Sourdough starter is used as a rising agent for baking bread, making pancakes, hot cakes and waffles, and for special occasion pizza crusts and other baked goods. Starter is enzyme rich, and is a live food that requires careful feeding and attention until you get the hang of it. The good news is sourdough starter is as old as time, and is very easy to do.
Have ready a medium sized jar or crock
2 C organic flour, preferably white unbleached
2 C pure water, room temperature
2 organic plums, unwashed
A handful of organic grapes or berries, unwashed
Mix the water and flour in a bowl. Stir vigorously. Add the fruit. The purpose of this is to introduce wild yeast, found on the skins of these fruits, to the dough. Cover bowl with cheesecloth. Store batter in a warm place (70 to 80°F) with good air circulation. Stir vigorously at least once each day.
When tiny bubbles appear at the surface (after some days), you know the yeast has become active. If after several days there are no bubbles, try a warmer spot, or add commercially available sourdough starter, or a pinch of packaged yeast just to get the starter activated.
Once there is yeast activity, remove the fruit. For 3 or 4 days, feed the starter with 1-2 T flour, and continue stirring each day. The batter will get thicker and start to rise. Add more water if the sourdough starts to get too thick, turning more solid than liquid. When the starter is thick and bubbly, it is ready to use. Take what you need to follow your first sourdough recipe, saving the remainder in the jar to keep growing.
To replenish, add the same amount of water and flour as you removed for your recipe. You are basically replacing the used starter with fresh flour and water. This is called feeding the starter. Stir and put in a warm place to bubble. If you bake and remove starter frequently, feed it a little flour every day or two, and keep at room temp. If not, refrigerate after the replenished starter has fermented for at least 4-8 hours, and feed once a week; remove it from the refrigerator to the warm spot a day or two before you plan to use it again, and feed it. Sourdough can be stored in the refrigerator for months, or even frozen.
Before you begin your own starter, ask around. You never know who might be nurturing a starter, and if you can begin your own jar or crock using a couple of cups of starter from someone else, the process will be much faster; and, your starter will taste much better!