The Weston A. Price Way

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hooch Leaves Lucille for Dead

To illustrate my sourdough experience...

Hooch loved hanging around Lucille. She was a little sweetie who always had one of his favorites to eat...grapes. But Hooch had a tendency of being overbearing. The longer he stayed around, the more he suffocated poor Lucille. Not only aggressive in his love, he was all about rising to the top in life. Unfortunately, his desire to rise to the top kept Lucille at the bottom. There, she slowly lost her breath...and eventually Hooch's black heart was evident for all to see. Without accountability, Hooch had eaten Lucille's sustenance and seeing her lying there near life's end, went on to rise to the top without her, taking only the stink of his character with him.
That's when the aproned lady came along. She saw that Hooch had indeed risen to the top and knowing Lucille had been left somewhere below, wondered if there was any hope. Hooch's stench filled the air and the aproned lady nearly decided to do away with both of them...The one, for justice...the other, for mercy. But she knew that would have been the easy route. The aproned lady needed to do all she could to preserve Lucille's life-if there were any life left to preserve.
But in spite of Hooch's atrocities, the aproned lady knew he was acting according to his genetic tendencies- for where Hooch is involved, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Still, he would have to be eliminated or he would continue to antagonize Lucille. But they were so closely connected, could the aproned lady pull off the feat of ridding the world of Hooch while yet preserving any possible remains of Lucille?
Ah, yes. She had done so before. She had been forced to terminate Hooch's father, and a grandfather or two before him. Surely, she could manage this, as well. Only this time, the situation literally looked blacker and uglier than ever before.
The aproned lady hung her head in shame. It was a well-known fact that Lucille needed protection and the aproned lady was assigned the duty of holding Hooch up to accountability. If only she had caught him when he'd first started to climb, she'd only have had to stir things up the least bit to keep him in line. But she had become too busy and had forgotten her duty and now Lucille's life hung in the balance.
Maybe the aproned lady wouldn't have felt quite the angst had she not failed in her assignment before, more than once. Each time, she promised herself to never let it happen again. But here she was, back in the same, self-inflicted situation. She was beginning to believe she wasn't meant to be in this job...

And of course, my former readers know that 'Lucille' is my sourdough and 'Hooch' is the by-product of fermentation...actually, a water-alcohol type mixture. And I, yes, I, am the aproned lady. I always wear an apron when I'm dealing with sourdough. Or I always do now, because I've had to change clothes so often from little splatters that like to stick.
The question about hooch (that's the liquid that floats to the top) comes up often among sourdough newbies. The basics are that it is usually a pale yellow-orange color, but some say it really depends on the type of flour used. I usually use a whole wheat or rye.
I also use the pioneer approach...I don't put my sourdough vessel in the fridge unless I'm going to be away a few days. This is a continuous ferment which requires more watchfulness, but leaves me much needed refrigerator space. According to Wardeh of GNOWFGLINS (link below), the sourdough should be fed twice a day. I tried to keep that up, but wasn't very good at it. My general rule is to be sure Lucille's fed once a day. But when she gets sickly from a few day's neglect, I have to step it up for a few days in order to get good bread results.
I found myself encouraged to name my sourdough after reading an account in "The Lost Art of Real Cooking", (see the carousel above), where the author named sourdough, "Durga" after a goddess. I decided to name my baby starter 'Lucille'. That way, if she ever did die, I could sing, "You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Lucille," and hopefully, make myself laugh instead of cry.
Now, about Hooch. Hooch really isn't all that bad. This liquid contains living critters that help make your sourdough good for you. (And yes, it's name really is hooch!) It also imparts the 'sour' twang sourdough is known for. (Unless you get the kind that's been so overly processed that you can't taste the twang...then it's not really sourdough, is it?) The usual color of hooch as stated earlier, is a an average. The shade does vary, and I've even read some sourdough users claim that the grayish or black is the norm for them. For me, even though I do use the whole wheat, mine doesn't turn blackish unless I've neglected it. So, if you're doing the continuous ferment and it starts getting warm and you forget...Well, hooch can get out of hand.
Only from continuous experiment upon myself, I have to part ways with those who tell you to throw out your sourdough if it smells bad or has black hooch on top. Prepare yourself. I am going to show you a picture you will find offensive. If you could smell what I'm going to show you, you might even gag a little.

  Looking straight down, for all that we can see here, Lucille is dead. (The reddish-purple glob at the 10:00 position is a grape...I use them to attract wild air-borne yeast to the starter.)  But the truth is, she can be 'resurrected'...Watch:

Tools for 'resurrection'...Oops! I forgot to
add a dish cloth or paper towel.
What to do with these tools: Use the ladle to gently skim off the hooch. I do this right beside the sink and I open the window above the sink a little to help the air clear. As I scoop the hooch off, I pour it right down the drain and add a little cold water periodically. It doesn't take long to do this and as you do it, there is a beautiful surprise beneath all that ugly black...Lucille lives!
I use the scraper, (left), to scrape off any dried-on starter or blackened hooch from the insides of the container. The dried bits will fall on top of  the sourdough, but are easily seen and fished out with the ladle. When I am done, I dampen a paper towel or clean dish cloth, and wipe any remaining residue from the lip and insides of the vessel.

Above, see the exact same container, minus Hooch, with Lucille beginning to breathe again! (Your baby's still alive if bubbles appear, and these appeared almost immediately.) The smell will now be pleasantly sour, sort of like a mild wine more stink! But beware, Hooch can reappear quickly, only catch him early so you can use him to your benefit by merely stirring him back in before he starts showing his dark side.

Now that Lucille's alive, I administer First Aid by adding a cup of freshly ground whole wheat followed by a cup of filtered water. (You do not have to use freshly ground, or even wheat...and you don't have to use filtered water. This is how I do it for nutrition and toxic-free sake.)

Then, I just stir the flour and water in...gently. I don't show it in these photos, but once a week or so, I will throw in a handful of grapes. Grapes attract the beneficial wild yeast that are free-floating in the air. These yeast are the critters that turn sourdough into sourdough. I usually perform this flour and water procedure daily, but because Lucille needs a little extra 'doctoring', I'll feed her twice a day for a couple of days, maybe even three.

Isn't she lovely? She's all clean and fed...and just seconds after stirring, you can already see bubbles beginning to form at her surface...and she smells divine!
Still, Lucille is probably a little weak from her near-death experience, so wait several hours and feed her again. Some say to remove a cup of starter before putting in the flour and water. I break the rules here, too, and just add them without taking out any starter first. It works.

What's the next thing to do for someone who's endured such tragedy? Let's see, we cleaned her, fed the next thing would be to tuck her in nicely and let her rest...
...Which is exactly what I do.                

I'll keep up this TLC for a few days before putting Lucille back to work. She has always been so kind to forgive me in the past, I'm sure she will again...and prove it by the delicious breads, crackers, pancakes, crepes and so on that she so lovingly gives us.
As for Hooch, well, I'm sure he'll make an appearance again eventually. But the aproned lady fears not...we know what to do now, don't we?

Next Post(s): Why Sourdough and How to Get Your Own Started

Cooking Traditional Foods~Traditional Tuesdays

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