In 2001, I decided I wanted to start making sourdough bread. I ordered a starter from King Arthur Flour. It was a great little starter. Simple instructions (KAF is great with instructions) arrived with the container. I followed them....until I didn't. Life (work - new job) got in the way. The poor little starter was neglected. It died an untimely death.
Fast forward to 2008 - I decide it is time to attempt sourdough again, fully committed to the needs of a starter. I considered purchasing another starter, but decided to give it a whirl "catching" my own. I followed instructions very similar to these, except I recall using rye flour for a much longer time. I caught a very vigorous rising yeast. It was great. I loved on that starter. We were getting along so well. Unlike the time before, I had plenty of folks more than willing to take a loaf or two of sourdough off my hands. (While I love to bake bread and my family is only provided homebaked bread, we never finish a loaf.) The starter lived with our family for quite some time. It was a very happy existence until a busy period of work travel hit. Knowing the starter's needs and my impending travel hades, I astutely decided to freeze a portion of the starter for posterity.
The frozen starter found its way to the back of the freezer. You can fill in the rest. I would occasionally see it back in there and ponder "I need to get that back out and love on it" but would quickly realize there were upcoming trips/family commitments/etc. that would cut into my attention and prevent the starter from receiving the love it needed to thrive again. I finally dug it out this past fall. No matter how much love and attention I showed the starter, it couldn't be revived. It was absolutely my own doing. I had a period of mourning.
I finally kicked myself into reality and decided to "catch" another starter. Heck, I did it before with ease, right? Apparently my first experience was not indicative of usual success levels. No matter how many times I tried, I was not catching another wild type yeast! I was so frustrated! (Although, I do plan to try again this summer hoping that shifts in household temperature will be the key. I will not give up easily!)
Sitting at Taekwondo one day with some other moms, I overheard one make reference to her sourdough starter. I kindly requested a bit of her starter and she gladly shared. That's what sourdough is really about - sharing. This starter has a wonderful aroma and acidic bite. (My fabulous wild-caught was a very vigorous riser, but didn't have a strong acidic bite.) I promptly took the starter home and started loving on it.
Then my problem arose: I was trying to make the new starter be just like my wild-caught one. As in life, anytime you try to make someone or something into what you THINK they/it should be - you will get bit in the rear.
Moral of the story: open yourself to new approaches and possibilities. The results are always surprising and most often fabulous.
If you live nearby, let me know if you need some starter. I finally have come to an understanding with it.
Notes from the needles:
Lots of things have flown off the needles during my absence. (Knitting was one of the few things keeping me sane during the incredibly busy period.)