The hustle and bustle of the holiday season brings tradition, good food, time with loved ones, and gift giving. This year, I was gifted a very priceless and very unique gift from a special childhood friend. My sweet middle school friend RR offered a start from her beloved sourdough starter. Having a sourdough starter has been on my life list for some time, so I jumped at the chance to have some. Meet "Felix," our newest farm pet.
RR handed me my own start from Felix, tips on how to care for him, and some handwritten recipes to try at home. The start, (a portioned section of her own starter), came in a glass mason jar with a breathable top. I was directed to keep Felix in a relatively warm place at home and to feed him equal parts unbleached flour and tepid water each day. Felix's daily feedings are mixed with a wooden spoon and he does best with unbleached flour. RR also shared that Felix has lived a good life. Starts from him go back over one hundred years. Yes...over 100 years.
To get a little more background on sourdough, I referred to some books gifted to me by another special someone. When we first moved to the farm, my wonderful mother-in-law passed on two books from her library. In recent conversations with my husband, I discovered that Papa Klann owned a sourdough starter as well, and that he made bread each Sunday for several years. The combination of the informative books and the background from my husband provide obvious motivation to bake sourdough once again at our farm.
According to one of the books, "In the sourdough yeast-making process, the yeast spores, given the proper host such as flour and warm water, break down the starch into sugar, the fermentation can continue as long as it has nutrients to feed on." By feeding Felix daily, I can be sure to keep him alive for years to come. The book goes on to say, "On the frontier, a sourdough starter (or sponge, as it is sometimes called) was the most important personal possession a family could have, next to the Holy Bible." Impressive stuff.
Felix has since found a new vessel to reside in. Over the winter, the starter will stay near the wood burning stove in the living room. This clearly justifies putting him into something pretty!
I will point out that we can also postpone feeding Felix if needed. If we travel somewhere for an extended period of time, Felix can go unfed in the fridge for 30 days. Phew. That's a farm perk worth celebrating, as vacations away require thoughtful planning. With the many mouths to feed and daily watering chores, even considering leaving the farm for any amount of time is tricky business.
Since having Felix these last few weeks, we've made a few batches of sourdough pancakes. One day soon, we will take the time to make a loaf of sourdough bread. This is a much more time consuming process, but well worth it in the end I am sure. I have some inherited cast iron pots and pans that need a good elbow grease cleaning. Once finished, we hope to make a batch of bread as big as the one pictured below.