Ferment Yourself Some Food!: Making Sourgough Starter




Do you like sourdough bread?

Do you like fermenting sweet stuff and watching it bubble?

Do you want to be able to make your own bread and become less reliant on destructive food making techniques used by large scale producers?

Then hopefully I will be able to show you how to make your own sourdough starter.

There are families that still pass down starters created over a 150 years ago! Your starter may end up a generational legacy past down over the generations!....... but probably not. At least you can enjoy it for as many years as you recondition and feed the sweet, sweet sludge.

***Disclaimer: This is my first experience making it myself and hope that the experiment is successful, so that I reap the benefits of tasty bread and also am able to teach others. This is also my first instructable so let me know of anything I can do to improve it. Thanks!***

I learned how to make sourdough starter from a zine called Wild Fermentation: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Cultural Manipulation. One of my favorite zines (and zine names) available from:
Sandor Ellix Katz
247 Santuary Lane
Liberty, TN 37095
Also, if you live in the greater Portland, OR area Multnomah County library has a few in the periodical section.
Almost all of my knowledge comes from this great zine.

P.P.S.- Mark_In_Hollywood showed me a great article he wrote about making sourdough starter and reconditioning. Its an interesting and informative read- check it out!


Step 1: Mixing the Ingredients...

-quart size jar (or larger, I used a reclaimed spaghetti sauce jar)
-4 tablespoons of honey or molasses (I used honey because I already had some)
-1 cup flour

Fill the jar with 2 cups of warm water.

Add the honey/molasses and flour and stir vigorously.

Cover the jar with cheesecloth or another porous material (old fabric is free and omnipresent).

Step 2: Time to Do Some Serious Voodoo Chillin'...

After vigorously stirring your concoction, you need to put the mix in a warm place.

70-80 degrees is ideal, but if you don't have such a place (I don't thanks to the rain gods that dump buckets of cold rain and kick up wintry breezes all over Portland despite June's arrival), make do. I move my jar around to warmer places (an oven after you're done cooking and its cooled down a bit, a steamy bathroom, etc).

Now make a mug of mate, read Robert Anton Wilson, start more instructables, listen to Dr. John. Do whatever pleases you most.

Step 3: Giving Your Mix Some Love...

Stir your mixture at least once a day when it comes to mind as you wait for the wild airborne yeast to find its way into your jar. The more you agitate the stuff, the more exposure it has to the yeast that will transform it. I've been stirring about 4 times a day (this is probably excessive).

It takes 3-4 days, maybe more depending on the state of your ecosystem, for the yeast to become active.

When the mix becomes active it will start to bubble- that means the mix is fermenting.

If you're tired of waiting for some action, you can add a pinch of yeast; some think of this as cheating however and I plan to avoid it for as long as possible.

Step 4: Day 2: Waiting

So, I've been making sure my mix has some time in a heated environment and have stirred about 4 times a day.

Not a whole lot going on at this point, so I made some mung sprouts.

I do want to mention that when you stir the mix you'll notice large bubbles forming.

Hurray! Your done!

*NO*...those are air bubbles and the formula is still not ready.

We're looking for smaller and more numerous bub's.

Step 5: Day 3: Progress!

This morning I woke up and wandered over to my jar.

I took off the cheesecloth and......... Bubbles!

Lots of small bubbles on the top of the mix (as you can tell, the heavier portions (flour + honey), spend most of their time on the bottom) around the edges of the jar.

Hurrah! Progress!

I'm stirring more frequently now and doing whatever I can to insure the warmth.

***It is difficult to take pictures of very small things on a camera phone- don't hate.***

Step 6: Day 4: I Cheat--->great Success!

LATE in the night on day 3 I become desperate for an increase of bubbles and add prepackaged yeast.

Not a lot- hardly any at all actually. The picture illustrates the minute amount added...

Do I regret it? No. Do I feel guilty? A little.

Anyway, I woke up a while later and found that the bubbles had increased immensely.

My mix has fermented and smells sour and lovely! All thanks to a tiny pinch of yeast to move those airborne slowpokes along.

Next step- feeding and preparing the starter for completion.

Step 7: Day 5: Feeding the Ferment...

As the bubbles continue to increase and your mix becomes more pungent the yeast will need to snack every so often.

Add 1/4 cup of flour (I've heard oats or millet work as well, but I didn't want to risk ruining my 5 days work) to your starving yeast prison once a day for 3-4 days.

After adding the flour be sure to mix. In case you haven't noticed by now mixing is vital to this whole process.

If your concoction begins to drift to the DARK SIDE (solidity) you need to add more water. Because of the flour your starter will get thicker and start to rise to the top of the jar because it will hold some of the gas that the yeast releases. Try to pursue integration by rapidly stirring away any signs of solidity via your LIGHT SABER (spoon).

Remember: stir often and try to keep your jar in a warm place.



