The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Will my starter poison me - sick starter

jessamyne's picture
jessamyne

Will my starter poison me - sick starter

Hi all, 

I have a starter that's just over two years old, and I pulled him out of the fridge a few days ago to find that he really smelled (of old parmesan cheese), and there was a weird pinky-brown layer on top that looked like either little worms, or kind of like mushroom gills ... unfortunately I didn't think to take a photo. I will admit I'd been neglecting him a little, but only to the point where I was expecting some hooch on top and he'd be fine after a few days of being well-fed.

The stuff underneath that pink layer seemed ok (looked normal, smelled ok, if still a teeny bit cheesy). So I thought I had nothing to lose and mixed about a tablespoon up and let it sit out overnight. After a few days of refreshing the starter, it seems completely back to normal - smells lovely, bubbles up beautifully and acts as you'd expect a normal starter to act.

My reasoning initially was that the lactobacillus would just kill off any leftover bacteria from that initial tablespoon, and after a few feeds the environment would even out again. Is this reasonable to think, or am I risking food poisoning? There isn't a whole lot on the internet about well-established starters that have gone bad like this.

Thank you!
Jess

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

In a starter - when it's mould - one shouldn't risk it. Now the question is - was it mould? Some flour might have a pinkish hue in starter but considering the neglect and smell thrown into it then better safe than sorry. I don't want to advise it's ok and be wrong. The problem with mould is you don't know how far its penetrated into the starter.

If I were you I'd make a new one. And if you're in London then it'd be my pleasure to give you some of mine while you get yours up and running.

jessamyne's picture
jessamyne

Hi Lechem, thanks for the reply! I don't think it was mould - it wasn't fuzzy at all, more like a jelly consistency. You are probably right and I should throw it out to be safe, but I'm just so sad to lose two whole years! Sadly I'm in Australia, about as far away from your starter as possible, but thank you for the offer :)

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

After a few days of refreshing the starter, it seems completely back to normal - smells lovely, bubbles up beautifully and acts as you'd expect a normal starter to act.

It's fine  :)