Wild grape sourdough starter: what's the story?

When I first began baking with sourdough, I remember hearing older bakers talk about creating a new starter by first burying wild grapes in the flour they planned to use. Wild grape sourdough starter, while it wouldn’t ultimately perform any differently than starter created with “un-graped” flour and water, would become active more quickly, they said.

I never did try making that wild grape sourdough starter — until now.

Grape sourdough starter via @kingarthurflour

The other morning, walking through a wild meadow with my dogs, I suddenly caught a whiff of grapes on the warm, humid air. I looked around and, sure enough, poking out of a thicket were the telltale heart-shaped leaves of grapevines.

Grape sourdough starter via @kingarthurflour

I pulled aside brambles and twigs to find beautifully ripe grapes, some just starting to soften, others plump and firm. Eating a few, I found them thick-skinned and seedy, but wonderfully sweet.

Wild grape sourdough starter — if not now, when? Click To Tweet

Grabbing a handful of grapes, I headed home along the salt marsh, carefully holding them by the stem so as not to disturb their skin.

What’s up with that? The skin of wild grapes (as well as berries) is positively seductive to wild yeast. Wild yeast floating in the air will collect on grape skins. So legend has it that burying wild grapes in flour will transfer some of that wild yeast to the sourdough starter you make with the flour.

Let’s see what happens.

Grape sourdough starter via @kingarthurflour

“Graping” the flour

Here I’ve buried a small handful of grapes in a scant 1 cup (4 ounces) of King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour. I’ll leave them in the flour overnight, then remove them when I’m ready to make my starter.

Disclaimer: This isn’t strict science. I didn’t weigh the grapes, nor did I ascertain what type they are, nor “vet” them for their wild yeast content. This is simply a seat-of-the-pants food experiment — one which I encourage you to perform yourself, should you get the chance.

I’ll compare my grape-enhanced flour against King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour and plain King Arthur all-purpose flour.

Why the whole wheat flour? Starter created from whole wheat or rye flour quickly becomes active for the same reason grape-flour starter would: the microflorae in whole grains are attractive to wild yeast.

Grape sourdough starter via @kingarthurflour

Three flours, three starters

Putting 4 ounces of each type of flour in three different jars, I add 4 ounces of cool water, lay the jar lids loosely on top, and set the jars on the counter.

Grape sourdough starter via @kingarthurflour

The second feeding

Twenty-four hours later, the starters are beginning to work. At this point, the grape-flour starter (left) and plain flour starter (right) are a bit behind the whole wheat starter (center).

Look at the bubbles in each, though. It always amazes me that flour and water, given time, can become a bread leavener — a.k.a. sourdough starter.

I discard all but 4 ounces of starter from each jar, feed them each a scant 1 cup (4 ounces) of unbleached all-purpose flour and 4 ounces of water, and walk away, expecting I’ll feed them again the next day.

Grape sourdough starter via @kingarthurflour

A few hours later

But within just seven hours … oh, my, look at those starters go!

The grape sourdough starter and plain starter are neck and neck, nearly to the top of their respective jars. But the whole wheat starter has poked its lid off and is starting to ooze onto the counter. The whole wheat starter has clearly maintained (and even increased) its early lead.

The takeaway

What can I conclude from this experiment?

There’s nothing wrong with burying wild grapes in flour and making a grape sourdough starter; it should perform well.

But if you’re looking for a fast start, begin with whole-grain flour, such as wheat or rye. You don’t need to continue to feed your starter with whole grains. But using wheat or rye as the vehicle for first attracting and trapping wild yeast is a smart choice.

As is taking your starter and making a loaf of Rustic Sourdough Bread.

Grape sourdough starter via @kingarthurflour

Want to make your own sourdough starter from scratch? See our blog post, How to make your own sourdough starter. And learn everything you need to know about sourdough baking in our sourdough baking guide.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


    1. Mickey

      I prefer spelt and distilled H20 for my sourdough starter. Though I have used vine ripe Champaign grapes to develop my own natural yeast for basic yeast bread.

