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.  

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!