It’s easy to put some of your sourdough starter discard in your fridge with the intention to use it and just forget about it completely. I should know, I’ve done it plenty of times.
It can be somewhat annoying when you remember that it’s there after a few days or weeks and makes you wonder whether it’s still safe to use.
Sourdough starter discard can stay fresh anywhere from a week to a month depending on how cold it is. The colder your fridge, the longer it will last. If you’re planning on keeping it in good condition for a while, you should feed it once a week. Alternatively, you can freeze it.
The only realistic way to store your sourdough starter discard for an extended period of time is either in the fridge or the freezer. We’ll just be focusing on fridge storage in this article. Storing it at room temperature isn’t a good idea. There’s more starter activity at room temperature so the gluten breaks down much faster and leaves you with a gloopy mess within a day or two.
How Do I Know If I Can Still Use My Sourdough Discard?
The older your sourdough discard gets, the worse its quality will be. It’s like anything left in the fridge.
I’m sure you’ve seen food go soft and moldy after you’ve forgotten about it for a few weeks. Starter discard can do the same kind of thing, but it won’t mold very easily.
There’s an amount of time where your starter remains in good condition and is still completely fine to use, but it can soon start to break down.
Over time, acid builds up in sourdough starters, which causes the structure to go downhill. This acid breaks down the gluten and leaves you with a sloppy and almost soupy mess. This can still potentially be used whilst it’s like this, but it will be very acidic and can be overwhelming in large amounts.
It’s best to not use your sourdough discard if it has been soupy for a while as this will leave you with a nasty taste. Instead, you should try and use it when it still has some sort of structure. This tells you that it’s not too acidic and can be used in many things.
One thing I personally like to do is feed my starter 1-2 times a day and just fill up a discard jar in my refrigerator. By doing this, I’m feeding the discard very small amounts every time and therefore maintaining it for longer. This works well for me since I use my discard quite a lot and rarely waste it.
Ways To Use Your Sourdough Discard
Since sourdough brings such a complex flavor to so many things, it’s a shame to have to pour it down the drain/put it in the bin before every feeding.
For this reason, people have come up with so many recipes for making standard food so much tastier with discard.
If you’ve never tried adding sourdough to these/using it this way, you need to do it. You’ll wonder why you’ve never done it once you’ve tried it.
- Banana Bread
- Tempura Batter
- Yeasted Bread (A cheat’s way to add more flavor)
- Use It On Your Skin (I know it sounds strange. Look into it)
I’m not going to go into depth about any of these as that’s not what this article is about, but I’m just letting you know how many simple recipes you can add your starter discard to.
Can I Limit The Amount Of Sourdough Discard I Get?
It’s an awful feeling when you have to actually get rid of your starter discard. You’re basically throwing away money – albeit pennies, but it’s still something.
If you’re feeding your starter twice a day or just using a lot of flour to feed it in general, it gets pretty wasteful and unwanted. You don’t always want to have to make something with your discard just because you have it.
Fortunately, there are a few perfectly reasonable ways in which you can reduce your starter discard so you don’t feel so wasteful. You’ll be using up much less flour.
Feed It A Smaller Amounts
Feeding a small amount of starter with a small amount of flour and water will leave you with significantly less discard than if you were to feed it as normal.
Instead of feeding your starter the standard 1:1:1 ratio (starter:flour:water) you can extend how long it takes for it to ripen by feeding it a 1:4:4 or even a 1:5:5 ratio.
You could try something like 5g starter to 25g of water and flour and see how that works for you. You can experiment with different amounts and see what works best.
All you have to do at this point is continue to feed your starter small amounts every time until you’ve built up too much starter and have to discard it.
Although this means that you still get discard, you won’t get nearly as much compared to what you’d get from feeding it normally.
The less starter you use, the longer it will take for feed on all the flour and it will therefore extend the length of time it takes for your starter to reach peak activity.
Only Feed It As Much As You Need
If you’re baking sourdough a lot, you shouldn’t have to worry much about discard.
You need to plan ahead when you’re going to make sourdough and figure out how much starter you’ll need for your recipe.
For example, if your recipe calls for 80g starter, a basic 1:1:1 feeding ratio would be 30g starter, 30g flour, and 30g water. This would leave you with 10g to be left over and fed as normal.
Without properly thinking about how much is going into your recipe, you could end up with too much left over starter that you’ll need to discard.
Keep It In The Fridge When You’re Not Using It
The most simple way to reduce the amount of discard you get from your starter is to keep it in the fridge when you’re not going to be baking with it.
By doing this, you’re basically stopping (or at least slowing) the starter’s activity and allowing it to last longer between feedings.
To store your starter in the fridge, all you have to do is feed it as normal, allow it to rise for a few hours, and place it in the fridge.
Make sure to take it out once a week for feeding before placing it back in after a few hours.
Ideally, if you’re planning to bake your sourdough, you should take the starter out a few days before and give it 2-3 feedings. This will help to get the wild yeast and bacteria back up to strength after they’ve been sleeping for a while.
Try The Scrapings Method
Bake with Jack likes to use a method that he calls the ‘scrapings method’.
This method involves using up virtually all of your sourdough starter apart from the scrapings on the side of the jar.
By doing this, you can store the scrapings in the fridge until you need to bake another sourdough loaf.
Simply remove the jar from the fridge and feed it the amount you need to use in your recipe and you’ll be all good to bake with it when it’s ripened.
Jack goes into more detail in the video below.