If you’ve been interested in fermented foods, sourdough is a great place to start. The starter is generally pretty hearty and you don’t have to work terribly hard at keeping it alive. Like kombucha, it has naturally occurring bacteria which break down sugars, and for sourdough, the gluten in grains, to make them more digestible. The enzymes break down the phytic acid in grains, preventing the phytic acid from wreaking havoc on your gut, as will happen with un-soaked or un-fermented grains. Sourdough also tends to last longer than other breads, due to the preservative properties of the acetic acid.
It takes few ingredients and little time to get it started.
From the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook:
1 Package (or 2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
2 1/2 Cups warm water
2 Cups flour (unbleached white is a good one to get your starter off the ground)
1 TBS Sugar or honey (I used organic sugar)
Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water, then stir in the remaining water, flour and sugar. Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Cover with a breathable dish cloth or cheesecloth and let sit at room temperature for 5-10 days (stir a couple of times a day).
You will know it’s ready when the vigorous bubbling stops and it smells strongly of fermentation (like a beer).
If you plan to use it often (several times a week), you will want to leave it on the counter to continue fermenting. Feed it everyday by adding one cup of flour and 3/4 cup filtered water. Make sure not to use any metal when storing or stirring your starter, as that will disturb the good bacteria and fermentation process.
If you don’t think you will use your starter that often, store it in the refrigerator, and when you plan to use it, take it out and feed it the night before. By morning, it will be perfect for a batch of pancakes or a loaf of bread! You will need to feed it once a week in the refrigerator when not in use.