Photo: James Carrier
Makes about 1 1/3 cups

Notes: For best results, use freshly purchased, just opened milk and yogurt.

How to Make It

Step 1

Warm milk to 90º to 100º. Stir in yogurt.

Step 2

Pour into a warm 3- to 6-cup container (glass, ceramic, plastic, or stainless steel) with an airtight lid.

Step 3

Cover and let mixture stand in a warm (80º to 90º) place until it has the consistency of yogurt, 18 to 24 hours; the mixture should be so thick it doesn't flow readily when container is tilted. A single clot may form or smaller curds may be suspended in clear liquid. Stir to mix in any clear liquid. If liquid turns bright pink, discard the batch and start again.

Step 4

Once a clot forms, add flour and stir untl smooth. Cover airtight and let starter stand in a warm (80º to 90º) place until it is full of bubbles and has a pleasing sour smell, 2 to 5 days. Again, if clear liquid forms, stir to blend mixture, If liquid is pink, discard and start over. To store, cover airtight and refrigerate.

Step 5

Using and maintaining the starter:

Step 6

Notes: For most active starter, feed at least once a month. To increase starter supply, in a large container, add as much as 10 cups each of milk and flour to 1 cup of starter. The mixture may need to stand up to 2 days before the clear liquid forms on top.

Step 7

Use starter at room temperature. To hasten, set container in warm water.

Step 8

Use and/or feed starter. To feed, replenish each 1 cup starter used with 1 cup warm (90° to 100°) nonfat or low-fat milk and 1 cup all-purpose flour. Stir to mix well.

Step 9

Cover starter airtight and let stand in a warm (80° to 90°) place until bubbly and sour-smelling, and clear liquid has formed on top, 12 to 24 hours.

Step 10

Stir before using. Store airtight in the refrigerator.

Ratings & Reviews

jajajam's Review

May 14, 2009
This starter was originally published by Sunset in 1973. I made it a few months later, the year my first daughter was born. The batch is still going strong 34 years later and my family has enjoyed many, many sourdough loaves from it, and even more sourdough pancakes. My daughters now keep their portions going while baking for their husbands. What a wonderful legacy to hand down.

HelenHW's Review

October 02, 2013
So very happy to find this recipe again! I, too, made the starter in 1973, and kept it going for many years. One of my family's favorites was sourdough English muffins. Eating lunch out today, I tasted some excellent sourdough bread, and suddenly the memories came back. Now I'm off to the kitchen to create another batch of starter. Thank you to Sunset and these reviewers for making this possible!

GrammyDiane's Review

June 29, 2010
I too started using this recipe in 1973. We moved to Japan (Air Force) and I smuggled a cup of the starter in my purse. It makes the best sourdough bread and competes equally with what you can buy in San Francisco. Couldn't live without it - I use it in everyday baking also.