[Editors note... this is a copy of my original post on the asthma blog. I moved it over so that it would all be in one place]
Growing up in Alaska, my parents usually had a sourdough. I've had a few over the years including two that I created from scratch. [editors note: For those of you not in know about a sourdough, I haven't done a ton of research, but know that the technology dates back quite a while. In theory, a sourdough is a living organism which substitutes for actual yeast activities.]
Basically, a sourdough is stagnent when cold. When fed (flour and either milk or water) and warmed up it has an active fermentation reaction which causes it to rise. As I became more interested in sourdough, I learned to creat a lot more stuff with it, but traditionally, coming across the plains and in various gold rushes (sourdough is very popular in gold rush areas of California and Alaska) it would have been used for pancakes and biscuits and the like. In Alaska, generally a prospector or musher would carry it in the sled for the day and then feed it at night and take it in the night sack with them where the body heat would warm it up for cooking in the morning.
There's two huge components to sourdough, flavor and activity. Many of ya'll are likely familiar with sourdough bread which can have varying degrees of flavor. In my opinion, commercial sourdough is hit and miss since it never really ages. A sourdough starter will improve with flavor the older it is. I had a pretty good sourdough until we moved a couple years ago (and our new house caught on fire 3 days after we moved in- a whole 'nother story). Generally there are bragging rights that go along with the age of your starter.
While in Alaska earlier this year, we stayed at a B&B with a woman who had two sourdoughs. She and I bonded over this, and she gave me some of hers to play with. I brought it home and did my thing and presto, three months later I have a butt kicking sourdough. This starter came across the plains in the 1840's, attending the 49'er gold rush, the Klondike goldrush and the little known Nome goldrush. Below are shots that I took yesterday morning as I made sourdough pancakes.
Good morning Bubbles! (Last night I fed your three cups of milk and three cups of flour and covered you with a towel) Look at you now!
First, save back what you originally started with the night before- your sourdough starter for next time.
I try to keep this much. Always use glass or plastic for a sourdough. No metal!
Sugar to assist with browing....
Oil to preven sticking....
Eggs (three cups flour means you use three cups milk and then the next morning three eggs)
Now who's bubbly?
Unfortunately, there are no pictures of the pancakes because they get eaten so fast.
Thanks for watching the science experiement.