The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Calling all snowbirds

clazar123's picture

Calling all snowbirds

I live in 2 homes-summer in Minneapolis (4 months) and fall/winter/spring in Florida (8 months)-a "snowbird" in common parlance. I have sourdough cultures and milk kefir grains to preserve and use at both locations and need to figure out the easiest way to ensure healthy (or at least living) cultures. I haven' t been doing the snowbird thing for very long and in trying to cover all my bases, I have saved cultures at each location using various means(dried,frozen,thickened, untended). I have also travelled with cultures each time in case my storage method failed. Right now I am trying to decide on the easiest, most foolproof way to do all this. The cost of refrigeration at the untended house is always a consideration-as is failure of the refrigerator (no power for 5 days after Hurricane Irma-cultures did survive).  Sourdough is tough but even so I have killed a few cultures in my time.

So how do all you other snowbirds handle your cultures? Keep it with you at all times? Leave some at both locations? In what state-dried,frozen,thickened? I have to count on them being never fed in  a  4 month period of time. Can I preserve them successfully without refrigeration for extended periods? I have dried my SD before but I just don't have confidence in revival when they are left warm for 4 months. Do I just need re-assurance?

I have great friends in the Florida location so I might be able to leave some in their refrigerator but, again, in what state-dried,thickened,frozen? I also never know if they will throw it away, in error.

I just did an experiment with Dabrownman's Rye flour NMNF starter but mine did not survive 4 months so I'm not sure I want to rely on that method just yet. One experiment doesn't give me enough confidence,esp. since it failed (possibly due to user error since others have had repeatable success). I will continue to experiment.

Best advice?

Anyone live in Palm Harbor, Florida full time that would like a new friend and babysit my cultures?


GAPOMA's picture

I too am a "Snowbird" of sorts.  We live most of the year in Omaha but have a home in Arizona that we spend a few months a year at.  I keep starter at both homes.  Omaha is easy as we're there a lot, and I keep both liquid and stiff starters going (use depends on my mood).  I also have keep about a tablespoon of dried starter in the freezer as a backup, and I know that it is good for at least 5 years (tested).

In Arizona I have also kept liquid, stiff and dried/frozen starters.  In Arizona I had both of my starters going good in March of 2017 when I put them in the refrigerator.  Circumstances (and laziness) conspired to make my visits to Arizona very infrequent and very short last year, so I really wasn't able to feed it until I returned this past March (2018).  Looking at it I wasn't optimistic as it looked pretty nasty with lots of "hooch", but I figured I'd give it a try.  So this past March (a year after its last feeding) I brought both my liquid and stiff starters back out.  Much to my surprise the liquid starter came back like it was put away a week ago.  The stiff starter however didn't do much.

I understand your concern about power outages, and I guess my recommendation there would still be to keep some dried starter in the freezer both places.  That said, I'd probably also keep a small aliquot (~1Tbsp) of dried starter in the back of a kitchen cabinet as an emergency backup.  

dabrownman's picture

electricity which would be a total waste of money and resources.  Just schmear a couple of tablespoons on parchment, dry it and keep it in the cupboard in a glass jar.  It will be ready to go in less than week for sure when you get back.  

BetterBoules's picture

How is dried starter best revived?

dabrownman's picture

store it in a glass repourposed jelly jar with lid.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

a site search:  reviving dried starter

  1. first fully hydrate it with equal weight of water and cover 
  2. add equal amounts of flour so your ratio is now 1:1:1 (s:w:f).  Cover and observe waiting for activity.


clazar123's picture

I discovered the fastest way to dry starter-a room air conditioner!

I smear very thinly about 1 tablespoon of active starter on a waxpaper-coated cookie sheet and put it in a bedroom with the room air conditioner running. Humidity drops to about 40%!  After about  1 1/2 hours I just crackle the dried starter flakes off the wax paper and put them into a ziplock. It went pretty fast!