Funny how our senses can trigger childhood memories. To this day, the smell of sourdough pancakes carries me back to some of my oldest memories. Most mornings, I would wake to the heavy scent of pancakes or English muffins coming from the kitchen. It was such a frequent ritual, that it took me until my adulthood to be able to eat them again!
Mom has a lifelong fascination with sourdough, collecting articles, recipes, cookbooks & stories. I remember the ever-growing sourdough file, that turned into her own cookbook. I remember it well, as I was the one hunting & pecking my way through each recipe on the old manual typewriter. She had the pages copied & bound, then shared a copy with each of her daughters. I still have my copy, complete with my many typos!
If there’s such a thing as being a sourdough snob, well…she’d fit the bill (but I mean that in the nicest way) & here’s why. Mom didn’t believe in using store bought yeast to make starter, and she made hers with wild yeast as the pioneers did. She told me stories of pioneer families crossing the plains with their prized starter tucked away safely in a bag of flour. They fed & nurtured their starters for years & generations.
So how does one collect wild yeast & create a starter of their own? Here’s the method Mom shared with us.
Recipe from the collection of: Designs by Jeanne R
1. Place 1 cup of milk in a glass container (never use metal!) and let it sit out at room temperature for 24 hours. In order to collect the yeast, do not place it under a cupboard, and do not cover the container.
2. Stir in 1 cup of flour. Continue to leave it out & uncovered for 2 to 5 days at which time it will bubble & sour. If it begins to dry at any point, add a little lukewarm water & stir. The bubbling means the process was successful, & it’s ready for use.
3. Place the starter in a crock or glass container with a lid, then store in the refrigerator.
4. Try to use your starter each week to keep it active. Each time you use your starter, you will need to feed it with equal parts of milk & flour. If possible, leave on the counter for a few hours or overnight after feeding. I usually skip this step, and pop it right back in the fridge.
5. Try to maintain about 1-1/2 cups of starter.
–Note: If a liquid forms on the top of your starter, just pour it off before you use or feed it.
As time permits, I’ll share recipes with you. Some of the more traditional recipes will require a lead time of a few hours or overnight in order for a sponge to form. Others will use standard leavening agents for a quicker turn-around.