Meet Dillon, my sourdough starter.
If you’re new to sourdough, a starter is a live fermented culture of flour and water. Once it becomes all bubbly and active a small portion is added to your bread dough to make it rise- no commercial yeast is required. You’ll find more detailed writing and supplemental information in my book (trust me, I could go on and on!) but for now, all you need to know is this: without a starter the whole concept of sourdough baking would not exist.
So, what type of container is best for your starter? Does it even matter?
In my experience, sourdough storage depends on the baker. And to be honest, I’ve never heard of a container that’s necessarily good or bad, but I’m sure you’ll get all kinds of opinions if you ask around! In fact, I love when people post their starters to Instagram or to their blog. It’s fun to see the variety.
Here are four simple options to get you started:
1.) Glass Jar
This is my personal favorite. Over the years I’ve moved away from plastic containers and Tupperware out of choice. I like glass. It’s easy to clean and you don’t have to worry about any weird chemicals leaching into your starter.
Also, because glass is clear you can see everything that’s going on inside (all the bubbles, foamy stuff, any liquid… ). This instant visual access is super important when getting to know your starter and what you can do to fix it, if necessary. I’ll never forget: over the summer a fleet of fruit flies decided to take up residence in my jar. Had I been using a solid container of some sort, I never would’ve seen them! Gross, I know.
There are all types of glass jars you can choose from: mason jars, jam jars, latch top jars, canning jars with those metal ring tops you can never find… it’s up to you.
Regarding jar size, it’s all relative to the amount of starter you currently have or want to maintain in the future. Your starter will grow to at least double in size, sometimes more, and you’ll need a jar to accommodate this. You can cover it loosely with a lid, plastic wrap, or even a small cloth. I go back and forth depending on my mood. Keep in mind, the jar might burst if the lid is on too tight which means you’ll run the risk of getting glass shards in the mixture. This happened to me once and I had to throw the whole thing out. I use a 3/4 L jar for my starter, which is pictured above.
2.) Plastic Container
Although my preference is glass, I first started with a plastic container. I had no problems with it at all. From memory, I think it was a small, random BPA-free Tupperware container I unearthed from the depths of my kitchen cabinet.
As previously mentioned, I moved away from plastic. But there’s another reason why I made the switch: size.
Most plastic containers (unless you’re using a Chinese quart container for soup) are not tall. They’re wide and squat. I didn’t like this because it was hard to tell when my starter had doubled in size, which is a visual benchmark for when it’s ready to use.
In comparison to glass however, plastic doesn’t break; it only melts should you leave it on the bottom rack of your dishwasher ;)
3.) Pint Jar
When all of my glass jars are dirty or being used for something else, I use a pint glass! Yes, the kind you drink beer from at a bar. These are perfect for sourdough starters. They are nice and tall, and you can cover the top with a cloth or plastic wrap. Any type of large and tall glass will do. I have a stash in my kitchen.
4.) Stoneware Crock
Personally, I’ve never used this. King Arthur Flour offers large sourdough crocks which seem pretty popular. The selling point is that its material is non-reactive and the crock itself is easy to identify, so you won’t accidentally throw it out because it looks like pancake batter in a jar (see option #3). Unlike glass, I’m pretty sure these crocks do not burst easily either. Regardless, I still prefer clear containers so I can monitor what’s going on inside.
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Whatever container you choose, the trick is to play around to see what you like.
You might begin with a certain jar only to realize that it’s particularly annoying to clean, which then motivates you to switch to something else. And this is okay. Plus, overtime your starter will form crusty bits of dried flour at the top of the container and near the lid. When this happens (and it will), you’ll need to change it out anyway. So get creative and experiment with what you have!
So what about you? What type of container do you use for your sourdough starter?