  1. Erin in PA

    PJ, I always enjoy reading your blog posts and your adventures in the kitchen. Even though I have really cut back on my baking due to dietary needs, I still keep my sourdough going in the fridge. I love baking with it and sharing the tasty results with friends. This experiment would be wonderful to do with my 10 year old. We have been baking together since she was about 2! 🙂

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Thanks, Erin – sourdough is so interesting, isn’t it? Never a dull moment! Have fun with your daughter, and thanks for passing along your love of baking to the next generation. PJH

  2. Jim B.

    Poor article that suckered us in with the wild grapes in the title to drop a whole wheat message. Might as well said Nuclear Exposed Banana Starter and then just meandered to the whole wheat…message…

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Not my intention, Jim – I really did think the wild grape starter would at least equal (if not surpass) the whole wheat one. But that wasn’t the case; so all I did was tell the truth and report the results. Sorry you felt suckered. PJH

    2. Annette

      Finally retired after working 40 years in medical research. I always told the students that just because they do not always get an experimental result that they expected does NOT mean they have a negative result. Their results are learning tools to help them to think and adapt. PJ, I think your starter experiment was very informative. Thank you for daring to think outside the conventional box. That is how I became successful with my work. 🙂

    3. PJ Hamel, post author

      Thanks, Annette – as a part-time health writer, I appreciate the decades you spent trying to make life better for your fellow humans. Now – go have some fun with sourdough! 🙂 PJH

    4. Ruth

      Interesting reaction. My reaction was to consider combining grapes and whole wheat flour. I also wonder if it will work with domestic grapes and what flavors will result from using different varieties. We grow about 5 different kinds. Can’t wait for dawn to break – I’ll go out and get some. Thank you!

    5. Nancy Lee

      You couldn’t be more wrong, Jim B.! She did a fair test, across the board, and showed us the results. I always use whole rye to make starter for the same reason she used whole wheat – whole grains, in general, react much better and quicker to wild yeasts. Maybe you need a little nap – you seem a bit cranky.

    6. p b

      Jim…my mom would say…”don’t be such an ol’ sour grape”….the experiment was fun and informative

    7. M. Duncan

      I have to say that it is by no means bait and switch. It was a great experiment; and as Annette points out, just because you didn’t get you’re expected result, doesn’t mean you didn’t get a result. We learned that whole grain flour retains more wild yeast than cleared versions. We also found that simply burrying grapes in flour for 24 hours doesn’t impart the amount of yeast hoped for from the grape skins. We do know that they are living on those grapes. So next time, soak a 1/2 cup of raisins in warm water for an hour. This should infuse the yeast culture into the water. Then make your seed culture from whole grain flour and raisin water on the first day. Afterwards, feed it with whatever flour you intend to continue with. One could even run the above experiment again using the raisin water instead of the grapes.

  3. Charles Sorrentino

    I have made sourdough starter beginning with King Arthur white whole wheat and added the bread flour in the next step. It seems that the bread flour is not a good choice to continue the starter as it does not produce the bubbles well. I am wondering if bread flour is just not a good medium for sourdough??.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Charles, bread flour will be fine; you just need to increase the amount of water a bit, due to bread flour’s higher protein (and higher absorption). The reason you didn’t see as many bubbles is that your starter was thicker, making it more difficult for bubbles to form. Hope this helps – PJH

  4. Diane Lewis

    I have a sourdough starter that I did 8 years ago from grapes on 100 year old vines. I took a cluster put it in cheese cloth and submerged it the flour,water mixture, left at room temp for 3 days and then fed it according to recipe from the Panera cookbook. My husband calls it our “child” as we take it with us when traveling between our permanent and vacation home. It makes the best english muffins, stick bread and french loaves all with King Arthur flour. I have shared this starter with friends who request it to make their own bread.

    1. leah

      Many years ago when Nancy Silverton’s book came out, i jumped into baking with both feet. Breathlessly followed her instructions to the letter, and my baby sourdough starter was born. I brought it with me to work so as not to miss feedings; my boss was kindly indulgent, and my roommate at the time declared “if i come to the kitchen early one morning and this thing has a heartbeat, i’m moving out!”

      so nice to know that someone else traveled with their starter!

