October 3, 2022 - 3:27am
Starter suddenly smells offensive
My starter ( about 2 years old if not more, generally performing well since I learnt to feed it sufficiently) has suddenly developed a really nasty smell. I was building it back up after returning from a 1 week holiday during which it was in the fridge. It was getting there with daily feeds , but over the last 2 days a smell has developed, I can only compare it to meat that has gone off. This was preceded by the texture turning gloopy and sticky. Prior to this it was getting back to the nice, aerated texture I look for. I’m wondering if this is a goner and I need to start again from scratch. Any advice welcome.
Though you haven't said what flour you use and the hydration level of your starter, here's my take: feed it more.
A similar thing happened with my rye starter after I stashed it in the fridge with no feedings for a month. As I tried to get it ready for baking, it became slack and then nasty-smelling. I tried bottled water and new flour, but there was no change. That was when I realized that I was starving it. After I boosted my feedings -- going from 1:1:1 to 1:5:5 -- the starter restored itself quickly.
My general sense is that refrigerated starters can get extra-acidic and need lots more food when you're refreshing them.
I would try the same, you can even do 1:10:10, just give it enough time to activate after that.
Thanks, I have been doing roughly 1:2:2 feedings and the flour is a 50:50 mix of organic white and organic wholemeal flours. I will try boosting the fresh flour ratio of the feeds for a few days and see if that helps- I was really going to chuck it out until I read your posts!
When I'm reviving a starter from an extended period in the fridge, I don't even use a 1:X:X ratio anymore, I just skim out a tiny trace of the old starter (much less than a gram), smear it on the bottom of a new jar, and then feed with about 20g/20g of water/flour. I find it's almost impossible to get too high of a ratio. It's probably at least 1:100:100. It may take a whole day or more to double again but I find that is the best way to get the starter healthy again.
Thanks kartografer, I must say I have tried the 1:2:2 and it is not going well, the smell is awful, the bubbles minimal, frankly the thing looks dead. I’m really puzzled. I will try the minimal amount of starter but if all of this fails I’ll be making a new one from scratch next week.
Just a heads up, when my water filter is getting close to its end of use, I can always tell as my starter begins struggling.
If your water quality has changed recently, i.e. there has been a flood or other issue in the catchment, it will show up in the starter.
Yes, it could be a number of issues: flour, changes in your detergent now leaving residue, but I thought it worth mentioning the water as most people may overlook it.
You might have hit the nail on the head noodles. I noticed after the event that there was a green layer of growth in the filter jug so I’m left wondering whether this has introduced “ enemy” mould into the starter. To be honest nothing has revived it and I have binned it 😢. Im looking forward to starting again and will follow Tom Cucuzza’s instructions once I’m back from my weekend away. Wish me luck guys!