Image by Matthew Fugel
So you know how screw-ups are as good at teaching you as successes, maybe even better? Well….
I poured off the hooch for the first two days, so it “sat out” without fermenting properly. Then I forgot to feed it for a couple days when it was just over a week old. When I picked it back up, thinking I’d just feed it and carry on, hoping for more bubbles soon…that is what I found. Black, fuzzy mold. Out it went.
Sourdough Starter: What NOT to Do
I immediately restarted the sourdough starter. This was Sunday morning. I made sure that I stirred in the hooch each time. I still noted, on Monday, at the third feeding, that it was gummy and gluey and strange (soaked batters are like this too — it means the gluten is being broken down). I was worried again…maybe there was something wrong with me or my kitchen (inhospitable to sourdough, perhaps?) and not my technique. 🙁
But then I went into the kitchen late Monday afternoon, several hours after last feeding my starter, and I found this:
That starter has about doubled in volume due to the bubbles. That’s some seriously active sourdough starter!
The Major Lesson
Stir in your hooch.
Yes, the hooch is what makes it more sour. But the hooch is what contains all those lovely yeasties that we are trying to catch. If you do not stir them in the first few days, when you are trying to get it going, then you are pouring off the yeast and basically opening the starter up to catching bad bacteria instead, which I think is why my starter molded so quickly.
Once your starter is well-established, it shouldn’t make any difference if you pour off the hooch.
*Updated: If you keep your sourdough starter thicker, it won’t produce hooch. Hooch means you’re either not making it thick enough, or you’re not feeding it often enough. Use almost twice as much flour as water, and feed every 8 – 12 hours, and you will have a successful, active starter in no time!
This is what I have learned, after finally having 2 years of successful starters, and baking with them!