Coping: The Great Sourdough Challenge

Many years ago, back when I was protecting Fairbanks (and later Anchorage) from a sneak attack by the Russians, I got to spend a bit of time with my late aunt Isabel.  She was one of the first female CPAs in Alaska, and the first female contracting officer at Elmendorf, AFB.

Besides introducing me (then 19) to the joys of fresh crab picked up on a tour of Portage Glacier, and washing it down with Champale (what ever happened to it?), she was also able to whip up the best sourdough pancakes on the planet.

I don’t know why they struck me as they did, perhaps it was the first time that I’d ever had some really good sourdough.  Up until then, I’d sampled some of the offerings from the Pike Place Market’s vendors down in Seattle, but most of them I found simply too sour for my taste.  Even now, San Franciscans seem to judge a bread not so much on it’s flavor but by how much pucker there is to it.

For no particular reason last week, I decided it was time to begin trying to get a proper sourdough start going and that meant spending just a few bucks to get the right gear including the starter itself.

After reading what seemed like dozens of sites on the ‘net and Mark Shepard’s quickie ebook Simple Sourdough: Make Your Own Starter Without Store-Bought Yeast and Bake the Best Bread in the World With This Simplest of Recipes for Making Sourdough (or Sour Dough), it was time to go shopping.

Sourdough is pretty simple stuff:  All it really takes to make a starter seems to be wheat, water, and some luck.  But I wasn’t after just any sourdough….I was after the full-bodied taste of Alaska sourdough which is less sour and a damnsight more flavorful, especially when made into flapjacks that more more like crepes plate-cakes.

Amazon has a “thing” where they offer some products as an “add-on” so while $13-bucks for two starter packets sounded a bit steep, I was all in for the $6 and change add-on to get a genuine ALASKA JACK’S Sourdough Starter Kit (Postcard Packet)

Of course, that meant I’d have to buy something other things to qualify for an add-on soooo….I invested in a Bormioli Rocco Fido Square Jar with Blue Lid, 17-1/2-Ounce which was a little north of $8 and it’s big brother and a couple of other doo-dads.

As soon as this morning’s column is done, I’ll be making the starter and setting it out on the screen porch where the temp will be more than warm enough…and then bring it in when we pass the 90-degree mark, somewhere around lunchtime.

After that, it should be simply a matter of feeding the sourdough every three days.  From what I’ve read so far, if you go more than three days without feeding the start, it drops from one stable state (which is the one I think I’m after) down to the next stable state which is a more sour version.

What I mean by state is a little hard to figure:  Sourdough is a symbiotic relationship between yeast and bacteria – lactobacillus.  The bacteria breaks down proteins and, in the process, makes sugars as a byproduct.  The yeast breaks down something or other and they reach a stable state.  However, if you go too long between “feeding” the starter (with water and wheat) the balancing act between the yeast and lactobacillus, according to some researchers, drops to a level when a different kind of stability sets up (more acidic).

All of which gets me to thinking San Franciscans are bad parents of starters or starter-abusers, but that’s only a suspicion until I can actually raise a good starter myself.

For the more worldly, there are several other starters out there, including some from Egypt where it was developed back in antiquity (before foreign aid, democratic revolutions and so on) in order to raise rye bread.  I’m not too keep on things Middle Eastern of late, so I’m sticking with Alaska for now.

My friend Gaye over at has been a long-time gourmet cook and we’ve got a friendly competition going on in the sourdough department; she’s a fan of the local starter done from air up in the San Juan Islands of Washington state.  The reason I got the smaller jar (the main start will live in the big one) is I’ll give a local start a try, also, but no telling what a Texas start will be like. 

One way, or the other, I figure that next Saturday morning after Peoplenomics is done, I will be able to cook up some sourdough flapjacks and then make some genuine Texas/Alaska Sourdough bread.

Which means that Elaine will have a project, too:  She makes the world’s best clam chowder (which starts with a half pound to a pound of lean bacon (if that’s not a contradiction).  Then there’s a half gallon, or so of Half & Half, minced and chopped clams, not to mention both some Russet potatoes (which break down and make it thick) plus some Yukon Golds, which retain texture.

