adventures with sourdough, or, should my starter smell like vomit?

I decided some time ago that I would take advantage of the summer warmth in my kitchen (the same heat that keeps me from baking bread in July and August) to grow a sourdough starter. I had a couple of recipes to choose from — Maggie Glezer’s firm starter or King Arthur’s more batter-y starter. I opted for Glezer’s because the instructions seemed simpler and more idiot-proof.

Anyway, the first starter turned out well enough. Glezer’s instructions stated that at the time the first starter needed to be fed, it would “look and smell awful.” However, mine had a pleasant, earthy smell. I just figured I was more of a natural at this than others since I didn’t seem to find the smell as offensive as others apparently did.

And then came the second starter. By the time the second starter had fermented to the point of needing to be fed, it was a struggle for me to keep the bile down. In my many years of mommyhood — being vomited on, changing poopy diapers (I know you get the picture) — I have never smell anything so vile as this starter. (Glezer writes it should have “very little odor.” Clearly there is either a difference of opinion as to what “little odor” means or something’s gone very, VERY wrong.) Having read many bread baking blogs, I decided to have faith in my starter, in fermentation, and in God (that He/She will not allow me to be so easily poisoned by fermented rye flour), and continue on.

This morning I prepared my third starter (i.e. the fed product of the second starter). I didn’t take a picture of the starter because I couldn’t breathe while the container lid was off. I threw away the extra second starter (you only use 2 ounces of the old started to make the next one) — sealed tupperware and all. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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