If you’ve hopped on the sourdough train, you’ve probably come to realize that, man, it’s a lot of work. There’s the intensive job of actually baking the bread on top of the chore of feeding that coveted starter. If you’re keeping the starter at room temperature, it has to be fed everyday or it will die…and if you don't bake something, you’re throwing a lot of flour away everyday for no reason. It’s natural to get tired of the process after a while. A sourdough starter might be likened to a pet, but unlike a pet, you can actually put it away for a while when the thrill of baking wears off. Here’s how to do it.
How to store sourdough starter:
Store it in the fridge: If you still want the option of baking bread on a whim (just not every few days), you can keep your starter in the fridge.
- For best results, refresh it (read: feed and discard) every 7 to 14 days, checking periodically to make sure there’s no mold and draining any excess liquid. (It’s actually called hooch. No, we’re not kidding.)
- To bring it back to life, simply remove it from the fridge and resume a daily refreshing schedule at room temperature.
Store it in the freezer: If you’re totally tuckered out from baking, stash your starter in the freezer.
- Refresh your starter right before you plan on freezing it so it has something to feed on (kind of like a bear preparing for hibernation, no?).
- Place the starter in an airtight freezer-safe container or freezer bag, where it can stay for up to six months.
- To revive it, you’ll have to thaw it before resuming a regular feeding schedule, and keep in mind that it might require a few feeds before you see activity again.
Dry it out: For long-term storage, drying out your starter is the most foolproof method, since there’s no mold, freezer burn or random defrosts to worry about.
- Start by feeding your starter, giving it time to become bubbly. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper, then spread the starter onto the baking sheet with a spatula into a very thin layer—as thin as possible.
- Let the starter dry out at room temperature until it’s bone-dry. Depending on the humidity and temperature of your environment, it could take as little as one day and up to a week to dry out completely. (Don’t use your oven, or you could kill the starter completely.)
- Once it’s dry, break the starter into small chips and store them in a labeled and dated ziploc bag or airtight container, kept in a cool, dry place.
- To bring it back to life, measure out 1 ounce sourdough chips and stir in 2 ounces lukewarm water until dissolved, then feed with 1 ounce flour. Resume feeding on a regular schedule and voilà! You’re back to baking.
There’s one caveat to all of these methods: Long-term storage works only for mature starter, so if your starter is brand-new and your attention span short, you’re better off beginning again with a new starter at a later time (or just move on to banana bread).