  5. Wanda bamberg

    This is interesting and fun to learn.
    Once upon a time, when I was young and didn’t know better, I picked About a gallon of wild grapes we found by the side of a country road…..with which I intended to make jelly. In a short while my hands started stinging and burning. They didn’t get red but the pain was big and horrible. Couldn’t wash it off and nothing I tried to ease the stinging helped. It just had to wear off, which happened in several hours….while I cried! Later I learned from the older, wiser women to always wear rubber gloves when picking wild grapes! By now I am one of the older……….women….I don’t intend to pick wild. Grapes again, but if I do…..rubber gloves! 🤗

    1. Kathryn

      We made mustang grape wine this year using only grapes, sugar and water, no yeast! Excellent wine. Yes, our hands itched and burned like a thousand fire ant bites! Next year, rubber gloves! And I’m wondering, can I make sour dough starter out of gluten free flour?

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      I didn’t keep the three starters separate once they all got going; I combined them into one. But I can tell you from past experience that what you start your starter with quickly becomes a distant memory, taste-wise; within a couple of feedings any potential flavor from the “starter’s starter” has disappeared. PJH

  6. Cassie Wilkins

    Cool! Love that you showed us this.
    I love sourdough bread and love using the discard in other things.
    I’m back to making and eating sourdough bread after having to take several months of a necessary restricted diet to get my system back into working order. Sourdough bread, homemade sourdough bread, doesn’t mess me up.
    Hubby loves that I’m baking bread again, also. 🙂

  7. Merna Tontat

    I will always remember a drive in the country with my husband where we came aping an amusing scene. Across the stubble of a harvested grain field we watched the farmer with his front loader lifting his wife high along a tree line heavily strung with wild grape vine. As she finished at one spot he would move her along the row. They were not going to be short of grape jelly and probably wine and starter for their bread that winter! Thanks for the great article.

  8. Mary Lynn Kinkade

    What an interesting article. I am going to try this method of making a starter with Elderberries which also get a visible coating of yeast in the fall. We don’t have wild grapes here in Washington state, so will give Elderberries a try.

  9. Katie

    Wild grapes make the most amazing jelly to go with that sourdough bread! So rich in pectin, it will start to thicken while boiling with the sugar (my grandma never added pectin). Sadly, in our property, the chipmunks and birds get them before I do!

  10. Denise Plested

    I thought you had to leave the flour and water uncovered to collect all the yeasts…
    I think I might try this with mustang grapes and whole wheat. Sounds explosive!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Denise, a lid slightly ajar is best for growing your sourdough starter. It will allow just the right amount of gas exchange without causing the starter to dry out. Ky@KAF

  11. Judy Shantie

    Wonderful experiment! Easy to see the winner. I just never knew that wheat flour would react faster. Thank you for sharing that. Judy

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re happy to help explain. Try to separate in your mind fluid ounces and the weight of each ounce. 1 cup of flour weighs much less than 1 cup of water (think about the weight of 1 cup of rocks vs. 1 cup of feathers). Ingredients have varying weights based on their density. So when making sourdough starter, either use measuring cups or weigh your ingredients using a scale. 1 cup of all-purpose flour = 4 1/4 ounces and 1 cup of water = 8 ounces. I hope that helps clarify! Kye@KAF

  12. Tom

    Years ago I used my grapes to make starter. I do not like wine and when I made my loaf of beautiful bread and tasted it, well my wine loving friends loved it and I hated it.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We like the way you think, Looloo! Good results + better results = SUPER results! Let us know if you give it a try. We know what we’re going to do with the next bunch of wild grapes we come across. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    2. Joan Auclair

      I used the KAF method for creating my own sourdough starter and it took two weeks (not counting the week I lost because I didn’t use filtered water and had to start over). As recommended, I used whole grain flour (spelt). Then I read in the comments how someone used wild grapes—covered them with water and let them sit, uncovered, for a day, then crushed them and let them sit, covered with plastic, for a couple days, then submerged them, in cheesecloth, in flour and water. So I tried that, with the same whole spelt flour, and it took maybe a day after I submerged the grapes in the flour and water. Now I’m maintaining both kinds of starter.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Patricia, the grapes in the starter don’t affect the flavor of the bread at all. In fact, they never add any flavor to the starter at all, since all you’re doing is accessing the yeast off their skins, not the grapes themselves. PJH

