Some people have been known to spend lots of money for a rare, family heirloom sourdough culture, aka starter. The truth about sourdough, is that a locally grown culture with colonies of yeast that are native to the area will often perform better than century-old heirloom starters.
There are hundreds of varieties of yeast floating around in the air of any home. Nothing more is needed to start a sourdough culture than the yeast-filled air, a little pure water (without chlorine), and some whole grain flour. A helpful ingredient is whey, which is not completely necessary, but will give your sourdough a jump start and get the fermentation going quickly.
And sourdough is not just for bread! I have used it to make moist and delicious chapati breads, corn tortillas, pancakes, waffles, blueberry muffins, and biscuits.
I no longer use store bought breads or baked goods for anything, as the self-rising sourdough is both easy to make and tastes so much better. Not to mention the health benefits of thousands of lacto-bacillii in every bite!
The Truth About Store Bought Yeast
There are many different kinds of yeast. Different yeasts do different things, and make different textures and flavors. Store bought yeasts are isolated mono-culture colonies that have proven to make extra fluffy bread textures, and to rise very quickly.
Because of their speedy growth, commercial yeasts can not break down much of the less digestible parts of the flour. They also produce a lot of alcohol, which bakes off during cooking.
By eating these mono-cultures of yeast instead of the hundreds of varieties that we would normally be consuming if we were eating sourdough bread, it is my belief that our digestive flora can become severely out of balance. In my opinion, commercial yeast is one of the main causes of “candidiasis” and internal yeast infections.
Wild yeasts, on the other hand, are broad ranging colonies of hundreds of different varieties. They take longer to do the work.
During this long fermentation, new flavors are formed, and the flour is broken down to be more digestible.
Make Your Own Sourdough Culture
You can use a clean quart sized Ball jar or a glass or ceramic bowl covered with a loose lid or cloth napkin. It is important for the culture to breathe, so don’t use a tight fitting lid.
Mix a few Tablespoons of whole grain wheat or spelt flour, with a few Tablespoons of water, to form a thick paste. Not necessary, but often helpful to get the culture started faster, you can add 1 Tablespoon of whey.
Leave mixture in the jar or bowl, covered with cloth, paper coffee filter, or a loose fitting plastic lid. Avoid metal which can react with the fermentation process.
Let it sit on the counter for a day or two. Feed it every day or two with another 2 Tablespoons each of water and whole grain flour, and stir.
Within a week, it should begin to develop bubbles. If it does, you have succeeded. If it does not, just start over.
Feeding Your Sourdough Culture
Once the culture is fermenting properly, you will need to feed it every day (sometimes you may get by feeding it every other day). You can add as much flour and water, in equal parts, as you need to create the volume you want.
If you are using a lot of sourdough, you can double the volume of the culture every day, adding up to 2 cups each of water and flour. If you are using it less often, you will do better by just adding a Tablespoon or two, so the sourdough culture does not grow beyond your needs.
Watch your culture to know if it is being fed properly. It will smell sour but okay, and will produce lots of bubbles about an hour after it is fed, when the culture is healthy.
How to Use Your Sourdough Culture
Always set aside some sourdough culture before using the rest in your recipe. This will keep the culture growing on your counter.
Pancakes, waffles, and chapatis are more forgiving than bread when it comes to sourdough. If your culture is not very strong, make these things first for a few days before making bread. This can restore your sourdough and get it ready for making bread again.
Some Sourdough Tips
- Cultures need to be moved into a clean container every few days to a week.
- Cultures are fussy about their food! Fresh ground whole wheat flour is best. If you don’t have a grain mill, find a brand of whole grain flour that works and stick with it. If you must change brands, try mixing the old and new together for a few days, and gradually change.
- If you have a grain mill that heats the flour too much, the sourdough may not grow well. This is the sign of a low quality grain mill, and you will want to replace it.
- A culture that has been neglected can often be resurrected. Scrape off the top layer of slimy or bad-smelling culture, and carefully remove some of the still viable culture underneath.
- Cultures must be kept warm to be active, so store it on the counter when you are using it frequently. If you go on vacation, put it into the fridge. zit will go into a dormant state, which can be reactivated when you return by warming it again.
- For added nutrition, and to help strengthen a weak culture, add a few drops of Concen-Trace Mineral drops when you feed the culture.
- If you are gluten intolerant, you will need to experiment with other kinds of flour. We would love to hear from our gluten free readers if you have success using gluten free flours!