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Maintaining a Sourdough Starter in the Fridge

If you’ve been around here for a while, you know I use my sourdough starter straight from the fridge. I always have. The best part about this method is that is requires no discarding. I want to share with you my method for maintaining a sourdough starter in the fridge.

Back over a decade ago when I first wanted to start a sourdough starter, I was met with what seemed like thousands of different methods and ideas. It was overwhelming. However, with perseverance and trial and error, I finally figured out a method that works for me and has for all these years.

Maintaining a sourdough starter simply means keeping it fed and happy:) It’s a living thing that requires some attention. However, it doesn’t require daily attention if you use this method.

If you have been told or have read that you have to leave your starter on the counter and feed it every 12-24 hours then it can seem wasteful, at least it did to me. This method has you take out the biggest portion and discard it before you feed it. Of course you can use the discard, but, if you are doing this process every 12 hours, that’s a lot of discard to use up!

Over the years, I have found that a sourdough starter actually doesn’t require that much attention to thrive. I feed mine once a week on average and use it 2-3 times a week. I have never had an instance where it didn’t rise the dough.

So, let’s jump into my maintenance schedule and how you can adapt it to your particular needs.

Let’s say I just made a loaf of bread and used up almost all of my starter for the loaf. I am left with a very small amount of starter in my jar. This is the time I will feed the starter 3/4 cup of filtered water and 1 cup of flour. I use whatever flour I have on hand. Whether it be all purpose, freshly milled, or rye. The starter doesn’t seem to care, ha ha!

After I feed it, I put mine loose lid on top, cover with a towel, and allow it to ferment for at least 4 hours up to 8 hours at room temperature. I am looking for it to become very bubbly and active and have a sweet, yeasty smell.

Once it’s active, I put it in the fridge. Feeding this amount of flour and water yields me enough starter for 2-3 loaves.

Now, lets say 2 days later I need to make bread. I will take my starter straight from the fridge and put it in the recipe. I will put the starter back in the fridge.

This is the method I use until there isn’t enough starter left in the jar to make a loaf of bread or other baked good.

I start the process all over again.

Now, as the days go on, the starter will get a liquid on top and not be bubbly anymore, however, it still works just fine. I don’t feed it until it needs it.

If you have a new starter or younger starter, you may notice that your dough is sluggish to rise at first. That is normal and it just means your starter needs time to develop and mature.

In these instances, I suggest using lukewarm water to wake up your starter a little quicker and get a better rise or use a bit more starter than the recipe calls for.

This method for keeping a sourdough starter will become your favorite! There’s no discarding and it is much more flexible than keeping it on the counter.

Happy baking and see you soon!

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  1. Dear Mary, You are such a delight!! My granddaughter started me on making sourdough this summer. I started looking at YouTube’s to learn more.

    I stumbled across you snd I have so enjoyed so many of your videos.

    I’m 74 years old, have 6 grandchildren and 6 grest grandchildren.

    I just mastered the sourdough starter and made my first loaf of sandwich bread by watching your beginner sandwich bread video. It turned out great!!

    Mary, you are such a blessing and so sincere and loving. You and your husband are the salt of the earth!!! I wish more people were like you!

    Keep sharing. Love in Christ!

    Pat Mulder

  2. Thank you Miss Mary for your YouTube videos. Can you explain please what you mean exactly when you say, “I don’t feed it until it needs it”. Is that when you only have a little bit of starter left? Or is there a certain look to the starter that tells you it’s hungry? Sorry if you’ve already covered this. Thanks much.

  3. Once I put it in the fridge and leave it there do I feed it every time I take some out or wait until it’s down to about 1/4 cup that’s left. I usually only bake one loaf at a time. Been baking bread a few yrs but sourdough is a new try . Thanks

    1. Yes, I just use it until it gets down to about a 1/4 cup. I take it out, feed it, let it get active and then put it back in the fridge and just repeat the process.

  4. Update on my starter. It’s a live. It is just now 3 weeks old. My first starter didn’t make it. Got a really strange smell like dirt. You are the reason why I tried it again. Thank you for all your videos. I have watched lots until I found you. You are my favorite!

  5. Update on my starter. It’s a live. It is now 3 weeks old. My first one started smelling like dirt. Thank you for your videos. I have watched lots and you are my favorite!

  6. I love your approach to this. I tried the complicated method in the past but it was too much. Using your video, I had a start going in short order. Thanks so much for sharing your God-given talents!

  7. You have made my experience with sourdough starter so much easier. I had jars of it because I would feed it then not want throw any out. Then I realized I could bring it down to a small amount, feed it, and put it in the fridge. I would use it in a couple of days and repeat. So much easier. Thank you.

  8. I enjoy watching, I have learned it’s not as hard as I thought because I’ve watched your techniques, I’m 73 a just started making Sourdough! Thank you so much
    Charlyne Stoops

  9. Ok now I get it! I was doing very well with it….but the last time I fed it and put it in the fridge….I didn’t let it get bubbly before I put it away. It did not make my bread rise this time and didn’t smell nice and yeasty. So I’ve fed it a couple days on the counter doing discards. It’s smelling good again. So feed, then let it get bubbly THEN put up in the fridge! Thank you! Love your YT channel. It nice to know you’re not going to surprise us with a random curse word or somehow incorporate your political views into making sourdough. lol. Just a nice, friendly and sometimes funny channel. And helpful! You are my go to for all things sourdough

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