  13. Janine Kramer

    A few years ago, I made my own starter from the grapes that we have in our yard. So much fun! I bake a couple of no-knead sourdough loaves every week, plus waffles on Saturdays. According to a friend’s son, my sourdough is ‘the best bread ever!’ In fact, we had grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner using a loaf that had been in the freezer. I’ve heard that freezing sourdough enhances some beneficial quality, but I can’t remember what it was. Have you heard anything along those lines?

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Sounds like you have a very happy starter, Janine! I’ve never heard that freezing starter (or bread — not sure which you mean) enhances it in any way… Readers, does anyone have any information on this? PJH

  14. Mary Athanatos

    Just as a matter of interest , what happens with the wild grapes! You mention the yeast collecting on the grapes, I therefore assume the grapes are not washed before using to make starter? Many thanks

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Right, Mary – you don’t wash the grapes before using, as you want to access the yeast collected on their skins. Personally, this doesn’t bother me; I think it’s important to wash grapes you buy at the store due to any potential chemical residue, but wild grapes? No fertilizer, no pesticides, no problem! 🙂 PJH

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Great question! Here’s what author PJ Hamel wrote when another curious reader asked the same thing: “I didn’t keep the three starters separate once they all got going; I combined them into one. But I can tell you from past experience that what you start your starter with quickly becomes a distant memory, taste-wise; within a couple of feedings any potential flavor from the “starter’s starter” has disappeared. PJH” I hope that helps! Kye@KAF

  15. Janet Nakagawa

    I have a grape vine in my Mililani backyard-about 35 years old now. I did try the grapes in AP flour recipe and will soon start baking. Looking forward! Aloha!
    When is KAF coming back to Hawaii?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We are happy to let you know that there are multiple locations on Oahu that do carry our flour, Janet! You can check them out using our store locator here. If you’re looking to receive our flour in some place more remote, you can always order it from our website and have it delivered right to your door. Happy sourdough baking! Kye@KAF

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Gus, it was cooler than it’s been in awhile; probably mid 70s. You can always speed things up or slow them down by adjusting temperature, as I’m sure you know. I was actually surprised at how quickly it worked! Sourdough often has a mind of its own… PJH

  16. Anne

    Glad you did the experiment and tested out how this worked in your kitchen, but I’m not surprised that the wild grapes weren’t as successful as the whole wheat. The current research we have about wine grapes and yeasts says that the outsides of fresh, whole grapes actually carry very, very, very little Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Those data are for cultivated wine grapes, not wild grapes, but we also have evidence that human activity is a major source of spreading yeasts in cultivated vineyards, so wild grapes aren’t likely to harbor more yeast. It makes sense that we’d think yeast hang out on grapes, since grapes will ferment spontaneously once you crush them, but the yeast come in from other surfaces and only settle in grapes once they’ve been broken open to expose their sweet juices. Your experience is coherent with those studies!

  17. Julie Jacobus

    I have a question – if I’m unable to have wild grapes will regular, store-bought grapes work at all? Just wondering, since this sounds interesting and good.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Julie, I don’t think store-bought grapes would be good. The point is the wild yeast the grape skins collect while they’re growing, and I suspect packaged grapes go through a cleansing/washing/sanitizing process before they hit the store shelf, which would rid them of anything that was on their surface — from not good (pesticides) to good (wild yeast). It wouldn’t hurt to try, but if you did a side-by-side with and without grapes, I think you’d fine the results identical. Good question — thanks for connecting here. PJH

  18. PCM

    I’ve read about potato being used for sourdough starter, too, but never tried it. Perhaps it’s time I should do my own experiment!

  19. Maryann

    Apologies if this has already been asked. The wild grapes pictured look like Muscadine. Can you speculate if this is correct? We recently moved from California to North Carolina and discovered two things. The only grapes that will grow in our area are the green or purple varieties of Muscadine and I can’t get decent sourdough bread anywhere. Muscadines grow like weeds here and I don’t know if I’ll ever learn to enjoy them as fruit or wine but sourdough sounds promising.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Sorry, Maryann, I have no clue what the grapes are. They’re not Concord, I can tell you that. Nor Muscadine, which grows in the Southeast, not here in the Northeast. But I’d have to do some research to figure out what else they might be — something that grows alongside a salt marsh in coastal Massachusetts… PJH

    2. Sunnydaye

      Probably scuppernongs which we always called scupadines growing up. Both scuppernongs and muscadines grow wild here in the southeast, scups being lighter, greenish and muscadines smaller and dark purple.

    3. Shasta

      Maybe Mustang grapes. We live near Grapeland, TX. (named for all the wild grapes), and have an abundance of Mustang, Muscadine, and Fox grapes growing. Everywhere. And I do mean everywhere!

  20. Lolly

    I love finding new uses for my plentiful grape crop. How could this work to jazz up the starter, whose name is Frederick, that I already maintain? Frederick was originally a KAF starter who has evolved in time. Would a little grape-infused flour alter him?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Lolly, I think it would probably give him a nice boost, but you might want to feed this flour to some of your discarded starter, just to be sure no harm comes to Frederick. Barb@KAF

  21. BB

    3 years ago I was given some raw honey from San Francisco (we live in Texas). I decided to see if using a tablespoon of it would make a nice sourdough. It turned out so nice, that I replaced my 5 year old “grape” starter with it. Everyone in the family thought it tasted more “authentic” with the wild caught yeasts from the honey. It also seems to tolerate being neglected better than my past starters did. It would be interesting to see if there is any science behind these differences, but for now, we just enjoy having George III as a part of many family meals!

    1. Shasta

      I have added raw honey that a friend of ours gave me from his beehives to my sourdough, and it did so well. Everyone loved the breads, pancakes, etc. I accidentally left my starter at home one time when we left for a long weekend reenactment, so lost it. I need to get some going again.

  22. Diane

    It doesn’t sound like the grapes really added anything as it developed a sourdough starter at the same rate as the mixture of only flour and water (or did I miss something)? The experiment was interesting but if a usable starter was obtained in the same amount of time not using grapes, is there really a reason to use grapes to get a sourdough starter? Doesn’t seem like the yeast from the grapes mattered. Enjoying the blogs.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Exactly right, Diane – I wanted to see if using grapes would make a difference, and the way in which I used them — burying them in flour to extract wild yeast from their skin — didn’t make any appreciable difference in how quickly the starter became active. PJH

  23. Jesspet

    I have always wanted to try this and your post gave my the inspiration to give it a go. I used Catawba grapes that we planted a few years ago. They look very much like the grapes in your picture. Apparently they grow well in New England, although they ripen very late in the season – like early October! My starter is on day 3 and looking great. I used whole wheat flour. I began by burying the grapes in flour and then (I can’t let well enough alone) decided to wrap them in cheese cloth, squish them a bit, and bury then in a flour/water mixture. It’s working! Thanks so much for the inspiration. I am so looking forward to sourdough waffles this weekend!

  24. Rosemary

    I did this years ago with unwashed organic store-bought grapes and crushed them, then added the juice along with the water to a small amount of flour (I always use King Arthur Special Flour in 50-lb. bags). The wild yeasts worked beautifully and I kept “Vito” going for years.

  25. Dizzy

    According to most things I’ve read, yeast doesn’t become active for 2-3 days after the pH drops below 3.6. Prior to that the yeasts are dormant. What you’re witnessing is gas forming bacteria at work…Leuconostoc, to be exact, in all the starters. It takes two weeks for a starter to fully mature and all the LAB to be active.

    1. Ben

      Exactly. You beat me to it. I have seen that bacterial activity in all my starters for the first couple days. Then it dies off and the yeast / bacteria balance takes about two weeks to set in.

  26. Teresa

    I tried the wild grape starter and it worked well but had a strange smell, not like the yeasty smell of my King Arthur sourdough starter. Is that normal? I was wary of using it and threw it out. It was an interesting experiment though.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      No telling what might have happened, Teresa. You probably could have just kept feeding it and the smell would have dissipated, but no harm starting again, either. Best of luck – PJH

  27. Joyce

    the wildlife got to my wild Concord grapes before I could try this. I found a few shriveled clusters on the vine. Do you think this method would work with shriveled, dry grapes?

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Joyce, since the wild grapes didn’t seem to make any difference in how the starter performed anyway, I suspect shriveled wild grapes will produce the same outcome — no difference. But go ahead and use them, it certainly won’t hurt. Good luck — hope your starter is soon bubbling like crazy! PJH

  28. Ruth

    My husband starts a sourdough culture in his Advanced Biology course each year. Great hands on activity for high school students.

    1. Ruth

      Yes, they do bake bread. Depending on the year they also make cheese so then they have sourdough cheese sandwiches.

  29. Lorrie Echols

    Not about bread, but I used to throw a handful of concord grapes into a bucket of goat milk for almost instant cheese for my chickens. They LOVED it!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Shasta, no, the grapes are put whole and unwashed into the flour. Although I have seen sourdough starters that use milk, our starter does not. Barb@KAF

  30. Chip

    Another good choice this time of year for a starter are the skins from apples bought at a farmer’s market. You can often see the haze of wild yeast on the apple skins. I suggest a farmer’s market because the yeast may have been washed off apples offered by grocery stores.

  31. Libby

    I think that the point of sour dough is not about the way it rises, but in the way it tastes. For years now I have sampled many wild yeasts from the various leaves and fruits in many climates. One of my favorites is wild raspberry leaves from Minnesota. If you have ever tried SanFransisco starter, you’ll have gotten the notice that the yeast will acquire local strains and soon lose that “twang” that it starts with. I find the raspberry, and other local leaves, to have that twang, too. It’s the flavor, not the rise, that makes it special.

  32. Janice

    Thank you for sharing this. Starters are so interesting. This past Spring, in the baking class at the culinary Institute I am preparing to graduate from (woohoo), we were shown to wrap the grapes in cheese cloth & crush them.a bit to release some of their juices. We then out it into the flour & water for 24 hrs. We didn’t test the speed of the reaction, but the subtle flavor was a nice touch.

  33. Reid Stetson

    Dearest friends,

    I am working with an “heirloom” starter that is well over 100 years old. It was created from raisins (before everything dried was also sulfured) as a fund-raiser for a church in Central Ohio just about the turn of the 20th Century. A student of mine gave me some of the starter in the mid-70s and I carried it with me for about seven years. Less-fortunate times forced me to give it up but years later a friend in Central Ohio spoke of a starter he was given. It sounded all too familiar. In fact, it was the same one. I was given another starter and it behaved exactly as I remembered. This too was a direct descendent of the original; effectively, I am only the “fourth owner” of it.

    As I tell folks, please remember that these are largely “wine yeasts” (as opposed to beer or later bread yeasts.) They may not behave at all the way one might expect. Mine produces a delectable bread with a dense crumb, not entirely unlike the first stage of Zweibach. It also makes delightful pretzels as well as very good rye and marble rye breads. The gluten structure is not as sturdy so slashing the loaves to “release the Devil” results in something more suited to making “Melbas”.

    Every two weeks at the most, the starter is activated and wonderful breads are baked.

    I wish you all greatest success with your baking.

    RBS, CCB at J&R Kitchens in Gravesend, NH

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Sure, Kathy, your starter will just be a bit stiffer with bread flour; so splash in an extra teaspoon or so of water. Good luck — PJH

  34. Renate Wendeln Marks

    About 19/20 yrs ago my dear friend gave me a book, “Breads from the La Brea Bakery” by Nancy Silverton. The best gift ever! There was a recipe for starting your own sour dough. Red grapes, flour and water. So I did it, and all these years later my sour dough starter is still with us. It is very forgiving. It can go into the refrigerator for weeks, then feed it for a day and use it. ( Put a little of the starter aside and continue feeding it.}
    The breads are awsome! And there is so much room to play around. Mix regular flour with whole wheat, rye, add seeds, herbs, oils …
    Rosemary and olive oil is great, so are sunflower and pumpkin seed breads.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Renate, I have that book right here beside me. I considered trying her grape starter, but then decided to stick with my original test: seeing whether “tales” of burying wild grapes in flour made a difference in how quick/vigorous a starter you could make. Glad to hear you’ve had success with Nancy’s method – thanks for sharing. PJH

  35. Hilary

    I tried this and it’s great, although my starter is never as goopy as the photos or the other sourdough recipes indicate it might/should be (even 2 months later). I can’t actually think of a similar substance – I can scoop out a cup for a recipe and it almost is self-adhering, into the cup, then into the bowl. It does not pour. I have never done sourdough before so I don’t have a comparison. Should I add a bit more water? Or just leave well enough alone since it works pretty well. It seems to be the same whether I feed it over a week in the fridge or overnight on the counter.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hilary, it sounds like your starter may be just a little heavier than our recipes intend, but this doesn’t mean it’s wrong – there are many different versions of a sourdough starter out there. If what you have is working for you, then there’s no reason NOT to stick with it. If you do want to experiment with adjustments, however, using a little less flour per feeding should do the trick. When measuring by volume (rather than weight), it can be easy to get a heavier cup of flour than the 4.25 oz we intend. To get a relatively lighter cup of flour, we recommend using our fluff, sprinkle and level method detailed here: http://bit.ly/1Q2PToo Hope this helps! Mollie@KAF

  36. Marianne

    Thanks for the article. I had read on another blog about using red grapes to increase starter vigor. My starter had gotten very sick from my neglect, and I almost threw it out. Before giving up, I scooped out the best tablespoon of it I could get, put in four red grapes, filtered water and flour. Hours later, all around the grapes were tiny bubbles. I removed the grapes and kept just a tablespoon of it, fed it, and kept up with that pattern. My starter came back to life!

  37. Donna Martz

    So, is the starter that pushed out of the jar ready to use then? I am still trying to get to bread baking from the starter. Thanks

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Donna, the starter that’s pushed out of the jar is probably past ready to use. You want to use your starter when it’s reaching its peak of activity, when it still has some energy left to make your dough rise. We took photos to illustrate what sourdough starter should look like at each stage in its feeding — check it out here to see what it looks like. Hope that helps! Kye@KAF

  38. Stephanie

    On day 1 of my wild black raspberry yeast infused starter! I picked a handful of unripe berries (I didn’t want them to leak into the flour, they’re more delicate than grapes) that had a lot of whitish residue in the ridges (presumably yeast) and rolled them around in about half a cup of whole wheat flour, which I then left out uncovered for a day (this is by no means a pure culture). Then I picked out the berries and proceeded with the starter instructions on a different King Arthur blog post on making sourdough starter. Obviously it’s hard to pin point the reason, but my starter was really quite bubbly by 24 hours, even with regular chlorinated tap water! I’m sure the summer heat and humidity and whole wheat flour are major factors, but I’d like to think the wild berries contributed.

  39. Hilary

    When this was first published a year ago I tried it because I was curious and I had grapes. I am not a good break maker. No-knead is the only thing that ever works and I’ve even made some doozies with that, so sourdough was a stretch for me.

    But, after a little more than a year, many bricks, some passable loaves (made with “assistant yeast”), a couple of near-death experiences for my starter (once made over a cup of alcohol and it took a month for it to recover) and an awful lot of flour, something finally turned the corner and I have successfully, FOUR times in a row, made an amazing, well-risen loaf of bread using only the starter, flour, water and a little salt.

    So thank you for the initiative, and for those who are in despair that it will never work, it can, and it’s worth it!

    But you will invest heavily in flour, much of which ends up in the trash. Or the compost pile.

  40. Cedarglen

    Thanks PJM. By any measure you are a genius.
    I have a few wild grapes on my property, just now past their prime for eating, yet ideal for a new starter. Ahem… Saturday morning’s first project I think. With multiple types of flour in the pantry, I can make nearly anything. From the looks of it, the wild grape yeast is ideal for any flour, targeted for sourdough, so why not?
    Even at my advanced age, I can be impatient and at least one of the creations will allow me to bake something on Sunday afternoon. Does it get any better? Thanks for your post > one year ago.


Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *