How To Make Sourdough Starter | SECRETS From A Yukon Bread-Maker

How to make sourdough starter

Want to know how to make REAL sourdough starter from scratch? You know, that mouth-watering bread with the perfect amount of holes and bounce in it, all with that slightly sour taste that you pay so much for at a bakery? Well, we are going to share how to make sourdough bread.

After you follow this easy sourdough starter, then head on over to the sourdough recipe.

First, you have to learn how to make a sourdough starter which is the base of sourdough bread.

How to make sourdough starter

We interviewed a bread-maker from the Yukon territory, a place where sourdough became extremely popular during the Klondike gold rush of the mid-1800's. During our interview, we talked about the history of sourdough bread, sourdough starter, and how this bread-maker has developed his own recipe after years and years of working at it to get it absolutely perfect.

And we are so lucky that he was willing to share his secret sourdough starter and bread recipe with our readers.

How To Make Sourdough Starter

Sourdough Starter Ingredients - What You Need To Make Sourdough Starter:

  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of room temperature water
  • A glass container with a lid (This can be a large mason jar, a clean pickle jar, anything you have that is clean)
How to make sourdough starter

Sourdough Starter Directions - What You Do To Make Sourdough Starter:

1. Mix the flour and water together in a jar using a fork to combine until there are no more flour lumps.

2. Put a lid on the jar (can use a lid or even saran wrap if you don't have one) as long as it is on the jar very loosely as the starter will rise and may eventually, bubble out of the jar. Do not tighten the lid, otherwise, the pressure build-up in the jar could cause the jar to shatter.

*Now what happens is the naturally occurring yeast from the flour and the mold spores have a battle in your jar. The hope is that the existing yeast slowly starts to turn the mixture slightly acidic. This kills off any bacteria in the jar so it can't turn moldy. This is where you get your "sour" (acidic) taste from. It is really quite fascinating!

how to make sourdough starter

3. When the yeast is victorious, what is left is now the sourdough starter. It will sit on the counter with the lid on. You will need to check your starter every day and what you are looking for are air bubbles. Depending on where you live and the yeast culture there, this could take a few days to a few weeks until you see the bubbles.

4. Once you see bubbles forming in the jar after checking it daily, you will need to feed it (aww your first feeding! lol).

5. FEEDING THE STARTER: you will feed the sourdough starter with 1 part flour to 1 part water. This could be a half-cup flour to a half cup of water, it just depends on the size of jar you started with. You could do a 1/4 cup to a 1/4 cup if the jar is smaller.

how to make sourdough starter

6. The GOAL here is to have the starter double in size after it is fed, this will happen within a period of 24 hours. After the starter doubles in size (or close to that), you have established the yeast culture and it is ready for bread-making. Once you have an established yeast culture, you don't have to worry about any bacteria any more because the yeast will be king of the jar. This is how the Klondike gold miners kept starter with them without it going moldy or bad!

How to make sourdough starter


To save your starter for a rainy day (or if you just want to keep it for months) let it go dormant. Here's how:

Once you have doubled the sourdough starter in size once (and you have followed steps 1-6 above) you now have an established yeast culture ready to make sourdough.

What has happened here, is the yeast has now consumed all of the sugars from the flour + water feeding, and once it is done doing this it will go dormant. You can now put this in the fridge in the jar, lid on, and keep it over a period of time until you are ready to take it out again to make sourdough bread. You will want to "wake it up" again about 3 days before it will be ready to make bread again.

Note: You may begin to see the starter separate with water on top (which may take on a grey tinge) and the mixture on the bottom. This is totally normal.

This is why we have to keep "feeding" the starter with new flour and water when you are in the routine of making a loaf of bread every day or every other day. You are literally keeping the yeast awake. How interesting is that!

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How To Wake Up Dormant Sourdough Starter

how to make sourdough starter

When you are ready to make sourdough bread after your sourdough starter has gone dormant, you will need to "wake it up" again. Start by taking the dormant starter out of the fridge, mix it, and feed it with 1:1 flour to water (no need to mix together before adding in). Stir together once combined.

Leave the mixed sourdough starter on the counter with a very loose lid on. Feed it every day with 1:1 flour to water (half cup) for several days until it is woken up. You will know it is ready (and "awake") when you feed it and through the day, it rises and bubbles almost out of the jar. I suggest mixing it and leaving your jar on a plate in case it does bubble over.

Check out the progression of pictures over a few hours after waking up a starter after a flour + water feeding.

How to make sourdough starter
How to make sourdough starter
How to make sourdough starter
How to make sourdough starter

If you find there is too much mixture in the jar before adding more, pour out some out into the sink or compost, and then continue to add the flour + water.

If you are wondering about that tool you see in our photos above, that is a Danish dough whisk for the bread-making part.

Compare Danish dough whisk prices on Amazon

A Little Sourdough Starter Background

Sourdough and stories from the Klondike gold rush go hand in hand. Why? Well let's first explore what sourdough starter is. Sourdough bread is made from what is called a "sourdough starter", which is a collection of yeast that can be kept over years and years and can be made into bread at any time. It can keep for so long because of the acidity of the starter: no bacteria can live in it. There are some sourdough starters out there that are over 100 years old! Check out this news article from CBC News for a sourdough starter that is 120 years old!

Klondikers used to carry a small amount of dried sourdough starter with them in their pockets so they could make it into amazing sourdough bread, at any time, with few resources. They used to go on long journeys with their backpacks into the mountains and it was hard to carry much more than the necessities with them. They didn't have to carry much more than starter and flour with them to make warm loaves of sourdough bread at the camp they were staying at while mining and panning for gold.

how to make sourdough starter

Sourdough was so popular. Famous Yukon poet Robert Service even wrote a collection of poems in a book he called "Songs of Sourdough", which a lot of Yukoners and  Alaskans alike are familiar with. I personally love Robert Service, my favorite poem of his is The Cremation Of Sam McGee, interestingly enough from his collection of poems in his book "Songs Of A Sourdough" (source). Give it a read if you ever have the chance.

Here's an interesting sourdough fact you may not know:

Milled flour has naturally occurring yeast on it that starts when it is still wheat in the field. There is yeast everywhere around you at all times; in your house, on your hands, on kitchen tools and this yeast also contributes to the starter you make as it picks it up in the air as it is maturing. This is why sourdough loaves taste different depending on where they are made. They are a combination of the yeast strains from the flour and environments they are made in! How cool is that!

We hope you learned everything you wanted to learn about making sourdough starter today! Be sure to check out part 2 of our article and learn how to take that starter and turn it into a gorgeous, delicious sourdough bread! Be sure to bookmark this page or Pin it to your Pinterest board since it will take a few days for that starter to be ready, and I know you are going to want to find us again.

How to make sourdough starter

Can I Buy Sourdough Starter?

Yes, sourdough starter can be purchased if you do not want to make your own. Check out the brands and sellers on Amazon.



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