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    26 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Using organic flour helps a lot because there is still active yeast in the grain as well. If you use grapes as food look for ones that have a "cloudy" look around the skins as that usually contains yeast as well (that was where the yeast used to make wine came from in the old days)


    I must ask this for the good of the bread: What if I have no honey nor molasses but natural good and sweet maple syrup. : ]] I shall try this now... and see what the beings that are give to me. Let's hope for yeast!

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    By experience, I would deduce that there are things that help in the process of becoming a good sourdough:
    * The amount of water and flour should make a sort of chocolate thickness, but not more.
    * Anything that sweetens the mixture would encourage the process of fermentation. Then, if the mixture senses a sour taste, it would stop working.
    You could add, even a smashed banana.
    * Being in the fridge would also slow down the process.
    * I am aware that some people succeed earlier because they didn't notice that the flour that they are using, already contain some sort of yeast.
    * Adding some baking powder would also make some bubbles because of the nature of the chemical product.
    * Making sourdough without the help of yeasts or other products would achieve a better tasting bread. There are people that are making bread by replacing most of the flour with sourdough...

    Don't discourage.
    If you want to keep a little of a successful sourdough for another occasion, just keep on adding flour without water until all is dry. Then keep it in the fridge with a lid, all the time you want,


    6 years ago on Step 7

    Because I'm a man and look for the easy no-nonsense way to do it, I also use a jar but with the lid. Every day instead of stirring I just give the jar a good shake. (James Bond was right.) Taking off the lid for ten seconds allows enough oxygen in to keep the fermentation going.

    Also I use commercial yeast. As well as the supermarket kind, I get different varieties at the local brew shop. Wild yeasts I stay well away from because they usually end up spoiling the fermentation.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I have made the sourdough stater without adding honey or molasses!

    Just mix 1 cup of warm water with 1 cup bread flour, stir and leave in covered jar in a warm place.

    Each day I discard about 1 cup of this mixture and replace with half a cup each of the flour and warm water. This seems to get it going well, and the beast is alive and kicking after 4-5 days depending on temperature!

    Wholemeal or rye flour works the quickest but I prefer to use the white flour, though you could use half and half.


    Great instructable! The only thing I would change is your title. It says sourGough and I'm sure you meant sourDough.

    Thank you for the wonderful instructable! Breaks it down nice and easy, and doesn't assume that you know everything. A very good layman's instructable! :)

    I have two starters going. One that follows this recipe, and a half sized one.

    When they settle, the water is very yellow, not the lovely amber color as you depict. Is this ok?

    The smell is very sour, and I cannot wait. Just concerned about the color.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    So, say I have a bit of molasses and a bit of honey. Would that work, or is it essentially one or the other?


    9 years ago on Step 7

    not to be dense here, but what happens now?  How do I use this to make bread?

    1 reply

    9 years ago on Introduction

    I just tried making this, but I don't know if I did it right. When I made mine, the jar was almost full. Is it supposed to be?


    9 years ago on Step 7

     You can actually feed the yeast both some sugar and some flour. For sour dough you don't want the sugar because it wont be a great sour dough then. I am attending a school to become a Baking and Pastry chef. This was actually a question that I had. Since I see that you are asking the same question I feel that I had to answer. There are actually a few other things you can use to start this starter one that is a lot harder to make but give the bread a really unique taste would be apple cider instead of honey. The only difference is you have to use about a 1/4th of the amount of yeast they used in this instruct-able at the start. The reason for this is because of the fact that your using an ingredient that has the ability to spoil so you just want to watch it. If you choose not to use the yeast you might want to put you starter in a cooler place like a fridge for the night then take it out in the morning and stir it. Leave it out for about 6 hours then you place it back in the fridge for about 3. Then do it again. Thats at least what we have been doing in school or learning in school. I hope this helps. And the apple cider sour dough bread tastes great it is a very good bread to complement a thanksgiving day feast or any other feast that you might have with bird. I haven't tried it with other meat but if someone does please let me know.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I've heard that honey will slow down the process since it has antibiotic properties. There is nothing innately wrong with sugar, we just eat too many simple carbohydrates.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Carbohydrates, I think. Sugars are more quickly digested, but once you have a healthy culture going flour will be enough.

    Actually catching wild yeast isn't as hard as it sounds. The white powder found on the skins of grapes can be used as homemade starter yeast for bread. There - buy grapes(red are best) - one trip to the market - wild yeast - caught!!!

    To everyone with starter that they thought smelled bad. It's too bad if you threw that in the dust/trash bin. It make excellent bread. For me the stinkier, the better. When starter is "winey" smelling the bread never gets enough sour flavor. If you want more info, have a look at my food 'blog:

    Danger! Men Cooking


    9 years ago on Introduction

    what did yours smell like? Mine smelled like stinky feet or like a sweaty gym sock..yuck! I threw it out, I didnt want bread that tasted like a gym sock