Wild Yeast Sourdough Starter

I have read many complicated recipes and methods for creating a sourdough starter over the years. In my mind I keep going back to the question I ask myself often. “What would they do a hundred years ago?” Well I’m going to tell you!

Wild Yeast Sourdough Starter

1 cup organic rye flour

1 cup purified water

Mix together and place in an open container. I use a 1 quart canning jar, but anything will do as long as it is plastic, glass or ceramic. Wild Yeasts do not like metals much.

Leave this jar sitting in a nice warm place. I put mine on top of the fridge, but I’ve heard of people keeping them on the water heater, in the oven with the light on, and on top of the DVD player. As long as you are in the 70 degree range you will be fine.

Now every day you are going to take the jar and add:

1/2 cup organic rye flour

1/2 cup purified water

As the jar sits there wild yeasts from the air land in the jar and start to grow in that nice warm environment, eating away at the gluten in the flour. At the end of 5-7 days you will start to see bubbles forming and it will start to smell yeasty. Now you are ready to bake!

By the time it is properly fermented you are going to have a large amount of starter to work with. If you are just starting your sourdough adventure, that is a good thing. You and your starter will be doing a lot of experimenting together so its good to have extra. Also, don’t forget to name your starter. It is a living organism, and loves being part of the family.

Starter Maintenance

I personally bake only on the weekends, usually starting on Friday night. So I leave my starter (his name is Rufus) napping in the fridge all week, on Thursday I take him out of the fridge and feed him some flour and water and instead of a lid I cover him with a coffee filter. He gets very excited when he sits on top of the fridge and gets all bubbly and full of life. By the time I’m ready to make up a batch of dough on Friday night he is ready to go! After I’m finished baking I feed him once more, and put a tight lid on him and put him back in the fridge to sleep.

Your starter should be fed once a week, whether you are baking or not. Here is your simple routine:

1. remove from fridge

2. feed water and flour

3. leave out  4-8 hours

4. cap tightly put in fridge.

 It sounds a little daunting and difficult, I know. But trust me, this couldn’t be easier. Now you have a fresh, healthy starter to use in any kind of baking. I use mine in any recipe that calls for yeast, baking, powder, or baking soda. I will post all the sourdough recipes that I use in the future.

Please, if you have any questions leave a comment and I’ll be happy to help.

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46 Comments

  1. Jasmine Pahl said,

    February 17, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    Great post! Very useful and inspiring, makes it seem like something I could actually DO!

    • February 17, 2012 at 11:52 AM

      Thank you Jasmine! Trust me girl, if I can do it you can too! I was always scared of sourdough, it always seemed so complicated. It really is easy. I’ll do more posts on Sourdough recipes very soon.

      • Jasmine Pahl said,

        February 17, 2012 at 7:47 PM

        Great! I will be watching. BTW, I’m thinking of ordering the Tassahara Bread Book. Have you used it? What do you think of it?

      • February 17, 2012 at 10:32 PM

        I have Ed Wood’s Sourdough Bread book. I love it! If you’re a beginner I would try his book series first.

      • Jasmine Pahl said,

        March 1, 2012 at 3:31 PM

        Ok, I have my first loaf of no-knead bread in the oven as I write this. I am slowly working up to your wild sourdough…

      • March 1, 2012 at 5:09 PM

        I’m excited, let me know how it turns out. Don’t forget to eat it with butter 🙂

      • Jasmine Pahl said,

        March 1, 2012 at 5:40 PM

        It is SO good!! Butter wasn’t thawed yet so I drizzled it with good olive oil and raw honey. I am so proud of myself and ready to charge forward into the world of bread making!

      • March 2, 2012 at 9:57 AM

        I’m so glad it turned out. Nothing worse than a failed brick of heavy bread. I usually turn those into bread crumbs or bread pudding. Have fun experimenting!

  2. February 17, 2012 at 3:40 PM

    I’m always a little surprised at how much neglect an established starter will take and then come back to life like a phoenix! I like your approach to starter maintenance. You might be interested in checking out the Sourdough Saturday series I am doing on my blog, http://winebarrelgourmet.wordpress.com. Maybe we can start a trend!

