Does the NL bread starter ever really go "bad"?  I purchased some and baked some bread, and have found that right now, baking bread is not my priority, especially since I need some (time consuming) practice to bake a bread that my family likes.  So I have a starter that has been sitting in my fridge, not being fed, for months.  I think it actually froze a little.  I'm not sure if I need to throw it out and start over with a new starter at a later date, or if I can acutally keep and use what I have when I'm ready (I honestly have no idea when that will be, but probably not for many weeks).  Any suggestions?

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Hi Robyn,

Starter can go bad, but doesn't often do so. If you see a distinct red or orange fungus growing on the top of the water toss it out. It is common for the water itself to get dark and not very healthful looking. This is not dangerous; it is just alcohol that floats up and is created by the fermentation of the grain, just drain the alcohol off when you are ready to make bread and take your starter out of the refrigerator and freshen it before you use it. To freshen it add one or two cups fresh ground wheat to an equal portion of water and stir it in well and leave sitting on counter unrefrigerated until it begins to bubble. Smell it and see if it still smells sour or more subtle. If it is still sour, freshen it one more time until it begins to bubble again. As soon as it is bubbling and smells nice, it is ready to make a very good tasting bread. If you use it while it is still very sour, it will create a very sour bread. We have had starter in our fridge for extended periods of time (months) and have even frozen it on purpose. It doesn't go bad as long as bad bacteria don't get into it (the red and orange fungus), which rarely happens. It comes back to life very fast because of all the dormant spores of friendly bacteria that are still in it, just waiting to be fed and warmed up before they become active again. Once you bring your starter to room temperature and feed it with flour and water, it should become very active and then it is just a matter of freshening it. Hope this helps!

James,

Thanks for the reply!  There was no red or orange fungus growing, but the blackish color from the alcohol appeared to have frozen into the starter itself, and it didn't separate as liquid when I brought the starter to room temperature.  If I understand you correctly, that really isn't a problem, just refresh the starter until it smells nice again, right? 

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