Drying and Storing Sourdough Culture

One of the great things about writing a guide, especially a “how to guide”, is learning through doing and then writing about it.

A good example is drying and storing a sourdough culture. I’ve read numerous times about the concept of drying and storing sourdough culture, and indeed have seen dried sourdough culture for sale, but have never tried the process. But the concept is simple, and in practice it’s a breeze.

Why?

So why would you want to dry and store a sourdough culture? Well here’s a few possible reasons:-

  1. The insurance policy – drying and storing a sourdough culture, especially offsite, is a neat way of insuring your particular set of yeasties and beasties can be re-freshed in an event of extreme culture neglect or accidental damage.
  2. The feeding vacation – perhaps you need to wind your culture down into a dormant state for a feeding vacation
  3. The sourdough swap – perhaps you want to encourage a friend and give them a helping hand by sharing your local sourdough culture – dried sourdough culture is very transportable (indeed postable!)

How to dry & store?

Here’s our photo guide of how to do it:-

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You will need item (a) some vibrant culture, item (b) some baking greaseproof paper, and item (c) a palette knife or similar spreading implement
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Dollop item (a) on item (b) using item (c)
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Spread a thin layer of culture over the surface of the baking parchment
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Allow to air dry, somewhere warm and well ventilated (for us living in the tin can caravan, that’s the warm end by the woodburner)
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The next day the sourdough smear should be dry and the baking patchment all wrinkly
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You can now flake off into a bowl and break up (at this point it feels a bit like poppodums!)
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Grind / Flake down into a manageable size – you can keep going with a pestle and mortar into a more flour-like consistency, but this is apparently a bit un-necessary – what you’re after is a storable consistency for transfer to a bag or container.
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And voila – dried, dormant sourdough culture nestled up beside it’s wet, alive and kicking ancestors.

How to refresh?

At this point I can only tell you the theory – very similar to starting a sourdough culture from scratch, but instead of using just flour and water, you add some of your dried culture (which has all those dormant yeasties and beasties from the parent starter), which upon re-hydration kicks the culture to life in 24-48 hours. We’re going to let the dried sourdough culture here store for a few weeks, and then we’ll demo a refresh cycle and update this blog post based on real experience! Stay tuned.

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