need to be clear. I would be alright with ceramic but I don't really want to use plastic...this opens a lot more possibities.

tattooedtonka's picture
tattooedtonka

Is look in the yellow pages for a local restaurant supply house for these.

They were only about $4.00 US each.  I like these because my meaty paws fit in them easily to clean.  They seal well, but the top can still pop off under pressure as my starter on the right can show.

Just a thought

TT

Jolly's picture
Jolly

Hi Torch,

I have a cousin by that name.

About sourdough containers: I'm using a glass jar that has a 4-inch wide mouth. A wide mouth canning jar has a 3-inch opening. Having a large wide mouth jar with straight sides makes washing jars a lot easier. The wide mouth jars were filled with green olives and after the jars were empty I thought they woulds be wonderful for liquid sourdough starters. Because of they're wide mouth of 4-inches. I love these jars.

When I pour out some starter for a recipe it leaves a residue of starter on the side of the jar. So I get my spatula and sweep down the excess starter as well as I can. Why do I do this? I use to live in an area where the humidity is high. And soon I would have mold growing inside the walls of the jar, especially if I had it in storage for a long period of time.

Since then I have moved to a climate where the air is very dry (high desert). I still have the same problem but it takes the mold a longer period of time to grow. Now when I plan on storing a liquid starter for a long period of time I make sure it's stored in a clean glass container.

It's also a good idea to rinse out the jar with (vinegar) to eliminate all soaps and detergents residues which accumulate on our glasses, jars, and dishes. Then rinse with water.

When my sourdough starter starts running low I always place my new batch of starter into clean jar.

In mixing up my sourdough starter I'll mix it up in large mixing bowl. So I can thoroughly whisk it, for a good two minutes to incorporate as much bubbles into the starter. To set up air pockets during fermentation, the yeast will enter the air pockets and enlarge them for a more even and airy crumb. Then I carefully pour it into a wide mouth glass jar being careful not to get any starter on the walls of the jar.

I prefer glass over plastic. Plastic is an absorbent material and once you wash plastic with a detergent that contains chemicals you can never remove it from the plastic. A glass jar would make the best storage container.

I also bought 1 quart (Food Grade) plastic containers from Smart & Final and these containers have a a wide mouth of 5 inches. I use them strictly for starters and nothing else. When I wash these containers I use organic dish washing soap and rinse with vinegar. These containers are very easy to clean.

I've been making a "sponge" to start my loaves. It seems to work well for me. My question is does any one add things to their sponge? I put a little lite molasses in one. The sponge came out smelling a little rummy and I thought I could taste it in the bread. Does anyone add other ingredients at this part of the process or can it muck it all up?

Sponge---I don't bake breads using a sponge. But what I've read about making a sponge it another way to deepen the flavor of bread. It also enables the yeast to grow faster, and can be used after 1 hour or idealy 4 hours at room temperature for more flavor. A sponge may consist of honey, or sugar, flour, water, and yeast. Then you may lay a blanket of flour, yeast, dry milk, butter, banana, salt and so fourth over the sponge and let it set for 4 hours. The recipe for this delicious sponge breads may be found in "The Bread Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum under the name Banana Feather Loaf page 271. Many of her bread recipes include a sponge.

Jolly The Sourdough Baker

 

 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi,

I like these squat jars. I bought a dozen 8 oz and a dozen 16 oz and use them in a number of different ways. The plastic screw-on lid, wide mouth, straight sides, glass, all make sense for cleaning, viewing, and storage.

I agree it's probably a good idea to switch containers at each feeding to avoid any mold growth on the residue left on the sides of the container. If I'm feeding at room temperature every 12-24 hours, I just alternate containers and clean the empty one each time. If storing in the refrigerator, I usually feed the starter to make a dough in a small bowl, then pour it into a clean container, avoiding the sides of the container.

I use the 8 oz jar for my starter, since I'm only keeping about 55g of starter, i.e. the normal routine is 5g of starter fed with 22g of water and 28g of flour.

Bill

colinwhipple's picture
colinwhipple

Bill,

On another web site I saw a recommendation to drill a hole in the lid of the starter-storage jar to allow a minimal amount of air access.  Do you do that?

Colin 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Colin,

I've always been a little worried about too tightly sealing a lid on a starter and then discovering a popped lid or broken container at some point. I don't know how strong the pressure might get in there, and in spite of being an engineer by background, I've never bothered to figure it out.

Meanwhile, if you leave a starter for a long time in a refrigerator with an air hole, I would think you would have refrigerator smells getting into the starter, and it would certainly have a tendency to dry out after a while.

After trying all kinds of different approaches over the last few years, such as plastic wrap and rubber band, plastic containers with snap-on lids, glass containers with a rubber gasket that allows some gas to escape, and glass jars with screw-on lids, I've never noticed a difference with any of them. They all worked just fine, even for long-term storage in the refrigerator for over 2 months.

So, to avoid drying out the starter or getting refrigerator smells in it, I would say use a lid. In my case, I don't crank down hard on the lid, since I still harbor these suspicions, probably unfounded, that a tightly sealed starter may be an explosive device.

Bill

 

colinwhipple's picture
colinwhipple

I will stop drilling holes.

Colin 

SourRoadKing's picture
SourRoadKing

Collin,

You must be carefull not to seel any glass contain to tight, in wine making any bottle that gets an active secondary fermentation is called a glass grenade.  The bottle can build enough pressure to explode, and sourdough is another form of fermentation.


I've been using a glass jar with a wire bale top, and I just remove the rubber gasket.

Torch404's picture
Torch404

Thanks everyone for all the ideas. Big thanks to Jolly for such a detailed reply. I'm still looking around. Skipping plastic though gonna stick to glass. I'm parinoid!

cryobear's picture
cryobear

I understand your problem very well. We moved in to an area that we thought would be Heaven.  You know you have a mould problem when you have carpet added to your home, go on vacation and come home to a mushroom farm.  We went back to cold tile.  The starter was another problem.  Fruit flys, blow flys and bad green stuff everytime I had a great started going.  It would get to the point that I wanted it and just a 30 sec. goof and a blow fly would lay an egg in it.  Total loss as I watched it wiggle the next day! 

I now have a wide selection of starters, and no problem with bugs, green scum or drying out.  I store it on the counter and never worry about invasions from starter killers.  It's also great for WY+ brewers.  And better yet, it's very cheap.  Get the little gas vent attachment that is used for brewing home beer or wine.  Gas or air going out or in the jar must go through the water.  It's worked for hundereds of years.  I buy sealable plastic containerss, drill a 1/2" hole in the top.  In the hole you slip in the rubber groument and the tube holding the water bath trap.  They cost $0.85 here.  Very cheap here compaired to the pounds of costly flour feeding lost starter.

A hui ho,

Bob Farrell

EvaGal's picture
EvaGal

I found  a straight sided jar at Ikea.  It has a sealing lid, but I lay a piece of cheesecloth between the lid and jar and close the lid as far as it can go.  I replace the cheesecloth every two months.