As much as I detest the addiction metaphor , (chochoholic, fashion addict , etc) I can’t find a better way to describe my relationship to sourdough. I’m hooked!
Sourdough also known as wild yeast, is of course a magical combination of flour, warm water and a bit of fermented dough .
Until commercial yeast became widely available, every home had a crock of sourdough starter. Because starter is used and then replenished it can live indefinetly . Some starters date back decades, even centuries. In Uncle John’s Bread Book, Uncle John, the book’s eponymous author described his father bringing along a crock of starter when he emigrated from Germany to the US during the early decades of the 20th century.
Of course long term starter saving was never a Jewish practice because of Passover. Starter, known in Hebrew as seor, an interesting sound alike to sourdough, is Hametz and must be discarded before Passover.In his Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, Gil Marks claims that in the Middle East, the Arabs dropped in on their Jewishe neighbors’ post Pesach Mimouna celebrations with gifts of starter for the Jews to use in their pita baking.
Of course one can mix up a fresh batch of starter .I suspect that is what the majority of our ancestors did after Pesach being surrounded by often hostile neighbors whose food they would not eat.
Daunting as it sounds, starter making is quite easy. I’d say, give it 10 minutes top to get underway. But after that you’ll need to wait a week for the fermentation to get underway. No instant but in nanosecond immediate gratification culture it’s wonderful a wonderful lesson when all you can do is wait.
This is what a sourdough starter looks like once fermentation has began. Note the tiny bubbles. They are a sign that your starter is ready.
Sourdough Starter from Joy of Cooking
25 oz (2 ½ t) active dry yeast or instant yeast
2 cups warm water
2 cups all-purpose flour
Mix together in a non-metallic bowl using a wooden spoon. Cover loosely and leave in warm place 4 to 8 days. When bubbly with a pleasantly sour smell use and after that refrigerate. If it turns a strange color (green or orange) discard
To replenish, discard all but one cup of the starter. Add the cupful to 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup lukewarm water. Let stand overnight until fermented and bubbling and then use or refrigerate.