Breads and Crackers · Sourdough

Sourdough – Starting a Starter

I've made sourdough starters in the past, and have kept them alive for varying lengths (and shortnesses) of time. 

With the chill of autumn in the early morning air now, I thought it was a good time to start a new starter and try to keep it going for, well, forever, if I can.

I bought a book called Alaska Sourdough by a woman named Ruth Allman.  I've had this for years, but I haven't tried any of her recipes for some reason.  So, for that reason, and because the book is handwritten throughout, which gives it some personality, I figured I'd try one of her starters.

Ruth Allman was born in Boston but raised in Alaska, and, over the years until her death in 1989, one of the foremost Alaskan sourdough historians.  Her writing is conversational and rather exuberant, with the frequent exclamation points, and fascinating.  She had never used sourdough until she married her husband, so everything she learned, she learned firsthand. 

There are two starter recipes – both use potatoes.  One uses cooked, the other uses raw.  I've made mine with the cooked potatoes.

Here's the recipe –

Sourdough Starter

Dump into the Sourdough Pot

    2 cups thick potato water

    2 tbsp sugar

    2 cups flour (more or less)

    1/2 tsp yeast (optional)*

Boil potatoes with jackets on until they fall to pieces.  Lift skins out; mash potatoes making a puree.  Cool.  Add more water to make a suffieient liquid, if necessary.  richer the potato water, richer the Starter.  Put all ingredients in Pot.  Beat until smooth creamy batter.  Cover.  Set aside in warm place to start fermentation.  * Use yeast only to speed action.

And that's exactly what I did yesterday.

I cooked my potatoes, jackets on


until they fell apart.


I removed the skins and mashed the potatoes to make a puree and let that cool.


And when it was cooled, I added the sugar and flour…


I should have thinned the puree more – it was pretty thick, so I ended up adding water to this mixture in order to end up with something creamy.  THICK and creamy.


And that, hopefully, will become my starter.

I covered the bowl lightly with foil – to allow air in and keep unwanted stuff out. 

I put the bowl up on top of the pie safe in my kitchen, which is a relatively warm place, and crossed my fingers.

This morning it looks pretty much the same, with a little bit of water separating from the rest of the mixture.

This starter – as I made it – is dependent on wild yeast to start the fermentation process, and I'm hoping that will be enough.  I'd really like to make this without adding "store-boughten" yeast to it.  So we'll see. 

I figure a baby sourdough is just what I need right now, along with my kids, a cat, two kittens, lizard, and various fish.  And husband.  Just one more thing to nurture and feed and keep warm enough so it doesn't become dormant but not so hot that I kill the yeast.  Of course, I need to actually HAVE some yeast in there, so my worries are a bit premature.  I just figured I'd add them to the queue (did I spell that right?  I could have gone on and on with the "ue" parts.  queueueueue.) so when the time was right, I'd be all set to worry about them.

Anyway, that's what's newest and excitingest in my house this morning!  What's new with you?

7 thoughts on “Sourdough – Starting a Starter

  1. Interesting recipe…I will be curious how it turns out for you. Potato and bread always sort of confuse me, mainly because I have never tried to make it, but I know I like eating it! 🙂

  2. I can’t wait to see if it bubbles.

    My grandpa always put his in a glass crock with a glass lid. It wasn’t extremely tight fitting so air was allowed to get in.

    He always had a starter going.

  3. So what do you have to do to keep it going? And at what point is it ready to use?

    (I love your blog by the way, thanks for all the great ideas!)

  4. Hi Amy. To keep it going you need to feed it (just like kids) – more flour and water – periodically. It’s ready to use when it becomes bubbly, but the older it gets, the better the flavor. I plan to keep updating this site about the sourdough – I’ve never used a potato starter before. I’ve done a flour/water/sugar/pinch-of-yeast starter, which worked great (until it died), but never a potato one. There are other ways to make starters, too – grapes…hops…it’s a pretty interesing project, and I figured I’d start it not only for me, but so I could chronicle it for others to read about – and learn from. Glad you like the site!

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