Sourdough Starter – FEED ME!!!!

I have had a sourdough starter dormant in my refrigerator for over 10 years. It made the move with me from New York to Pennsylvania and today I thought I would try and revive it. I read that this culture is hard to kill. When it goes into a dormant state the culture settles on the bottom of the jar and forms a thick white sludge. A dark water like liquid forms on the top and it’s commonly called hooch. It’s actually a layer of alcohol formed by the culture that protects everything below it. Sort of a well balanced environment for the dormant culture. I took the jar out of the refrigerator and stirred up the hooch into the culture below. When done it was like the consistency of heavy cream. Everything above the hooch was nasty so I just poured the stirred mixture into a clean mason jar. I fed it a half a cup of flour, stirred it well, and will now wait to see what happens. Once it reaches room temperature, if it’s still alive, I should start to see bubbles forming and the culture start to grow. I’ll give it 24 hours and empty about a cup of the liquid down the drain, then add another cup of flour and filtered water.

It took three days to regenerate the culture. When I checked this morning it was a bubbly mass inside the jar and almost doubled in size. One more day of feeding and I should be ready to make a loaf. These little beasties are amazing. A living organism that can go 10 years without eating and still survive. They got my respect.

It’s time I start digging through all my recipes on making sourdough bread. The years of experimenting and baking are all down on paper. The wonderful thing about sour dough is the flavor. This is a natural yeast, not like the commercially grown yeast that rises quick. The slow rise process goes through a fermenting process and that is what adds the flavor to the bread. There are some cultures that are hundreds of years old. Some bakeries in Europe are using the same culture that they used during the time of Napoleon. They just keep feeding the pot of culture every time they take some. If I use a cup of active culture in my recipe I always add a cup of flour and cup of water to the pot, and keep it going. If I don’t bake for a while I’ll just put the active culture in the refrigerator and when I’m ready to use it just repeat the process.

Pane Cafone (Country man’s bread)

500 Gm (3 1/2 cups) unbleached all purpose flour

235 ml (1 cup) water

235 ml (1 cup) active sourdough culture

2 teaspoons sea salt

Mix all the ingredients together and knead for about 5 minutes. Place in a lightly oiled bowl cover with plastic wrap loosely and proof at least 5 hours at room temperature. 80 degrees is the ideal temp so I put the bowl in the oven with the oven light on and that holds the oven at a constant 80 degrees.

Once the dough doubles in size, I pull a corner of the ball and fold it over itself. I do this to the other three sides. I flip it over and place it on a piece of parchment paper on my cutting board, cover it with a towel, and return it to proof for another 3 hours. Before I put it in the oven I make a slash or two on the top.

Bake in a preheated oven on a baking stone at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 45 minutes. Allow to cool on a rack for at least an hour before you slice.


About Peter Bocchieri

Peter was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and is a second generation Italian-American. He has a degree in Journalism from Long Island University and is an avid photographer, gardener and pet owner. Now that Peter is retired, he is relaxing at his home in North East Pennsylvania and cooking for his sons, Michael and Joseph, family and friends. Peter's passion for food was inspired by his Mother's and Grandmother's cooking, but at the age of 10 Peter felt he could do it better himself, so he did.
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3 Responses to Sourdough Starter – FEED ME!!!!

  1. pasquale capparelli says:

    Hey Peter,
    Hope all’s well with you! I have been thinking about sour dough starter for a while and looked you up. How small a world we live in… I will definitely try this.

    BTW, the pool is gone.

    Best my friend,

  2. Pasquale, it’s so good to hear from you. I’m really sorry about the pool. But this is an adventure in a sourdough pool that I think you will love. Check out this site: You can get a wealth of info there along with purchasing cultures from around the world. I got my two Italian starters from Naples that go back to the 1800’s. You haven’t lived till you tried sourdough pancakes: but I digress. If you want to start your own sourdough culture from scratch you can look here: Whatever you decide to do, have fun with it. I know you will. If you have any questions please give me a call. If you don’t have my number you know where you can get it. Good luck! And all the best to you and your family.

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