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Some say never, as long as the colony are strong and healthy. I maintain 3(S.F, Ita., and a local) difference starter and feed them the same flour and they are distinct from each others, even the refreshment or doubling times are not the same.
That's interesting. I thought your local yeast would eventually take over. Boudin's in San Francisco has 3 bakeries. They send starter to the two satellite locations every thirty days to maintain consistency.
I've read that one way of looking at it, was like white blood cells. When an invader from the flour or air enters the colony, they are attacked and destroyed. The local yeast must be fed, matured and multiply to form a colony and that takes time, which the host will not give them. If I had a renown bakery with satellite outlets, sending refreshed starter would be a good means of assuring consistency in our product.
While there are those who believe that sourdough strains can remain distinct, there seem to be relatively few documented cases of doing so iin close contact (i.e. a kitchen/facility) for an extended time. Being healthy is certainly an important criterion but there are those who question that is enough.
From my experience, with reasonably healthy starter, they should remain reasonably true for one to two years. Eventually mine have begun to merge characteristics. Whether keeping the starters robust would have kept them distinct longer??? is only speculative.
SF should have some chance of remaining relatively pure for it is so much more acidic that IF HEALTHY other yeasts and bacteria will not do well in it. However, its bacteria and yeast will (again from my experience) do well in less acidic environments so my first symptom was that my mild starter began to get more tart.
Eventually, however, my SF got more mild also. But I know it wasn't totally robust all the time so???
Even commercial SF sourdough bakeries refresh their starters in remote locations about every six months.
I think it is best to assume your starters will eventually merge at least partially. Good idea to freeze some of your existing starter before you begin a new one.
I have some of my original starter that I froze. I started a new batch from scratch thinking it wouldn't matter until I read Laurentius' response. How do I bring the original back to life? I know there was a discussion a while back but I cannot locate it.
I have seen regional starters last from a year to several. Too many factors from the micro-biology side. Most important is keeping isolation from the local air. Just need to work quick in my mind to preserve. My last SF starter was overtaken after 4 years of keeping quick work and good hygiene. It only takes one spore to mess things up. My super sour Russian starter lasted 8 months.
There is no real "formula" for rejuvenating frozen starter. I would add it to about an equal amount of water by weight. I would assume it is only a couple of grams. Then I would add only a few times (2 to 4x) of flour and equal of water to keep it at about 100% hydration. The key is that your frozen starter will innoculate the dough with a much higher dose of bugs than are in the flour so they should take over quickly relative to having to build the bug population up and then have the acidity to build up to the point where the bad bugs are killed and the good bugs take over. So you will probably need three or four/five days of twice a day feeding to get a robust starter instead of weeks or months from scratch. Be sure your water is dechlorinated! (Either left out a day or two or reverse osmosis or bottled but not distilled.)
Thanks Jay! I found the old thread and was able to bring it back to life. I just hydrated what I had in the freezer then started to feed it. Baked the first loaves last night (in the house oven) and it tasted pretty good. The snow is supposed to leave by the weekend so I am planning on firing up the oven to see how that turns out. Thanks again...
Another question regarding sourdough starter. All the recipes call for x amount of active starter. After I feed it the starter gets crazy active in an hour or so then settles down a bit. What is the best time to use it? Shouldn't I wait for some time before I use it?
I never really worry as long as its alive
By adding it to the rest of the flour you are activating it again
I usually like to give mine 2 feeds over 2 days to get it going after its spent some time in the fridge.
The crucial rise is the one before the oven
How many days did it take to get your frozen starter going? Having never done it you will be a reference data point!
WRT feeding...and activity...something seems to be amiss. In my experience a sourdough starter can't "go crazy" in an hour. That kind of behaviour sounds like bacteria. What kind of feeding ratio are you using... I feed 1 part starter with 2 parts flour and 2 parts water by weight and it takes mine at least a couple of hours to show much life at all - even when robust. Are you using warm water... It could be that you are getting a bacterial rise because the good, acidic bacteria haven't taken over the starter yet. If so it is important to keep feeding until they take over.
I started getting activity after the first feeding. It started getting really active around four or 5 days. I am feeding it equal amounts by weight. I may be off on the time because I really wasn't paying that much attention. I just know that yesterday I fed it, came back a while later and it had expanded onto the counter. I have already made bread (using a conventional oven) and it taste pretty good.