The Fresh Loaf

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Retiring Carl's 1847 Oregon Trail starter, for CFH.

idaveindy's picture

Retiring Carl's 1847 Oregon Trail starter, for CFH.

I'm switching from the 1847 Oregon Trail Starter made famous by Carl Griffith.  I had obtained a free ($1 donation plus S.A.S.E) dehydrated sample from

This is one powerful starter, especially when fed with whole wheat.  It blooms quickly when fed, and you can use much less than you think you need. I kept over-proofing my dough, even with only 10% prefermented flour. (That's 20% wet starter weight to total flour, when the starter is hydrated at 100%.)

But the thing I didn't like about it, was that it just isn't sour enough for me.  So if you want to make really "sour-free" sourdough bread, I heartily recommend this strain of starter.

Prior to using Carl's 1847, I was using Cultures For Health brand "whole wheat desem-style" sourdough culture.  It's not real desem, and I'm not sure why they call it that, but maybe just to distinguish it from their "San Francisco" style sourdough culture.  They sell three SD cultures:  San Francisco, Whole Wheat/desem, and gluten free.

When I first started with CFH, I had some trouble getting it  (the CFH/whole-wheat) going originally, but I really liked the sour tang it gave to bread.

Anyway, I accidentally killed off my CFH/whole-wheat starter, and all my backups had died from being in the freezer too long -- I couldn't revive any of them.   So that is how I decided to try the free/inexpensive Carl's 1847.  And I learned that it's best to dehydrate to make a backup, not freeze.

But since the taste of the 1847 starter left me flat, I finally decided to bite the bullet and shell out the $10.99 for the CFH culture.  I decided to try their San Francisco style this time, even though it is not specifically advertised as a "whole wheat" culture.

This time, I let the culture powder hydrate a half hour before feeding it.  I did cheat a little and added a teensy bit of dextrose and maltose powder after a few feedings of KA All Purpose, but still mostly KA AP.  It started bubbling tiny bubbles after 24 or 36 hours.  After 4 days, I finally switched to a feeding of entirely home milled whole wheat (hard white spring wheat, Prairie Gold).  And 3 hours after feeding it that, I looked, and it had really BLOOMED, not just bubbled.  I stirred it down, added some KA AP without water to slow it down, and put it in the fridge for the weekend.  And  that's where we stand.

Today, I made my last (at least for now) bread with Carl's 1847, and have a big smear of the starter drying out on some wax paper in the oven.  I have two previous batches of dehydrated 1847 starter as backups, so this will be the third.

By the time I'm ready to bake next, this CFH San Francisco style starter will hopefully be ready to bake with.

So if "sour" is definitely not your thing, I can heartily recommend Carl's 1847, for only $1 and SASE, from   It is a real reliable and strong performer, at least with the mostly whole wheat breads that I have made.


DanAyo's picture

Dave, What I’m going to say is probably considered heresy by many, but it is what I whole heartedly believe at this time. Maybe I’ll learn better in the future. But the following is my experience after baking hundreds of SFSD breads.

Carl’s Oregon Trail starter ceased to be a few weeks after you got it home and started feeding it with your flour in your environment. The same will occur with any starter to keep and maintain.

Sour flavored sourdough dough is not nearly as dependent on the starter as many bakers believe.

This is where the real heresy begins. I believe the sour flavor is mostly produced during the actual fermentation of the dough. Starters do have some affect for sure. A NMNF that is aged and composed of 100% rye is a great example, but even a properly fermented and aged NMNF starter needs time during dough fermentation to multiply the bacteria.

Every experienced SD baker knows that if you leave your starter out too long in a warm environment that it will get sour. But it seems less of these same bakers realize that if you leave your inoculated dough to ferment long and warm, that the very same thing will occur. Teresa Greenway inadvertently taught me this.

The reason I say, “ I believe the sour flavor is mostly produced during the actual fermentation of the dough“ is because I can take a very mild (sweet - non sour starter) and produced an extremely sour tasting bread. The magic takes place during the extended fermentation. Using temperature and time you can build a custom flavor profile. The bread can be pushed to favor either the acetic or lactic extremes of the LAB. And the flavor difference is very noticeable, similar to a vinegar or yogurt like difference.

So, you might think, sour bread is easy to produce. All the dough needs is time and temperature. Here’s the catch. Given enough time, any dough will degrade. And if lactic sour is your goal, then warm temps are necessary. Warmth will speed the fermentation activity and degrade the dough much faster. It’s a catch 22. With so many things bread, it is a balancing act. Push the dough to it’s limit, but be sure to bake it before it turns to slop :)

Sour is a deep subject and I do not pretend to be an authority, but the breads I’ve produced for the last 2 years or so “float my boat” :-)

Danny, the heretic.

