flour, water, jar, cheesecloth, screw top, time, done.
Now wasn't that easy!!!!! Really, it's that easy.
(You can purchase sourdough starter, but what's the fun in that?)
There's a gazillion "how-to's" out there, but the simplest is the best. Get a canning jar. (Clean, of course.) Add approximately 1/2 cup water (don't you dare use tap water!) and approx 1/2 cup of flour. These DO NOT HAVE TO BE EXACT. It's going to depend on how much moisture content is already in your flour. You need SOUPY sauce-like consistency. So, if it's too runny, add flour; too thick add water. A 1/2 cup each is a good size to begin. You can use more or less depending on your baking needs. Just keep the flour:water ratio equal.
Stir it up and put it in a glass jar, top with cheesecloth or other suitable breathable fabric. Just remember, the WILD YEAST NEED TO GET IN so you cannot put a lid on it.
Now, the fun part. Wait at least 12 hrs...usually it takes 24 hrs. The ambient temperature will be a factor. Cooler temps=longer time Warmer temps=shorter time
If the wild yeast have arrived, it will have little bubbles in the flour mix. If it doesn't, they haven't! I get so excited when I see those bubbles!!! Welcome little wild ones!!!
Sometimes I get a LOT of bubbles, sometimes I get NONE. Don't give up!! If you get a brown liquid on top, that's OK, just stir it in.
GOLDEN RULE: Each day feed your starter an equal amount of flour/water, let it sit 24 hrs and repeat!
If you have a lot of bubbles you can feed every 12 hours, otherwise wait the 24. It may take SEVERAL days before you get bubbles or it may only take 12 hrs. Keep feeding. If you are not getting bubbles after several days, you may consider composting it and starting over, although I think perseverance usually pays off.
Another consideration: if you don't want or need several cups of sourdough, then use small increments of water/flour. Say 1/4 cup each. If you have a large family use 1 cup flour:water. And, you can also take half the sourdough out (after the first day. And it must be bubbling), compost it then add your feeding mix of flour/water. This will help keep it to a manageable size.
You will outgrow your jar, so transfer to a clean bowl (or you can start out with a bowl--crocks are nice); you still need to cover it with cheesecloth. Use a clean jar or bowl EVERY time you feed. DO NOT USE PLASTIC.
A word about flour: They say rye is the best for attracting wild yeast; I have not seen a difference myself. It doesn't contain as many phytates as wheat and maybe that effects it. You can use any kind of flour white (not recommended-but if you do use white use unbleached), whole wheat, einkorn, etc. I LOVE EINKORN. You can START your sourdough with rye then BAKE with any kind of flour. Be brave--make your own rules. It's your kitchen!
After a week you should have a concoction that smells a little yeasty. It should have been a bubbly mass then settled down a bit. Here's the pay off: it's ready to use!!
Always save about a quart; at least a cup, of sourdough to start your next batch. Depending on what you are baking: LOAVES of bread or a simple batch of pancakes. You will get adept at judging how much to save back to begin your next sourdough starter.
Happy sourdoughing! I will have recipes in a different blog post. :)