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Best way to travel with my starter

surfhombre's picture

Best way to travel with my starter

Hi all. I’m looking for suggestions/experiences for the best way(s) to travel w a starter on a long flight (20 hours total travel time)? Am thinking to take a tablespoon full in a well-sealed small glass jar tucked inside my toilet kit so as not to exceed the 100ml liquid limit. Also figure cabin temp is better than cold temps down in stowed luggage. 



Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Cold temps would be better. Like storing it in a fridge. 

You could dry some and reconstitute it when you get to your destination. Take a bit of your starter and feed it so it's high hydration and resembles thin paint. When active take a brush and paste it on a tray that has been wrapped in clingfilm. Allow to dry over a day or two. Then break up into little pieces (I wouldn't grind it into powder which most people do for storage as you might have some issues explaining it to airport security). When you get to your destination weigh the dry ingredients, add the same weight in water and leave it to soak till it dissolves back into a paste. Feed as you normally would and wait till it reactivates which might take a day or two. 

BakerBuck's picture

I have no issue with anything anybody has offered.  Sounds like good advice.

As for me, I would knead AP flour into the starter until it has the consistency of thick, stiff putty.  I have learned that that is the way to keep it for moderately long times (weeks).  I have dried it and stored it in paper bags for longer storage (months).  Then I just pack a 1" diameter ball of it into a snack-size ziplok, weighing it first so I know how much water to add later on.  Storage temperature will not matter at all, as long as it is not unreasonably hot.  Write the weight on the baggie.  Then I bring extra ziploks with me.  When it comes time to reconstitute the starter, I put it in a larger ziplok, add purified (chloine-free and bacteria-free) water a little at a time, close the bag and knead the bag to reconstitute it until the right amount of water has been added.  It can then ferment in the collapsed ziplok, which will get larger, until it is time to repeat the process in another ziplok, or in a container at your destination.

I do not know anything about BPA or ziplok purity; I assume they are food safe, but no matter.  Several cycles of feeding will dilute any possible adulteration down to zero as time and feeding cycles go on.

You only need to bring a small-size ball of starter because, as you know, the volume of starter will increase significantly, daily.


clazar123's picture

Starter is very hardy and travels well. Cold and even freezing just makes it dormant. Warmth (up to 140F) makes it eat like crazy but go dormant when the food is gone. It will take a little longer to re-activate but it will do fine.  It comes down to what is easiest for you. I actually would do a few things. First, actively feed your starter for a few days so it is very robust This means you have a high yeast population.

From that starter, smear a thin layer on either a plastic film or piece of parchment or wax paper. VERY thin over a 12 x 15 inch piece. Let it dry at room temp and when it is completely dry, crumble it up and put it into a Ziploc. If there are any damp spots you can develop mold so make sure it is thoroughly dry. Mark the Ziploc "sourdough starter". NEVER use the word culture-they get very paranoid about that.

Next, I would take a teaspoon of your starter and add flour until it is a stiff ball. Make several. Put these into a Ziploc for travel.Refrigerate until your trip. You can even add enough flour for a feeding when you arrive at your destination. Label the bag. This can be packed in the checked bag. The cold works to your advantage. Actually this travels well in carryon, as well. The stiff starter is not as sensitive to warmth as a wet starter so your carryon would work just as well and it won't even be a liquid!

Finally, I always try and take some wet starter (about a teaspoon) in a screw-topped, plastic makeup jar. You buy these just for travel. But I ALWAYS put it into 1 or even a double layer of Ziploc (sealed bag in a bag) because the pressure changes cause it to leak. I bring these in my carryon as part of my measured liquids. Label the bag. I always do this with my starter and some kefir grain. I NEVER call it a culture. If asked, it is natural makeup but I have never been asked because it was never over the limit.

On the destination end, use a good source for water and flour and revive one or all. I like BakerBucks idea and may incorporate that next time I travel.

Happy travels!

dteplow's picture

I have travelled for about 10-18 hours with my starter many times and do both:

1. Dry some just in case...

2. Make a very stiff version of recently activated starter and refrigerate it to cool it down. Then, pack it in a small screw-top jar packed into a ziplock. I throw it into my luggage and it does fine. Also has done fine in carry-on. No one has asked about it.

Plus: I've also had fine success with freezing my starter and then defrosting it at my new destination and feeding it several times to get it frisky.

I find starter is very resilient and can go through a lot of emanations and continue to do its job.

Best of success!

surfhombre's picture

.....for the informative post/reply. I've got some extra starter resting "dormant" in the fridge and will also try freezing and drying some. I guess the worst case is that if all of them die then I just start over as it only takes a week +/- to get an active starter created and going again.


BakerBuck's picture

clazar123, looks like you and I work in the same kitchen.  : )

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

When I flew to the UK from the west coast of Canada last year, I took some of my regular 100% hydration starter in a screw-top plastic jar, packed into a ziplock bag, in my checked baggage. No problems of any kind. That was a 10 hour flight.

The other ideas posted here are good too, but I didn't have to do anything special. I guess it depends partly on where you are flying from and to, and how picky the customs and immigration folks are at your destination!

richashon's picture

I think you can carry the starter that way, although I haven't tried carrying it with me on a plane. But I had no problem carrying the starter across the border on a 4-hour train ride dbauskunft. My luggage was not examined thoroughly, and no one saw the small container in my bag. But I didn't put it in my suitcase, I left it in my carry-on luggage.
Then, when you have a lot of yeast, you should be able to activate the starter quickly. I would also give it some time before it starts working - something like an hour or two.

agres's picture

Shit happens!

Everyone should have a Ziploc bag of dry starter flakes in the freezer.   That allows pita cooked over a wood/charcoal/gas BBQ only 3 hours after the power goes out.

Those of us in California may have reason to evacuate - so there are bags of starter flakes, salt, and flour in my "jump bag". 

troglodyte's picture

This is an old thread, so hopefully @surfhombre and the sourdough starter both made it to their destinations intact. I thought I would share my advice for others:

If it were me, I would dry some sourdough starter and mail the dried starter to the destination ahead of the trip. If something goes wrong along the way, you have another chance to get the starter going at your destination.

If you are traveling with others, give sourdough starter to each of your companions. If possible, stand in separate inspection lines at the airport. If the sourdough starter is confiscated from one traveler in your group, it may not be an issue for the others.

Label it "Sourdough Starter Yeast for Bread Baking" for the benefit of those who may inspect it as you travel. Some inspections may take place without your presence. Keep it wide apart in the bag from any electronics, batteries, etc. 

Be prepared for the sourdough starter to expand considerably along the way. Aircraft cabin and luggage compartment air pressure is much lower than sea level during flight, so the gas bubbles in the sourdough starter will expand. I would put the small sourdough starter container in a large, heavy duty (freezer) ziploc bag to contain the likely mess. 

I took a cup of sourdough starter on a plane about 35 years ago. This was before they had so many security concerns and restrictions regarding liquids and gels. The sourdough starter expanded much more than I expected. It leaked out and made a mess in my carry on bag.