Is there a limit to how long I can keep sourdough discards in the fridge?
We’ve all pondered this at some point in our sourdough journey.
Simply put, you can keep sourdough discard in the fridge forever. It’ll change over time and even deteriorate in flavor and quality.
Let’s talk about how to store and use sourdough discard safely, and what you need to consider when saving it.
What Is Sourdough Discard?
Sourdough discard is what’s left over after you remove the starter. To manage its growth and refresh the acidity levels, this process is done before feeding (by adding flour and water).
What’s The Best Place To Store Sourdough Discards?
You can store your discard in the refrigerator where it will slowly ferment. Room temperature ferments it fast, so you’ll end up with very ripe discards that aren’t useful for anything. You can also freeze your discards.
How Do I Store Sourdough Discard?
There are some bakers who have the time to use their discards right away, but most of us don’t have that kind of time. There are a few ways you can get yours to last longer so you can use it again later.
1. Keeping It At Room Temperature
You can store your discard at room temperature for up to two days. However, it depends on the weather. We recommend keeping it in a cool pantry to maximize survival.
2. Refrigerating It
The sourdough discard can be kept fresh for up to a week in the fridge in an airtight container.
3. Freezing It
You can freeze your discard in sealed containers for longer storage. Before you use it, make sure it’s completely defrosted.
How Long Can I Keep Sourdough Discard In The Fridge?
It depends a lot on how mature your sourdough starter is when you put your discard in the fridge. The discard will survive in the fridge pretty much indefinitely if your sourdough starter is mature.
If you wanted to, you could revive it like an old starter.
The starter won’t last as long in the fridge if it’s young (less than 6 months old) since the yeast and bacteria colonies aren’t well established yet.
Even if your starter is old, you should still store it in the fridge instead of on the counter where it is still fermenting.
Just a few days on the counter will make it very sour and acidic. Unfed sourdough starter deteriorates and eventually gets taken over by harmful bacteria and mold if left unfed.
In the fridge, sourdough discard goes to sleep and lasts longer. I recommend using discard within a week.
If you don’t eat it after a week, it’ll taste sour and acidic. A sweet discard recipe shouldn’t be made with old sourdough discard since it will produce sour stuff.
Can I Use Old Sourdough Discard?
As long as it’s not spoiled, old sourdough discards can be used, as long as they’re fresh.
What’s the best way to tell? Put your senses to work.
Look at it – do you see any pink or grey spots? Discard your discard if it’s discolored or has dark liquid on top!
Take a sniff – does it smell like rotten durian fruit? Throw it out if it’s putrid!
Simple as that.
For sweet sourdough discard recipes, use “fresh” discard. You can use older discards in savory dishes. Discards that are fresher won’t be as acidic and taste better.
Do you know you can use active sourdough starter in discard recipes?
I actually often make crackers or fritters with fresh starter by feeding it extra flour and water.
Can I Use Sourdough Discard To Make A New Starter (Levain)?
Yes, of course! Sourdough discards are amazing because you can use them to start new starters, called levains.
The offshoots from the mother starter are great for experimenting with different kinds of flour or giving as gifts. Having a whole ecosystem to share with your friends and family is incredible.
When your sourdough starter goes bad (like it molds or you break the jar), you can definitely start a new one with leftovers from the fridge.
Basically, you would take 50g of discard and mix it with 50g of flour and 50g of water and keep doing that until you get bubbles, and it doubles in size.
What Can I Use My Sourdough Discard For?
You can do anything you want! I mean, almost anything.
Because sourdough discard is basically flour and water, which are essential ingredients in many baked goods.
There’s not enough activity in the discard to make sourdough bread rise, but it has many other uses and you can add baking powder if needed.
You’ll find savory options like English breakfast muffins, pretzels, caramelized onion biscuits, and sourdough pizza dough.
If you’re in the mood for something sweet, try pancakes, muffins, pumpkin bread, or chocolate cake.
If you have sourdough discards, you can give them away as starters…
Why Do Some People Say They Don’t Discard?
Yeah, that’s right. There are a lot of people who say they don’t discard anything in their sourdough process.
But they’re not telling you everything. There’s actually a discarding process!
Discarding is essential to building a thriving starter. There’s no way it’s going to work otherwise.
Once the starter is mature, you use a portion for baking – taking it out means you’re discarding it. By doing this, you’re making room for the starter to be fed and ready for the next batch.
Someone who says they don’t discard actually does – they’re just baking with it because it’s active starter!
How Do You Know if Sourdough Discard Is Bad?
If it’s a few days old, sourdough discard might smell acidic and even like acetone. There will be a slight difference in smell to a fed, active starter, but there will be no unpleasant smell.
In the fridge, discards should be fine, but if there are signs of mold or a pinkish or orange hue, you need to dispose of them.
Can I Use Sourdough Discard Straight From The Fridge?
It is fine to use sourdough discard straight from the refrigerator. It does not need to come to room temperature first.
It will probably be stiff or thick if you use it straight from the fridge, so make sure you mix it well before using.
Can I Add Discard From Different Days To The Same Jar?
It is possible to combine sourdough discards from different batches into the same jar.
Discards should be used within a week or two, however, if you add new discards every day, you’ll be able to store them longer.
Why Would I Want To Store My Sourdough Discard Instead Of Throwing It Out?
In addition to reducing food waste, baking with discards also reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Wasted food makes up 21 percent of the US waste stream, and it would rank third in terms of global pollution after China and the US.
Moreover, discards add flavor to all sorts of food, aside from being environmentally friendly. Food that is most sustainable is often the tastiest.
Many flat foods require no lively yeast, such as crackers, tortillas and pancakes, so sourdough discard works well.
It can also be used to flavor recipes using active dry yeast, baking soda, or baking powder, which all rely on leavening from other sources.
What Can I Do If My Discard Tastes Too Sour?
In case you don’t like the sour taste, you can reduce it. Baking soda neutralizes the sour flavor, for example, in sourdough crackers. I once omitted baking soda from my dough and it tasted terrible.
After tasting the crackers before rolling them out, I only added the baking soda (always taste as you go!) The crackers tasted as good as they always had.
The sour flavor of discard can be reduced by feeding it fresh flour and water. At that point, you will have an active starter instead of discard. The extra yeast in your recipe will also make your recipe rise more than usual.
What Should I Do With My Sourdough Discard If Mold Develops?
Your sourdough discard should be removed if you see a bit of white mold on its surface. I have never had mold develop on my discard. I believe it is quite rare.
If it appears more entrenched, compost it. If pink or orange mold develops, definitely compost your discard. Discards contain acids that prevent mold from forming.
Do I Have To Toss My Discard If I Neglect It?
Rather than throwing it out, feed it some flour and water to perk it up—how much depends on the amount of discard in there.
If it looks good but imparts too much sourness to whatever you cook with it, or it does not produce a good dough or batter, rather than tossing it out.
You can experiment with sourdough by removing a small amount of discard, feeding it, and baking with it after a few hours.
Why does my discard have grey liquid on top? Should I discard it?
You may notice a layer of grey liquid forming on top of your discard or even your starter. It is usually poured off, but you can mix it in as well.
If it smells strongly of acetone, I would pour it off to reduce the bacteria strain that is causing the odor. Even though you won’t get hurt by it–your trash is just hungry–it smells nasty.
Keeping a jar of sourdough discards on hand can serve as an insurance policy against starter death. If you have any leftovers, you can feed them fresh flour and water.
After a couple of feedings, depending on the condition of the discard, you should have bubbly starter ready to bake with.