Sourdough Breadmaking Part 1 – The Starter

There are many good reasons to bake your own bread, if not only for the wonderful aroma that fills your kitchen when you do! I am also finding more and more that wheat based bread is very hard to digest and sits heavily on my stomach causing uncomfortable bloating, so I have decided to have a good at baking some of my own sourdough bread. In my next series of blog posts I will share with you how I get on at each stage, starting with Part 1 – The Starter.

Sourdough bread is made with wild yeast, or a starter and this is where the process begins. Before you do anything you need to get this going as it will take about a week to become active enough to bake with. After it is ready you will need to keep feeding and looking after it, almost like a pet (I will name mine Charlie!). The process sounds long winded but it is worth it, even just for the satisfaction that you have taken one more step towards your self sufficiency goals – one being never having to buy bread from the supermarket again!

How to make a sourdough starter

  1. Find a large earthenware or plastic container with a lid, large enough to allow for frothing and building up the volume of your starter.
  2. Mix equal parts of flour (wholemeal, rye or spelt) with water to make a paste/thick batter (see Fig 1). Whisk well to help incorporate lots of air and leave in the container for 24 hours.
  3. After this time the yeast spores in the air should have reacted with your starter and it will begin to ferment – you will see bubbles on the surface (see Fig 2). This could happen sooner or later depending on the flour used, how well you whisked it etc.
  4. When the bubbles appear you will need to give you starter it’s first feeding. This is done by whisking in another 150 g of flour and 250 ml warm water.
  5. After another 24 hours your starter will start to smell more ‘yeasty’, this is good! It will need another feed, this time by emptying half of the starter into a plastic bag and discarding. Then whisking in another 150 g of flour and 250 ml cold water this time.
  6. Continue in this way for about a week, emptying half every 24 hours and replacing and then your starter should be ready to bake with!

In part 2, I will detail the next steps required to make sourdough bread – the sponge.

Sourdough Starter first stage

Fig 1 - Sourdough Starter first stage

Sourdough starter fermenting

Fig 2 - Sourdough starter fermenting

Another Kitchen Garden Year at Herne Cottage

Hello one and all, I am back again to report on what’s been happening at Herne Cottage so far this year!

We started on the veg garden later than usual due to work and other commitments, beginning with a tidy of old pots and pruning in the patio area, as well as some vigorous de-weeding! We brought in a few tomato and cucumber plug plants to get us started and these were potted up along with some pretty spring bulbs and aromatic herbs. This gave us back our lovely relaxing patio area that is just perfect for unwinding in with a glasss of wine after a hard day’s gardening, and of course eating al fresco when the weather is good! We then got on with catch up sowings of lettuce, spinach, chard and peas a few weeks ago, which have started to push through in their seed trays this weekend.

There was a frost this week however, that caught us out after a good run of sunny spells, so the tomato plants have perished as they were left outside and we need to sow some more after all! With the longer days and warmer weather on the horizon, we should have some new plug plants in no time..

The next job to do this weekend was to clear the raised beds, again of old plants from last autumn as well as the weeds, and dig in some rich organic matter.

This helps prepare and improve the soil ready for planting out seedlings. We added in some chicken manure pellets, as well as our own compost, freshly sieved from the bottom of the bins. This is a very satisfying task knowing you are putting something useful back into the earth from your own kitchen waste recycling and helping the next years crop of veg grow beautifully! Home made compost is also great for seed sowing as has just the right consistency needed for the seedlings to push their roots through into.

The first seedlings to then go directly into the ground were radish and lollo rosso lettuce in one bed, with beetroot and marigold flowers in another. I am hoping these pairings will look decorative next to each other when they are in full growth, making the kitchen garden look ornamental as well as functional. In the greenhouse were sown our replacement tomatoes, french beans, courgette and curly kale. This year we have also sown runner bean seedlings saved from last years pods, so that will be interesting to see how well they come up as well. This is a great way to save money instead of buying new seeds every year. If you can let some of your crop go to seed for this purpose it again is a recycling process of the whole garden, putting back into the earth some of what you take out.

The redcurrant, blackcurrant, raspberries, blackberries and gooseberry plants have all now been pruned in our fruit garden, and the base of the plants de-weeded with a sprinkling potash feed to get them off to a good start. The gooseberries already have flowers on as well as the sloes so here’s hoping for another bumper fruit harvest this year. The neighbouring damson trees from the railway embankment are also nearly in full blossom (and very pretty) so we should have another crop of wild fruits ready to make into delicious damson gin again ready for Christmas!

Lastly in the fruit garden, our rhubarb donation from mother in law last year has several healthy looking stems, so will have to find a delicious recipe to use that in over the next few weeks for when it is ready to harvest. I am hoping it is around the same time as the gooseberries as that will be a tasty (sharp tasting) pairing!

A final look back at the garden to the newly tidied raised beds and that’s our job done for this weekend. Now all we have to do is wait for the seedlings to push through, then the next round of kitchen garden tasks will need to be done, including thinning, potting on, and weeding…. but that’s for another post :)

Bye for now and happy gardening!

Spinach seedlings

Spinach seedlings

Clearing the raised beds of weeds

Clearing the raised beds of weeds

Sieving home made compost

Sieving home made compost

Home made compost

Home made compost

Saving runner bean seeds

Saving runner bean seeds

Damson blossom

Damson blossom

Tidied raised beds ready for another year of vegetable growing

Tidied raised beds ready for another year of vegetable growing