  3. February 18, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    […] sourdough starter. There are several other good methods out there too. Check out this version from A Real Food Lover, a sourdough experience from Grow and Resist, and check out a plethora of sourdough info over at […]

  4. February 18, 2012 at 1:16 PM

    […] 1/4 cup your homemade sourdough starter […]

  5. February 28, 2012 at 10:17 AM

    […] 1/3 cup sourdough starter […]

  6. March 9, 2012 at 6:58 AM

    […] Mix together and store in an air tight container. I have been using this for many years, and it works exactly the same as the store-bought versions. It is also much, much cheaper! Better yet, make your own sourdough starter […]

  7. March 24, 2012 at 1:42 PM

    […] was making, including her own yogurt, cleaning products, recipes you can make for under a buck and sourdough starter, I assumed she was writing from a hundred acres somewhere in Colorado. Nope.  She’s doing […]

  8. April 16, 2012 at 1:56 AM

    […] 2 Tbsp sourdough starter (learn how to make one here) […]

  9. RedDesilets said,

    April 21, 2012 at 6:58 PM

    “Rufus”! Bahaahahahahaha! Love it! I had named mine Guinevere once upon a time… sadly, she is no longer with me after I had surgery on my neck and all my home projects were neglected… 😦 Thanks for this cause now I can start some of my own. 🙂

    • April 21, 2012 at 7:00 PM

      The poor, dearly departed Guinevere. We shall miss her and we shall cherish her offspring. I wonder what you’ll name the new baby?

      • RedDesilets said,

        April 21, 2012 at 7:11 PM

        I’m a Browncoat so I was thinking Zoe 😉 Sweet, sexy, tart and strong… 8-D The ginger beer bug is going to be Jayne, for sure! And I want to do the lacto-fermented lemonade as well so that’s gotta be Cap’n Mal. 🙂

  10. RedDesilets said,

    April 21, 2012 at 7:14 PM

    I do have a question… is rye necessary? I was going to work with what I have on hand so I don’t have to wait until next week (which I will have to for the yogurt/whey and then the lemonade after that *sigh*) I have King Arthur flours (hence the last starter’s name of Guinevere LOL). I have whole wheat white and whole wheat on hand…

    • April 21, 2012 at 7:28 PM

      No rye isn’t 100% necessary. It has the most gluten (which is what feeds the starter) so you just may have to feed it more often using a different flour. I have a friend who actually uses white all-purpose flour so I don’t think you can mess this up.
      You’ll know it is hungry when a weird brown liquid forms on the top. Just pour this off and stir in some flour and water.

  11. April 22, 2012 at 7:42 PM

    […] Wild Yeast Sourdough Starter (arealfoodlover.wordpress.com) […]

  12. April 27, 2012 at 1:10 AM

    […] Wild Yeast Sourdough Starter (arealfoodlover.wordpress.com) […]

  13. Brandi said,

    May 3, 2012 at 12:01 PM

    Do I have to use rye flour? I did a poolish for my French bread the other day. Could I just keep that poolish going as my “starter”?

    • May 3, 2012 at 12:21 PM

      Brandi, You can use any flour with gluten. Rye has the most gluten, and makes a very robust starter, but I have a girlfriend who uses plain white all-purpose flour and it works fine, you just might have to feed it more often.

      • Brandi said,

        May 3, 2012 at 2:37 PM

        Awesome. I make so much bread that I would love to just keep a poolish going in the fridge at all times…at the ready, baby! Thanks again.

  14. Brandi said,

    May 10, 2012 at 3:32 PM

    Okay, it’s been on the top of my fridge for only 3 days and it’s bubbly and smells yeasty and like sourdough. Is she ready? I’m almost out of regular yeast and I want to do pizzas tonight. Help!

    • May 10, 2012 at 5:43 PM

      It certainly can’t hurt to try. And pizza crust doesn’t require a large rise so I say give it a try girl! Just be prepared for dinner to take 2-3 hours…..

      • ChantalMM said,

        May 12, 2012 at 12:13 AM

        I read advice from a sourdough expert that said you shouldn’t use starter before it’s at least a week old, because you can’t be sure until then (maybe even later–I don’t remember the exact time) that the good bacteria is established. You may want to check on this.

      • May 12, 2012 at 9:28 AM

        Every sourdough starter is different. The best way to test them out is to try and bake something 🙂 The time until they’re ready depends on many factors, temperature, type of flour, what yeasts are floating around in your particular room, etc…

      • Brandi said,

        May 12, 2012 at 11:49 AM

        BTW, gave you a big shout out on the soap berries!

  15. Gina said,

    August 26, 2012 at 1:46 PM

    I’m so excited! Essie (my formerly Amish friend helped name her) is on day 5 on top of my fridge and smells lovely. I’m going to try my first loaf of overnight bread tomorrow after I get home from work at midnight. I used whole wheat flour because it’s what i had milled already in my freezer.

  16. Gina said,

    September 26, 2012 at 1:57 AM

    I left Essie in the fridge for 2 weeks while on vacation. Today I took her out to make bread and she had a black liquid on top, but still smelled quite lovely. Should I pour that off first? I didn’t and she’s much less doughy and more liquidy. We’ll see how the bread turns out.

