In Taste Magazine this week, writer Cale Weissman tackles "The Mythos of the Sourdough Starter" in a piece where he describes his journey to sourdough baking. He successfully made a live starter and "named her Fran and have told close friends they are in charge of her if I go on vacation or die."
He describes some hair raising strategies for creating sourdough starter including adding dead insects or just using water that a bunch of kale sat in for a while:
Sullivan Street Bakery’s Jim Lahey has had his sourdough starter going since 1992. It all started in Italy, he tells me, when he noticed a beautiful crop of dinosaur kale blooming in the countryside. So he did what anyone else would do: pick it and plunk it in some water. Then, some days later, he removed the kale and added flour to it. From there, he had his starter, which he still uses to this day. It has a “distinctive sort of sulfuric rotten cabbage” aroma, he says. He adds that though the starter is only 25 years old, the microbes that it’s pulled in from the air date back billions of years.
Here at Roost Books, publisher Sara Bercholz got her starter going from following the instructions in our James Beard Award-Winning book Sourdough by Sarah Owens. She gave jars of starter to people on staff from that original mother, and while some of us had some trial and error with our first batches of bread before the we got the hang of it, we're still keeping our starters alive and well. So no need for dead bugs, here's the instructions from Sarah Owens (also included in the Taste piece with some pretty photos by Ngoc Minh Ngo from Sarah's new book out this August, Toast & Jam. Enjoy!