By-the-way - While I was searching for the perfect starter to produce better bread, I was fortunate to get a number of starters from prominent bakers. Everyone of those starters all evolved into “my starter” in a matter of weeks in my home. I virtually couldn’t tell the difference between mine and theirs unless they were marked.

Puratos has a starter library, but read up on the extremes they go through to keep each starter. 

idaveindy's picture

I see your points.  But.... my original CFH Whole Wheat Desem culture was good for two years and kept its properties until I killed it.  Then, I had the Carl's 1847 culture for 7 months, and it retained its properties and never became anything like my previous starter.

I did a no-no this time, and did one bake using Carl's 1847, and then one dehydration batch of Carl's 1847 while at the same time was activating the new CFH Sourdough dehydrated culture.  So I could have got some airborne cross contamination.

We'll see.  And I'll keep ya updated.

That Carl's is powerful.  It fully bloomed from the dehydrated culture within 24 hours of initial hydration; 3 feedings.  And it kept growing in the fridge. And it just LURVS home-milled hard white spring wheat.

For $1 and S.A.S.E, it's a heckuva lot easier than trying to inititiate a starter from scratch.  But it just doesn't _taste_ the way I want it too.

I also get your point, perhaps if I treated the 1847 differently it would be more acidic.  But I treated it exactly like I did the previous CFH Whole Wheat.  

The 1847 also makes a _physically_ different starter/levain than the CFH WW did. The 1847 is slimier, slicker,  and foamier.  And it's smell is "barnyard."  Whereas I did not notice a barnyard smell with CFH WW.

I can send ya some  dehydrated 1847, or I could send the $1+SASE with your name/address to the 1847 Preservation Society so you could get a more direct/pure source.

If ever there were a K.I.S.S. "dummies' version" of a starter, it is Carl's 1847.  It takes a lot of abuse, and keeps going strong.   I just didn't care for the non-acidic taste.  As someone else wrote on this site, I want some "Ting-Tang walla-walla bing-bang!"

DanAyo's picture

Thanks for offering some of your Carl’s. Many years ago I kept Carl’s starter for a while. I don’t remember anything special about it, but I can say the same for all other starters.

My experience does not line up with your’s. Over the years I’ve kept many starters from various bakers throughout the States. After a few weeks I found virtually no difference. 

I not saying you are wrong. Bread is a strange and mysterious thing. What one baker claims can’t work, others use regularly and succeed in fantastic ways.


idaveindy's picture

And I will take your advice, leaving the starter/levain out longer , post feeding.  And using less Percent Prefermented Flour so that I can bulk ferment longer.  Both in order to get more tang.

I always appreciate your comments.

DanAyo's picture

Dave, this is the resource that forever changed my search for sour tasting sourdough.

The bread is a challenge, but once you get it, the flavor is better than any other sour I know of. If you choose to try it, I’ll help in any way I can.


nrsourdough's picture

Do you still have some of that starter? And if so would you be willing to send me some?

doughooker's picture

What exactly is the microbiological difference between a starter from the Oregon Trail or San Francisco or Oakland or Topeka, Kansas?

The microbes in starter have been found the world over. People who sell you local starters from the four corners of the world are either ignorant or are trying to sell you a bill of goods, IMO.

I think what set San Francisco sourdough apart was the bakery process. They used a stiff starter which they refreshed every 8 hours. They were baking 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. I don't think the casual home baker who doesn't bake 24/7 can justify the investment in time and ingredients to justify that kind of starter maintenance.

idaveindy's picture

"What exactly is the microbiological difference between a starter from the Oregon Trail or San Francisco or Oakland or Topeka, Kansas?"

Good question.

Short answer: Different species and strains... of both the wild yeasts and the lactobacilli.  This has been studied and documented. You can google it.

As far as I am aware, online sourdough-culture sellers rarely do microbial assays. They just keep batches of "master-copies" (or whatever the term is) of their starters, like and  So they are not sold by species.  And, even if one species is dominant in a particular culture, it is usually not the only one there.

Also please refer to posts here by users "Debra Wink" and "mariana". 

I think Debra may have mentioned it in her Pineapple solution, part 1, post.


The food corporation Puratos has a "sourdough library" of over 105 starters for research.


I am glad that you are asking the right questions. The answers are out there.