How To Revive An Old Sourdough Starter

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Want to know how to revive an old sourdough starter? Forgotten about your sourdough starter at the back of the fridge? Maybe you’ve been away or just been busy and now you’d like to get back into baking with your sourdough starter – but it’s been forgotten at the back of the fridge and now looks like something that grew in a swamp. Never fear. Unless there’s visible mold on your sourdough starter, it will be able to be revived!

How to save an old forgotten sourdough starter from the fridge.

Even if your starter looks like this! A thick black layer of liquid on top? Maybe there is old starter on the sides of the jar that looks a bit darker than it should? And the smell … like nail polish remover or paint thinner!

How to revive an old sourdough starter - even if it has black hooch and smells terrible.

Believe it or not – this sourdough starter can be saved!

Help! My Starter Has Formed Black Liquid

The most common issue that arises from forgetting about your starter in the fridge for a long period of time is that it generally develops hooch. But, unlike the hooch that forms when your starter is left out, hooch that forms over long periods in the fridge is often dark purple or even black and looks absolutely vile.

Saving an old sourdough starter with layer of black hooch.

The thing is, as long as there is no visible mold on the surface of the hooch – or the sides of your jar – your starter will be fine. Hooch is just a sign that it is starving. This makes sense given that it’s been forgotten about in the back of the fridge.

Your forgotten sourdough starter will more than likely smell really bad too. Possibly like acetone or nail polish remover – or even worse. But don’t stress – this smell is also a sign that your yeast and bacteria are starving.

Just a note about mold – if you do see some fuzzy green or black mold on the sides of the jar or even on top of the hooch – you must toss the starter entirely. Mold is a non negotiable and the spores will have penetrated the whole starter. You definitely don’t want to be consuming mold!

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Steps To Revive An Old Sourdough Starter

In order to restore your sourdough starter to its former glory, you need to do the following:

  1. Pour off as much of the dark hooch as you can.
  2. Discard most of the starter (you can either just remove it from the jar or place some of the starter into a clean jar). You can see how much I removed in the photo below.
  3. Feed the remaining starter with 100g of flour and 100g of water. Let it sit out at room temp for around 12 hours.
  4. Take 50g of starter from the jar and feed it another 100g of flour and 100g of water. Leave the starter for around 12 hours. After this second feeding it should double. If it does then it’s ready to use. If it doesn’t, repeat step 4 every 12 hours until it does.
How to revive an old sourdoughs starter
This photo shows how much of the old sourdough starter has been discarded. This has left around 20 to 30g of starter in the jar.

The above process gives your neglected sourdough starter a huge feed (if you measured it would be somewhere around the 1:5:5. You need to give your poor starving yeastie beasties a nice big feed to refresh them and get them back to their usual happy selves. Depending on how mature your starter was when you placed it into the fridge, one or two feeds should be enough to get it back. But if it your starter is still sluggish after 2 feeds, don’t stress, just feed again and you will start to see some action.

Once you’ve revived your neglected sourdough starter, why not bake a simple loaf of sourdough bread.

Want to make sure your next bake has an ear? Check out these tips for nailing your sourdough ear.

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