The “master plan” is to make some medium plate-sized loaves, cut them when cooled a bit around their tops (like you would to carve out a pumpkin) and hollow them out and fill with clam chowder.

That’s about the best meal a fellow can have:  Mild sourdough flapjacks, a slam of ham, a couple of eggs over easy, and a cup of Kona roast for breakfast.  Then, about 4 PM, have a huge appetite worked up for the crusty Sourdough “bread bowls” of clam chowder.

If you have a cup of water and a cup of flour, it’s not too late to plan on making this kind of feast for yourself this coming weekend.  It’s an alternative to the sky-high beef prices which are now here that I warned you would be coming due to the Texas/Oklahoma drought.

Reader Shoot

With all of our discussion last week about vaccines and the risks (and rewards) attendant thereto, one of our readers was driving near Houston this weekend and noticed outside a major chain drugstore which at first looked like political signs.

They suggested pneumonia shots, shingles shots, and a number of others.

In the accompanying note, said reader wondered if this wasn’t a new way for the chain drugstores to make a little extra dough on the side:  Big money to be had on some of these.

My own discovery that the going rate for a shingles shot (without a health insurance program) was in the range of $250 (+) was enough to convince my Scottish genes that Life always boils down to risk, reward, and cash.

Two more good comments on vaccine use, including this anonymous note:

Being in healthcare I will no longer take vaccines. Not going any deeper into that. Have you noticed that your caduceus and so on look a lot like spiraling DNA strands? Just a thought.

I have thought of that and have often wondered if a lot of the Greek gods stories were all part of a larger event passed down from Sanskrit and elsewhere which got to the original human crossbreeding project and that became what we now call religion and more.  But that’s another topic entirely…so onto this note from reader Kathy:

“Was reading your article on vaccines and thought that I would add my 2 cents worth. I am not anti vaccine but I am against over vaccinating. And for the most part only vaccinate for something life threatening. However, I have had shingles twice now. Once when I was about forty and the a couple of years ago when I was in my late fifties. The first time the nerve it picked came down my forehead and headed towards my eye.  Didn’t hurt too badly. The last time it picked a nerve under the armpit and followed along the breast tissue. Didn’t take to many days for me to decide that I might rather just die. I am not kidding – it hurt that badly. Thankfully the meds kicked in and it ended ok….”

Still, too much money and risk for my tastes.  Ever wonder what an UrbanSurvival column would be like if I were on drugs while writing?  Hopefully, we’ll never find out, but it does get into some interesting speculative country…

The World’s Best Cop?

Hats off to Elton Simmons of the LA County Sheriffs’ office.  He’s given out more than 25,000 traffic tickets and not a single complaint.  The video is over here as spied by tipster Charles, who sniffed out the vid and made this great suggestion:

“Base the training, in fact let this guy create the National Police Training!and set the Bar here, those who become confrontational, fired!


Amen. Living proof that you get more bears with honey than pepper spray.

Just Another Monday in the End Times?

I got up this morning making a mental note to send an email to G.A. Stewart of the Age of Desolation website to see how the End Times are shaping up with the latest developments in Syria with ‘war and rumors of war” going hot and heavy – and maybe just in time for the great comet runs, depending on how soon comet ISON  (an amalgam for O-SIN?).

But about then, incomes this email:

Geyser near Rome:

Could this be the destruction of the city of seven hills and Popes was about?

Not to mention about the destruction of Damascus in various Biblical prophecy is coming down the road like a Semi on crank.

A HUGE question I had most of my life was this:
Are events happening to fit what was written to fulfill prophecy for various reasons, or were the writers of prophecy able to accurately predict what would happen?
That is a much more profound question than which came first, chicken or egg.

Yep, sure is developing a kind of an unpleasant “things lining up.”  Another item on the to-do list is to check with the crew up at (which has been retranslating the Bible from sources using something called Self-Defining Hebrew which uses the error correction system built into the language to figure out original intent).

You see, about the only big check-off left would be digging up Azazel so we keep an eye on archeological dig plans for this fall rather closely in the region.  Or, is it all just one great big coincidence?  Syriously, Damascusly, this big a coincidence?

More tomorrow…including maybe a picture of my woodshop mishap over the weekend called the Router Disaster….

Write when you break even…