  17. Barb said,

    June 23, 2013 at 1:07 PM

    Starter my sourdough starter 🙂 is over a month old now, it’s a 50/50 whole wheat bread flour, whole wheat pastry mix and is going strong. Just made sourdough whole wheat Belgium waffles with local in season berries – roll over restaurant waffles you don’t stand a chance. Found out today a new use for starter – soaking grains, might have to pick up some organic rye to safe my baking flour (local special order only comes in 1 a month) – eek keep finding new things to do with Starter, running out of flour : (
    BTW has anyone here ever used sparkling spring water in baking? I generally use around 75 – 100% whole grain when baking and since I’ve been replacing about 1/2 cup of the recipes liquid with sparkling spring water, the bread, waffles, pancakes etc. seems airier and lighter then regular whole grain. Is it just me or does this impact rise and texture?

    • June 25, 2013 at 7:28 PM

      Barb, I am so glad you are having success. I LOVE that you named your starter, Starter! He sounds like he’s growing strong! I have never heard of anyone using sparkling water in baking, but it sounds like a great idea. I’m glad you thought of it!

  18. Barb said,

    June 28, 2013 at 3:25 PM

    I’ve seen elsewhere on the internet about freezing sourdough starter, has anyone tried this? I’m thinking of freezing extra starter to have in case something happens to the main starter. Let me know if this will actually work.

  19. Gina said,

    July 3, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    Little update…Essie is doing beautifully and has given birth to several children who have been named Emma, Bessie and Manny (his full name is Manna from Heaven). I have adapted a few recipes out of the Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book (my bread making ‘bible’) with great results. I have found the best thing to do is to split Essie into two parts. I always have between 10 and 12 ounces after each batch, so I take about half and feed as normal then the other half gets fed 2/3 of the flour intended for the dough and only about half it’s equal amount in water. I get huge, slightly soured loaves of bread that way. Happy baking everyone. I am curious about freezing the starter as well because I’m running out of people to give Essie’s children to!

    • Barb said,

      July 4, 2013 at 12:21 PM

      Good for you Gina, I also tend to use the split starter method. When I know I’m going to be baking bread or planning on waffles, Feed then split Starter into Starter and Starter Jr. Starter goes back in the fridge and Starter Jr. gets to live on the counter. Haven’t tried freezing yet, will do that soon.

  20. Barb said,

    July 13, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    Got to tell you a story about 4th of July and sourdough bread. Went to my older sisters for the 4th and took a salad and tomato, cheese sourdough flatbread. Now when I talked to my sister before, to see if she had any dipping oil, she said categorically that she didn’t like sourdough! Now I personally don’t like it really sour so I always add a pinch of baking soda to balance out the flavors. Well, my sisters response “This bread is great!” so if you have a mature starter and someone that doesn’t like “sour” sourdough or you’re making something like waffles add a pinch or so of baking soda instead of loading up with sugar.

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  22. Sharon said,

    July 18, 2013 at 5:13 AM

    If I had to bake a loaf every second day, would I actually need a fridge? (I don’t have one…)

  23. Barb said,

    July 25, 2013 at 2:01 PM

    New use for your sourdough, soaking dried beans. I’ve been trying to stop using canned beans but no matter what soaking advice I got the beans always ended up either hard or mush 😦 Recent findings on nutrition has resolved around soaking and fermenting and I’ve taken to soaking grains with a bit of sourdough to increase nutrient absorption. So yesterday I decided to see what happens with soaking beans with a bit of sourdough. What happens the best beans ever!

  24. August 11, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    […] When she visited me in March to meet Henry, she brought a sourdough starter for me and taught us how to make her go-to no-knead sourdough recipe. The mad-scientist type process of having to feed the sourdough starter appealed to me, and the low effort for a delicious baked bread. I’ve made no-knead and kneading required breads before, but never with a starter. This one is delicious, and takes 5 minutes of preparation. You just need to find a starter or make one yourself! […]

  25. Saleha Seedat said,

    March 31, 2014 at 6:15 PM

    Hi,
    I live in an extremely hot climate with temperatures reaching 50C, should I leave my starter out for a week at this temperature? I’ve tried making kefir and yoghurt but after just 4 hours it smells bad and inedible, so I’ve had to throw it out. I’m since stopped attempting any kind of fermentation. I’d appreciate any advice please.
    Thanks
    Saleha

  26. Alan said,

    July 4, 2014 at 7:12 AM

    How do you maintain, if adding to oats.each night. Does it have to be active, bubbly each night


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