Monday, October 17, 2016

Sourdough Starter, Part 1, Take 2

Jan here, and I am just about bursting with excitement!

No, it isn't a new book release, or a cover reveal, or even a new member of the family....

It's sourdough starter.

I made it. All by myself (with a LOT of help from God, and a little help from friendly wild yeast beasties).

If you go here, you'll read about my last attempt at making sourdough starter from scratch. In spite of my enthusiasm, it was a complete failure.

But this batch has been going strong for about three weeks now, and I've already made some loaves of bread with it!

Don't worry - I will share bread recipes with you, but not until I've experimented a bit more.

Today we're going to concentrate on the starter. If you start yours today or tomorrow, you'll be all set to make bread when I share that recipe next week!

My first step in making my own starter was to figure out what went wrong the last time. It took months to realize that my grain mill was the culprit.

Don't get me wrong! I love my grain mill, and I'll continue buying whole grains and grinding them for my baking.

But this puppy heats the rye flour just a bit too hot as it mills the grain. The wild yeast beasties don't like that.

In fact, they hate it so much that they...well...die. :(

And that is bad because sourdough is flour, water, and wild yeast. If you kill the wild yeast in the process of making the sourdough starter, you end up with yuck.

We don't want yuck.

So once I figured out the problem, I bought a bag of this:

 This is the key. Cold milled flour!

And why rye flour? Because for some reason the wild yeast beasties love rye. It must be their chocolate or something. You can use other flours when you make your breads, but to begin your starter, you really should use rye.

So now that we have the ingredients, let's make starter.

Sourdough Starter


rye flour

That's it. Nothing fancy.

I feed my starter in the morning when I'm making my tea.

Day 1: Sanitize a quart canning jar, small glass bowl, or other glass container by pouring boiling water into it. Pour out the boiling water and add 1/2 cup cool water and 1/2 cup rye flour. Stir, then cover with a towel, cheesecloth, or other clean, porous covering. Set it in a warm place and ignore it for a day.

Day 2: Sanitize a second quart canning jar or other container. Add 1/2 cup cool water and 1/2 cup rye flour. Stir. Stir the 1st jar of starter and add it to the new jar, and stir the starter, flour, and water together. Cover and set in a warm place.

(How warm? I put mine on the kitchen counter next to my sink.)

Day 3 - 7: Repeat Day 2.

Now your jar should be pretty full. And after six or seven days, your starter is ready to use. It should smell yeasty and slightly sour.

It should also be brown (not green or gray or black!) (or yellow or pink!). If it is any color but brown, throw it out! Your wild yeast beasties have been taken over by the bacteria storm troopers and you need to start over.

It should also be a little bubbly. Pleasantly bubbly.

If your starter looks like this, rejoice!

Keep feeding it daily. If you forget a day, don't sweat it. Your wild yeast beasties will keep doing their thing. But you do need to keep feeding it or else the yeast will get weak and the bacteria storm troopers will start moving in.

Once your starter is established, though, you can feed it less. Reduce the daily feeding to 1 Tablespoon of flour and 1 Tablespoon of water. And you only need to change the jar a couple times a week.

Or, once your starter is established, you can also keep it in the fridge. The yeast beaties (now tamed and named) will slow down their wild growth pace. They'll only need to be fed a couple times a week.

I keep mine on the kitchen counter so that it continues to grow. I use it about once every four or five days.

Next week - recipes to use your starter!!!

And then there is this:

"Pretty" is not strong enough of a word to describe the Badlands of South Dakota.

Barren doesn't do it, either.


Awe-inspiring. Definitely.

I'm beginning to research a story set here, at the edge of the Badlands. Rancher brothers and a legacy of faith and family.

Speaking of the ranching legacy, some ranchers need our prayers.

This prairie fire was huge Sunday afternoon during our drive through the Badlands. A "big bad boy" one person said, and movin' fast. If you can get an idea of how big it was - I took this picture from between 40 and 50 miles away from the fire. I have rancher friends who were in the path of the fire, but even though pastures and fence posts, etc. burned, their home was saved, praise the Lord.

And next week, sourdough part 2!

Jan Drexler loves her family, her home, cooking and just about anything made by hand. But she loves her Lord most of all.

Stop by Jan's website to learn more about her books:


  1. Oh, this is a no-brainer! I will buy some rye flour and try this and see if I can make a starter. You and Mary Jane have inspired me!!!!

  2. I have had starters turn gray in the past... I have killed more Amish Friendship Bread starters than should be legally allowed...

    But I've never tried with rye flour.

    And I'm praying for control of the Cottonwood fire, Jan... That's so scary.

    1. After reading your question, I did some research...

      It seems that a light gray color is okay. It means that the sourdough has been exposed to the air.

      It also means that your wild yeast beasties are hungry and eating too fast. Since the Amish Friendship Bread starters have sugar in them, the yeast multiplies quickly, and then they start running out of food. To keep that from happening, you can feed it more often (every 6-12 hours), or keep it in the refrigerator to slow their growth.

      And yes! Keep praying that the Cottonwood fire will be able to be brought under control. As of this morning, the fire is 0% contained and has burned more than 6000 acres.

      You've researched ranchers and the cattle business - you know how important the grass is, especially this time of year. This could be devastating for many ranchers who are just beginning to get their feet under them again after the blizzard of 2013.

    2. That was my thought exactly. This is the turnaround year when it comes to cattle or hog or horse production. You have almost a year of pregnancy (after acquiring more stock) and a year of raising that stock (especially if some were bought at babies) and then a year of growth... and you know it takes solid years to re-build a ranch or meat-producing farm.

      Pigs are less time, but that's because they have such big, happy litters!

      Cows and horses: Yes, this could be a game changer and they don't need that. Praying!

  3. Oh mercy, definitely praying for those ranchers and the containment of that fire.

    Intrigued by the idea of trying my own sourdough starter. And I got uber excited at that photo of the rye flour because we have the exact same brand up here. I think that's the first time I've had the same brand as you guys do in the states. LOL

    1. LOL! Brands are so funny - some skip across the border easy as you please, and others never quite make that leap. I'm glad you have Bob's Red Mill. It's my go-to brand for things like coconut flour and almond meal, too.

      I'll try to keep updated on the fire. The weather is cooperating today, which is an answer to prayer!

  4. Update as of 9:00 am - the fire is still burning, day crew working. Estimate is 50% contained.

  5. Praying for fire containment. Too bad we can't turn the yeastie beasties loose on it.

    I used to have a sourdough starter many years ago. I loved baking with it.

    1. I'm enjoying mine so far!

      And that fire. I heard that it was arson. 31,000 acres burned so far, 137 cattle reported dead - the number is expected to go up. Hay burned, grass burned, so the cattle have nothing to eat.

      The good news? Neighbors are stepping up to help, and so far there have been no injuries of loss of human life. As of 4:00 today the fire was 75% contained.

  6. Jan, this is less complicated that I thought it would be. I just may try it! Thanks for figuring it out for us. :)

    Love the photos!

    1. I think that's been one of my problems in the past - thinking it HAD to be complicated.

      No, just easy-peasy. :)

  7. I've had sourdough starter in the past, but never with Rye flour. There are so many great recipes for sourdough, this post makes me want to start it again.

    Thankful the fires starting to be contained.

  8. Praying they get that fire under control soon. Such devastation!

    I was given sourdough starter by someone in our church many years ago. I was told to keep it in the fridge, and I think I had to feed it with flour and sugar each time I used it, or once a week. I used to have some great sourdough muffin and loaf recipes, but I gave the starter away when we moved, and haven't had any, or made any of those recipes since then.