January 16, 2023 - 4:19pm
Air travel with starter?
For those who have travelled by air with their starter, particularly if you’ve gone from Canada to USA and vice versa, how did you pack your starter? Was it noticed during the examination of your luggage, was it questioned?
Are foodstuffs like crackers allowed?
I have traveled with my 67% hydration starter to Europe, but it was in my checked luggage. There were no issues at that time.
I recently learned of a new way to store starter for long term. A small amount of starter is mixed with a large excess of flour, the theory being that they have plenty of food for the long, and in this case, cold storage. It is nearly all flour, so it is unlikely to come under the “gel” restriction that they usually cite when they have confiscated my items in the past. This might work for carry-on luggage.
You can always bring a couple of different configurations in the hopes that one will make it through.
echoing Brad about checked luggage. I took my starter to Switzerland in my checked bag and it was fine.
It's probably a crap shoot to take it in a carry-on, as airport scanners are pretty detailed -- and when the scanners flag something, the security officers often don't negotiate. The just demand you throw it out.
The rubbing into flour thing, you could bring it in your carry-on, but your bag will probably get the extra search and testing. I have brought apparently suspicious powders (diastatic malt powder and cleaning powder for brass kitchenware) in my carry-on and have been through the testing process several times. I’ve never had anything thrown out. I wouldn’t risk a stiff starter in a carry-on, though.
I have traveled from Russia to Greece and from Switzerland to Greece with my starter. I just put a small amount in a tiny jar, this way it's ready to feed once to make more of it, and then ready to bake. I had it in the checked luggage, but don't see why it wouldn't work in hand luggage either, as long as you put it in the bag with the liquids. And as mentioned above, you can use preservation methods like drying or rubbing it into flour, etc, but then it might take a couple of feeds to get it up and going again.
I put it in with the luggage, no issues. If you come this way I can give you some of mine
I should have also said that I only travel with a knapsack as carryon, no checked luggage. I also have a Nexus card so cannot take any food items.
I'm guessing if I bring only a tiny amount of starter, very stiff in a ziplock bag I might get away with it. It has to be small enough that it doesn't show on the X-ray. I could also put it into a prescription cream/ointment bottle, obviously well cleaned. That way it would appear to be a prescription on X-ray with my toiletries.
Instead of a suspicious white powder dry some whole wheat starter and break it up. They might think it's just crackers. Or if questioned just be honest and say it's sourdough starter in case they ask.
sounds like a sound plan to me.
You could just smear some along the walls of a small jar and let it dry directly there, then when you arrive just add some water and flour.
I have transported my starter many different ways over the years but never internationally, so that is a bit different than your situation. Nationally in the US we can carry up to 3 ounces liquid). I usually use 2 different methods. I have a paste-textured starter that I just bring in a 1 ounce ziploc and inside another ziploc in case the pressure difference makes it leak.This I can put in any carryon ,backpack or checked bag.
My 2nd method is to feed my starter really well the week before I leave and then smear some on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. When it is completely dry, I crackle it into smaller pieces and put it into a ziploc. I label them honestly as "sourdough" or "Yeast". When I arrive, I rehydrate and feed either one and I am on my merry baking way. I considered-once- in rubbing it completely into a dry flour but my thoughts are that any dry,white powder in a ziploc is instantly suspicious so I never did that. I have also bought the little (1/2-1 oz) screw top cosmetic jars and travelled with SD or kefir in those. Watch out,tho,cause they DO leak!
Thank you everyone for your input and ideas. I haven’t made up my mind yet about how I’ll do this and might not in the end. I might get some starter from Alan instead. Lots to think about.
I was thinking about bringing a little bit of rye starter on my next trip to India. But maybe I’ll just load up my suitcase with breads like last time.
Indian breads in a suitcase, do tell what you traveled with, can't drop something like that into the conversation!
I carried a few loaves I made at home in the US *to* India so my in-laws could try them. I didn't come back with a suitcase full of chapatis or something. Although parathas might survive ok if packed well...
Perhaps too late, but I flew with the very tiniest lump of stiff starter in my toiletries (maybe 10 to 20g) in a super tiny plastic container. Hard to describe the container, do you know those tiny plastic Petri dishes - around that size!
That would be a better description, a small ointment container as you'd use for creams.
I’m late for this one but …
I pack some starter in checked baggage (never carry-on), every time we travel to Europe from home in the US, which, when there isn’t a pandemic on, is 2-4x/year. I rarely actually use it there but always feel compelled to have some in tow. I just spoon 10-20gr of recently fed 80% hyd (my standard) starter into an old plastic prescription pill bottle with a childproof locking seal and double baggie it. Refrigerate on arrival if possible. Never had a problem.
My understanding is you are completely allowed to bring liquids as long as you have less than 100 ml. I haven't flown in several years, but when you go through security they make you take any carry-on liquids out of your bag and put them in a plastic bag they provide so they can easily see them. I'd bring a very small (less than 100ml) container of starter and just treat it like any other liquid. I don't think there's any need to hide it or lie.
Thank you Tom and Sabina for your input. I guess today, I am more concerned with losing my Nexus card status if I have any food with me than anything else. Because I only travel with a knapsack I will have carryon only so it gets checked quite often. I am leaning towards call Alan for a bit of starter. I'll also have to find some rye when I get down there as well.
my phone number and email address, so...🤡
Now now be nice Alan 😂
...just don't name and label your starter "C-4".
You could also just mail some to yourself a day or 2 before you leave. Or mail some to Alan, if you'd rather use your own than a foreign one.
Your shaving kit should work if you’re not the nervous type with the customs agents. Are you? The worst that could happen is they toss it in the trash and then you would have to rely on Alan’s neglected hooch from the back of the fridge;-)
I vote on taking dried starter. Then you could make more when you get there. Is it your own place? Then you could leave dried starter in the cabinet so you don't have to bring some down every time. Also, you could just use yeast water too.
I have not seen rye flour in the stores on the east coast of FL. You may have to call around to specialty stores, like a Whole Foods near you. I don't have one near me, I just have Publix and Walmart. Both have stopped carrying rye in store unfortunately. I tried to see if Publix could order it, but they've stopped carrying it altogether. Publix does carry King Arthur bread flour (regular and organic) if you wanted to do a bread flour starter.
in my pantry. Don't sweat the small stuff. I'm more for-giving than forgiving!
OK that is great Alan, thank you! The countdown is on. I'm doing a locum all this week and next but then back to Fort Lauderdale. Can't wait to hopefully see the sun again. It has been cloudy almost every single day since we have been back to Toronto. I believe I seen the sun only on 3 days in the past 4 weeks.
I suggest you do several ways at the same time and label them clearly as sourdough starter. Rye, wheat or whatever. Take some dry and take some rediculously stiff in double layer zip lock bags, pressing the air out. Label both bags. Put them in separate areas of your bag. When asked if you have anything to declare tell them sourdough starter for baking. I've never had a problem.