A Sailing Sourdough Starter Care Guide

By Capt Kyle

Everyone needs some tender love and care, and no more than one of your most valuable crew members, the main breadwinner- your sourdough starter! Here are our top tips for maintaining and caring for your sourdough starter aboard.

Sourdough starter in jar

Congratulation on your new crew member!

Your new sourdough starter is a living breathing thing, just like us, it is filled with a whole host of bacteria as well as natural yeast, all of which need special care in order to survive. It has been a long-standing tradition for bakers to name their starters and being a seagoing starter you are going to need all of the luck you can get. Perhaps giving your starter a name and a persona might just guilt you into feeding and caring for it that little bit more.

Comment below your punniest sourdough starter names!

Create a redundancy starter

Before you dive into the wonderful world of sourdough baking we recommend creating a backup starter should you happen to lose your original overboard if things just don't work out between you whilst you are learning. As we all know too well, precious provisions like this don't come around all that often.

A super simple way to create a redundancy starter is to:

  1. Take a square of baking paper and spread a heaped tablespoon across the paper as thinly as you can manage.

  2. Leave the starter to naturally dry in a warm environment. For those in warmer climates, this may be only a few hours, or for those in cooler climates it might take all day.

  3. Once the starter is dry and crumbly, gently peel the baking paper off and store the starter in a clean, dry repurposed jar. This can be stored almost indefinitely if the environment is clean, dry, and stored away from direct light.

  4. To revive your starter simply add equal quantities of starter, good quality rye flour, and water to a jar and leave to sit at room temperature. For the next 4-5 days we recommend feeding your revived sourdough to build its strength before baking. To do this, use equal quantities of starter from the previous days batch, rye flour, and water. You will likely have quite a bit of leftover sourdough starter here; don’t just toss this, it makes great pancakes, crepes, crackers, or biscuits.

Stowing the starter

If you are on passage and won’t be baking for a few days (up to a week) sourdough starters are quite happy to be stored in their jar in the fridge with little other attention required. Any longer than this and they will need to be fed.

Feeding the beast

To ‘feed’ a sourdough involves removing it from the fridge and adding equal quantities in rye flour and water, mixing thoroughly, and leaving it to sit in a warm environment until it bubbles and doubles (or triples in size). We tend to stick with a ratio of ¼ cup water and ¼ cup of rye flour, which gives us enough starters to bake 1-2 loaves.

Depending on your climate this activation stage may vary. In warmer climates, this process may be as quick as an hour or two and in colder climates, you may not see any activity until the end of the day. Once your sourdough is activated it is ready to use.

Harvesting the starter

To test the starter is in fact activated, place one spoon of starter in a cup of water- not only should it look like a doughy mousse but it should also float. If not, add an additional tablespoon of flour and water and leave for an extra hour in a warm spot aboard. Once your starter is active spoon out the starter into your mixing bowl leaving no less than 1 tablespoon remaining in the jar for next time.

This remaining starter can go back in the fridge until the next time you wish to bake or feed it again. Alternatively, if you bake daily, feed it again and leave it on the countertop to activate before the next bake.

Ready to bake? Click HERE to show me how!

Capt Kyle​

A liveaboard sailor, pilot, and jack of all trades. Kyle has been a graphic designer for 19 years, whilst he has traveled the world via boat, bicycle, and bus. His business Nauti Drawings and freelance graphic design has allowed him to create a nomadic existence and satisfied his perpetual need for travel. He is a mad keen spearo, as well as a self-proclaimed sourdough baker, and always keen to explore new wellness concepts and trial alternative lifestyle techniques.

See more of Kyle



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