I started my own starter from scratch, but the easiest way to get some sourdough starter is to ask someone for some of theirs. 🙂
I can tell you how I started mine, if there is interest, but I would rather start with the care and feeding.
You will want to keep twice as much sourdough starter than you need for each use so you can add to the remainder to replenish your supply.
I use 1 cup for each loaf I make, so I always keep 2 cups of starter on hand.
When I feed my starter, I use 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour, 1/2 cup whole rye flour, and 1 cup filtered water. Starters love rye flour, so I usually recommend using it. I don’t normally use rye in my loaves, but I always have some in my starter.
As you can see from the picture above, I keep my starter in a wide-mouth mason jar, covered with cheesecloth. When I need some starter, I just pour some out. When I add more flour and water, I add it to the jar and give it a good stir.
Once it is is thoroughly mixed (BTW, you can’t stir starter too much.), I pour it into a clean jar. (You don’t want dried starter clinging to the inside of your jar.) I then cover it with cheesecloth and set it in my pantry for a day before refrigerating.
Depending on where you live and the type of climate, you may be able to keep your starter in your pantry. However, I have problems with mold forming on top if I do, so I keep mine in the refrigerator. It is perfectly happy there and will keep without much fuss.
If you find you don’t need to use your starter for awhile, just let it sit in your refrigerator. Simply give it a good stir at least every 2 weeks. If it sits longer than a month, I recommend feeding it.
This requires removing no more than 1/2 of the starter and following the Feeding instructions above. You have two choices: 1. You can throw out 1/2 of it out, or 2. Give 1/2 of it away and share the love. If you choose to give it away, divide it into two jars and feed both. Just give it a day to refresh before using it.
Sometimes, some of the water separates from the starter and turns a dark brown or taupe color. This is called the “hooch” and is perfectly fine. You can stir it back into the starter before you use it, which I normally do, or you can pour it off. Just realize, your starter may start getting too thick if you continually remove the hooch. Your starter should be the consistency of pancake batter.
If you find a thin layer of white on top of your starter, don’t worry. All is not lost. It is just Kahm yeast. You can scrape it off, feed the starter, and it should be good to go again. If it forms mold, other than a thin layer of white on the top, or starts to look or smell unhealthy (healthy starter has a sweet and sour smell), you will probably have to dump it and start over.
Properly cared for starter can be enjoyed for many, many years.