When I was visiting family in the Midwest over Christmas, my aunt offered me some sourdough starter. She bakes with it twice a week to make bread for her family of eight, and was singing its praises. I accepted, and the jar of starter made its way all the way from Utah to the Pacific Northwest in one long drive. When I got home, I soon realized I needed to figure out how to bring a sourdough starter back to life.
You see, it had been fed a few days before we went home and put in the fridge. One the drive, it was kept in the cab of a warm truck. The drive was about sixteen hours long. I did not know at that point that a room temperature starter required more attention. So when I got home I just stuck it in the fridge and forgot about it for a few days while I settled back in.
The poor thing was starving when I got it out. The liquid on top was nearly black.
I tried to make bread. Technically I succeeded, but there was so little active yeast left in the starter that I had to let it rise for a full day and night. Even then it didn’t rise as much as I’d like. But it tasted alright when baked.
How To Bring a Sourdough Starter Back to Life
Turns out, bringing a sourdough starter back to life isn’t that different from creating a new one.
Put it out on the counter so it will be at room temperature.
Twice a day, discard all but what you need for your starter, usually half a cup or a whole cup. I do a whole cup. Add to this a cup of whole wheat flour and a cup of water and stir it all in together. Cover with something breathable like a coffee filter or cheese cloth.
Continue this for a few days, until the starter is a bit foamy and grows a bit between feedings. I knew mine was really alive again when it started trying to overflow the jar overnight.
It went back in the fridge, and I had no issues with my next batch of sourdough bread rising. Remember in the fridge it only needs to be fed 1-2 times per week rather than daily, since the yeast grows slower at cooler temperature.