Well......I thought it was and interesting story.
Thanks for the link. I find it fascinating how starters can be maintained indefinitely and one can be baking with a starter today which someone started 120 years ago and it's been cared for ever since. If that's not what bread is all about what is? It's the staff of life.
... was supposedly an apple! Which leads to AYW and other starters, each of which is some sort of biological process. I suppose then that the Puratos Sourdough Library cannot be much different from The Human Genome or the National Geographic Genographic Projects?
So here is the link to an interesting article about an archeologist that found yeast preserved in amber for millions of years! Wow! I wonder what would have happened if he was a baker?
and bake a bread from some 45-million-and 7 year-old yeast + 4 months.
I always love stories about ancient starters, even though I am not sure they are better than a starter that's a few months old. Still, there is the romance of having a bit of history right there.
If you are interested in old starters, remember The Friends of Carl who make available their 1847 Oregon Trail starter. Carl Griffith could verify the starter had been in the family since 1847 when they traveled the Oregon Trail and felt it had been in the family longer.
He gave it away to anyone who asked. Upon his passing, his friends continued to give it away. Just send them a stamped self addressed envelope and they'll send you some dried starter. I've used it and it is quite good.
More information at the Friends of Carl web page.
Would an old starter, or transplanted starter even have anything unique and lasting in it? I was under the impression that transplanted starters do not carry their flavor and performance contributors forward. I thought starters were a combination of various strains of yeast and bacteria that come from the flour/water/local environment(which according to some is about the same everywhere) that thrive at a particular temperature range and on what the starter is fed. If this is wrong I'd love to know.
The question of whether a starter remains true is one that is hotly, and frequently, debated in sourdough circles. And I don't think there is a definitive answer yet.
When you look at the concentration of sourdough microorganisms, they are very low in the air, higher on flour and highest in a well maintained sourdough starter. It is unlikely that foreign bacteria or yeast could take over a well maintained starter. Sourdough bacteria make the starter very acidic which rules out most organisms being able to take over, and the bacteria also produces antibiotic compounds that further deter invaders. Dr. Michael Gaentzle, a well known sourdough researcher, has starters in his collection that have remained unchanged for over 50 years. So, I tend to think a well maintained starter is a stable thing.
Still, you hear people talking about how, "when I moved from San Francisco to Boise, my starter changed!" and "when I buy a starter it starts out great and then it gets bland!" So, what is going on here?
What an organism eats impacts its flavor. Hunters prize boars that have been feeding on acorns. At least one American company, La Quercia, produces ham from pigs that were fed acorns. The stuff is a sheer delight, and I wrote a piece about it a while back. Nursing mothers will tell you that their babies will refuse to eat or get fidgety if mom has been eating spicy food - the flavors go into mom's milk. If the flavor of large organisms and their products are impacted by what they eat, it shouldn't be a surprise to find out that yeast and bacteria are also impacted by what they eat.
If you want a dramatic example, switch a starter you've been feeding white flour over to whole wheat or rye. The aroma and flavor will dramatically change in a matter of days. If I recall correctly, Debbie Wink commented that the change continues for at least a week.
So, what happened when you moved from San Francisco to Boise? Are you feeding your starter the same flour? Even if the name on the flour sack is the same, the chances are good the grain came from different fields and the flour was milled in different mills. The mineral content of the water you are using is also likely to be different. So, did the starter change, or did it just change its expression?
At the end of the post, it isn't easy for someone who isn't a micro-biologist to know what is happening in their starter which leads to all sorts of speculation. I know I'm guilty of speculation. I'd love for a micro-biologist who has studied sourdough cultures to weigh in, but I haven't seen that happen yet. So, for now, my speculation is that a well maintained starter is stable, but it may change taste and behavior when what - and how - it is fed changes.
You might find this interesting. He has now mapped and tested hundreds of sourdough starters as to the species in the individual starters.
Here is one of the posts here on TFL. I couldn't find the original post but the followups have way more information, anyways. Enjoy!