How to Make a Sourdough Starter Using Whole Grains
Making yourself a homemade sourdough starter, can seem like a daunting task. Will it fail? Does it require a lot of time and attention? Is this like another pet? Is it safe to use? Do I need special training in order to do this?
Many questions such as these may arise in your heart and mind. However, rest assured making your own sourdough starter, is so simple and easy.
As a busy homeschooling mom, I have made several of my own, and I use and maintain them easily.
Now I'm providing my family with a rich resource of extra minerals, vitamins, and easier digestibility, when I make homemade baked goods.
Even moreover, making a sourdough starter using whole grains, provides you with nutrition, that no commercial and processed all-purpose flour can provide.
Let's Get Started
Mason Jar of Your Choice: (I find using a wide mouth 1/2 Gallon Jar is best)
Spatula (Preferably Not Metal: as some say this may react with your culture)
Rubber band (If you would like to track the growth in your jar)
Organic Whole Grains of Your Choice
Grain Mill if you want freshly milled Flour (I recommend the NutriMill Grain Mill: This is all that I have ever used, and we use many times every week. See my Affiliate link below).
-Add 3/4 Cup of a Mix of Freshly Milled Organic Hard White Wheat, and Soft White Wheat Flour to Your Jar, + 1/2 Cup Water: Mix well and scrape down sides of jar. I use my NutrMill Classic Grain Mill to do this job, and it has been such a great investment for me.
Cover top with a lid loosely, and let sit in a warm spot: (Ideal temperature is 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit)
-Feed and provide water to starter every 12-24 hours.
(I started to notice activity with this mix quickly at 24 hours, but varying conditions, can provide different results, so be patient with it, and see it through. At 24 hours I did not notice an appreciable change in the smell of the flour + water mix.
Hooch is the liquid alcohol layer that you may find on the top of your starter, after it has gone through a "hungry" period, from the waste product of the yeast after it has run out of food. This is ok, just feed as soon as you can. After refeeding's my starter, normally jumps back to life, and bubbly activity.
However, if you do not see much activity, keep pressing through, unless you are seeing mold, or the smell is very off-putting. If so, then discard, as it is better to be safe than sorry, especially in the beginning as you establish your starter, and it has not yet been strengthened enough to fend off unwanted bacteria.
You may notice in the first several days that your starter is requiring more flour to be satisfied, that is, you will see some "hooch" forming, and it may look more liquid, before it's due for a feeding. So, feel free to adjust the amount of flour you are using, but be consistent with it, if you make a change.
Discard half of your starter, before feeding and providing water. Then do the same as you have been doing on days 1-3 every 12-24 hours.
At this point prior to day 7, do not use the discard to bake, because it is still immature, and you are trying to provide the proper balance of good bacteria and yeast to make your baked goods. You can place your discard in the compost, during these days, to help nourish your soil instead.
After 7 days, you can start using your starter, for delicious food, your family will enjoy.
Caring For your Starter:
If you want to use your starter daily, you can leave it out on the counter, but you will need to discard, and feed it daily/regularly. Every 12 hours is a good routine for Gluten-Free starters, and every 24 hours, is a good routine for regular Whole Grain Starters.
If, however, you want to just use it a few times per week, or less, you can place it in the fridge, and feed and discard yours, at least every 3 to 4 days. Gluten free starters, tend to need a little more feeding, so monitor yours and see what the needs are.
When ready to bake, you can remove the amount you need, and then feed the remaining amount in the fridge. This is also a good practice to do, in order to make a "levain" in advance of your baking, which is a "pre-fermented" mixture of your starter, with flour and water, that has been allowed to ferment for several hours prior to you being ready to do your baking. This allows for an additional process of fermentation, and a flavor profile, to your baked goods, that would not come about otherwise.
What's interesting, is that every starter is different, and your climate, temperature, altitude, and location, all play a role in your final product.
These steps may seem tedious, but they are easy once you get into the swing of things, and all the more important, you will have gained a lifelong nutritional gem, that you can use over and over again, never having to buy yeast again, or other leavening agents, not to mention the nutrition you will receive.
Differences in Starters When Using Various Grains:
So far, I have successfully made several starters using:
2) Hard White/Soft White Wheat Mixture
Each and every one, have behaved, smelled, and acted differently.
Millet provided a soft sweet smell and showed lot's of activity within less than 12 hours, and then continued becoming more and more active as the days went on, especially after 7 days. It also tended to behave "hungrier" faster than the others.
Hard white/soft white mix was slower to show activity, but did show lot's of bubbles, within 24 hours, and then became very very active by day 7. This mix also seemed to take in the water I added, much more quickly, and became drier quicker than the rest. However, it was the most robust of the 3.
Spelt, showed very little activity on the surface throughout the growth process of days 1-7, but did demonstrate bubble transformation, and obvious activity, within the lower portions of the jar, after 3 days.
We have to remember, each starter is its own colony of organisms, and they work differently and feed differently depending upon their, inhertent selves, and environment. This is what makes working with sourdough so different, potentially for each one of us, because there are many factors, that may be playing a role in the final outcomes, and activity.
Factors, such as temperature, our climate, and even our altitude, the flour we are using, and the routines and methods we are using to grow our nutrition rich starters, will result in different outcomes. This is important to keep in mind, as we don't want to heavily compare what our starters, are looking like, compared to the frequent overflowing starter pictures that we always see.
Keep heart, and keep on caring for your starter, working with the specific factors that surround your environment, and take joy in knowing you are gaining so much health, with the successful completion of your starter.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me. I am not an expert, but I am a mom determined to give my family highly nutritious foods, and I love to help others do the same too.
I hope you will enjoy many days of having delicious sourdough recipes.
Let me know if you have tried it, and how it is doing for you.
I would enjoy hearing how others are doing with theirs too! Please share this as well with others!
You can watch my video, where I take you step by step into this process, and you can see firsthand how I cared for my own starter.
"Sourdough Starter Using the Ancient Grain Spelt, and 2 Surprise Grains: Step By Step Guide"
Many Blessings to you, and your family,
Dr. Monique Adu
("Lifetime Whole Grain, and Sourdough Enthusiast")
A View of My Sourdough Starter From Days 1-7: