This summer I started raising wild yeast. It was more or less a biology experiment, and it was extremely hit and miss, mostly miss, for the first few months.
For one thing, it took me quite a while to figure out that you actually do have to dump 4/5 of the starter down the drain every day; I was trying to feed an ever-growing bowl; not nearly enough food-to-yeast ratio, and the resulting bacteria were really… um… not the ones I was looking for.
Fortunately, I enjoy strange smells, but the rest of my family started moving out of the room when I would start feeding my yeast.
Anyhow, I’ve now figured out more or less how to keep a culture alive.
The next big step was reading Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread. It turns out that if you have a reasonably lively yeast culture, and a little patience, it’s totally possible to make bread that the rest of your family actually likes a lot. Here’s a loaf from two weeks ago:
I also got an interesting lesson last week when I’d been away for two days and was trying to jump-start my starter again; the starter was actually just fine, but my “help” was actually doing terrible things to it; I started feeding it every eight hours, and I realize now that the fast feeding—or, more precisely, the fast 4/5-killing—was annihilating the population of my microbiological zoo.
Anyhow, it’s hard to knock the stuff out completely, and this week it’s bubbling away as well as ever.
Next week, maybe I start experimenting with higher hydration.