The first thing to remember is that keeping your sourdough starter alive is not complicated or hard. All it takes is a little commitment and a willingness to trust your senses. You will find your own rhythm with it all and it will be so rewarding.
There are some amazing resources out there about how to maintain your starter. I will write down what I do below, but I won't go all out in explaining too much since there are some wonderful resources out there already. My favorite online description is probably Maurizio's from the Perfect Loaf, great detail with pictures etc. His site is an incredible resource for bakers of various skill levels for all things sourdough. Keep in mind that all these are just guidelines and ideas and things that work for me and others. But as you get to know your sourdough starter you will find your own rhythm with it all. It might sound like a lot at once, but it won't feel like that in a few days! I got my starter from a backcountry ranger, if he can keep a starter alive so can you!
One thing I highly recommend:
A simple digital scale.
If you have not converted to using a digital scale in the kitchen, do it now! It is $30 well spent. It took me years of convincing my mom to get a digital scale and now she thanks me for it all the time! It makes baking 100% easier.
A note on water:
If you have city water here in Bozeman or anywhere else it has chlorine, I highly recommend you filter your water. My starter almost died when we first moved here due to the chlorine. Even letting a jug sit out overnight will help tremendously in reducing the amount of chlorine since it will evaporate,
Below I will walk you through what I do if I want to bake 2 loaves on Wednesday:
Monday 9am (First Feeding)
I take my jar of starter out of the fridge and place it on the scale. It usually smells pretty sour at this point. I know how much my jar weighs (I write it on the bottom), and you should too, so all I do now is reduce the starter to 100g.
Next I add 40g of room temperature water (~78F) and stir it all up.
Then I add 60g of Type 85 flour and stir it until there is no loose flour left.
Now I have 200g of starter in my jar. I put the glass lid on and let the jar sit on the counter.
Monday 3pm (Second Feeding)
At this point my starter will have doubled in size and will smell sweet-sour like yogurt.
I will discard enough starter so I have 100g left in the jar. Then I will add 50g of water (78F), stir it all up and 50g of Type 85 flour and stir again.
Monday 9pm (Third Feeding)
At this point my starter will have doubled in size again and will smell sweet-sour like yogurt.
I will discard enough starter again so I have 100g left in the jar. Then I will add 50g of water (65F), stir it all up and 50g of Type 85 flour and stir again. Put the lid back on and leave it on the counter overnight.
If your recipe calls for more than 150g of starter this is the time you can adjust how much you feed your starter to what you need tomorrow. The Weck Jar fits just over 200g, so change it to a bowl if you need more.
I often get asked if you can avoid any of these steps and of course you can. But I have found that if I don't feed my starter two or three times before using it, there is not enough strength in it to make beautiful bread. I think of the discard as digested food for my starter and I have done it here so it is minimal.
Tuesday 6am (Last feeding before it goes back in the fridge)
Take out as much starter as you need for your bread and leave 50g starter in your jar. Add 20g of water to the jar, stir, add 30g of Type 85 flour to your jar, stir, cover and place it in the fridge for your next baking day!
Mix your bread following any of the amazing recipes out there. I will write another post with all my favorite resources for this.
Have fun with it!! Even if you neglect your starter and it looks gross and grey, don't despair, it will just need a little extra love and attention and more feedings before it is ready to use for baking.