Making Old Pioneer Sourdough For Traditional Baking

Making Old Pioneer Sourdough For Traditional BakingI’m fascinated by the old ways of living and my mother and grandmother were the ones that showed me how to do things the old-fashioned way. I love to bake and I often surprise my family and friends with old recipes. Making pioneer sourdough is one of the teachings I try to pass on and I’m sure this will help people when supermarkets will be closed.

People used to live quite well without the conveniences we have today. Traditional living doesn’t necessarily mean we have to cut back and sacrifice our comfort. On the contrary, on our homestead, we practice old-fashioned ways of working and cooking and the quality of our life has improved over time.

Making a pioneer sourdough starter is one of the secrets I’m willing to share with the readers of this website. This sourdough starter will enable you to bake many different dishes without having to use any store-bought yeast. Nothing compares to the taste of homemade bread and it’s worth learning how to make your own. Many preppers are storing flour or grains and they plan to make baking goods for their families.

In fact, grains and wheat are known to contain phytic acid, which prevents us from absorbing phosphorus but also binds to other minerals like iron, calcium and magnesium. To lower the phytic acid level and let your body absorb the minerals it needs, you should make traditional sourdough, by soaking flour for a lengthy period.

How to make pioneer sourdough

You can find many recipes online for making a sourdough starter, but I prefer to use my traditional recipe, just like the pioneers used to do it. I don’t want to use sugar or store-bought yeast for my starter.

It’s easy to make it and you need a glass jar, water and flour. You can basically use any flour you desire, but from experience, I can tell you that you will have more luck with whole-wheat flour. When you first begin your starter, you will need to feed it twice a day for the first week. After that, the feeding time depends on how much you cook with it. If you don’t plan to use it daily, you can store it in the fridge and feed it once a week.

Pioneer sourdough day to day guide:

Day one

Start by placing ¼ cup of warm water and 6 tablespoons flour in a clean jar. Start in the morning as you will need to check the starter 12 hours later. I also recommend not using chlorinated water if possible (we use well water). Stir the flour and water and cover the jar with a piece of cheesecloth. Place the jar in a warm area.

After 12 hours, check the starter for signs of bubbles. If you notice any, this means your starter is active. You will see only one or two bubbles at first, but if that’s not the case, you shouldn’t panic. Just add another ¼ cup of warm water and 6 tablespoons of flour. Stir until everything is evenly mixed.

Day two

Check the jar in the morning and you should see signs of activity. Feed the starter with another ¼ cup of water and 6 tablespoons of flour. Make sure you also scrape the sides of the jar so that everything is evenly mixed. Feed again after 12 hours.

Day three

You will need to remove half of the starter in the jar to avoid it outgrowing your jar. Don’t worry, it is not strong enough to use yet and you won’t waste it if you put it in your compost bin. Feed the starter following the same quantities as above. Don’t forget to feed it again after 12 hours.

Day four through seven

The same routine goes on as you did in days one through three, stir and feed your starter in the morning and in the evening. You should do so for the rest of the week, but you would need to remove some starter when there isn’t enough room in the jar for the starter to rise after feeding. At the end of the week, you should see lots of bubbles and the starter should be rising faster than before after it’s fed.

After the first week

When feeding your starter, use ¼ cup of water and 6 tablespoons of flour each time. It should be like a thick batter. If you notice it’s too watery, take out a tablespoon of water at the next feeding. If it’s too thick, you can cut back a tablespoon of flour at the next feeding. You should adjust it as you go and you will notice a pattern after a few days.

Once the starter is established you can store it in the fridge if you don’t plan to cook with it for a few days. To keep it active, you can feed it twice a day using 1/8 cup of water and 3 tablespoons of flour twice a day. To keep it in dormancy, feed it only twice per week

My secrets for pioneer sourdough success

My general rule is to wait three days and wait for the bubbles to appear. If that doesn’t happen, I throw it away and start over.

You need a warm area for your pioneer sourdough to remain active. In the winter, I often store it near the heat vent or on top of the fridge. It helps to keep it active if it gets really cold.

Always store your starter in an area where you can see it. It will help you remember to feed it and you won’t skip any feeding time. Try placing it on the kitchen counter for better accessibility.

You will sometimes notice a light-brown liquid forming on top of your starter. This is what we call a hooch and it’s a clear starter that your pioneer sourdough has run out of food. You need to feed it more often or increase the quantity.

If you struggle with power shortages or if water is scarce, you can keep your starter thicker. It helps you make good pancakes and you won’t need to add flour right before baking.

If you plan to make pioneer sourdough for bread baking, you need to wait two or three weeks for it to get strong enough. After only a week, you can bake foods that don’t require doubling, like waffles.

My Sourdough Bread Recipe


  • 2 cups sourdough starter
  • 5-6 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 heaping Tbsp salt
  • 1 cup filtered water, cold or room temperature


  1. Get a very large bowl to mix the starter with water and 3 cups of whole wheat flour. Use a wooden spoon and stir until it combines well.
  2. Now add the salt and remaining flour ½ cup at a time, attempting to completely stir in the flour with each addition. At some point, you will no longer be able to mix with the spoon so you will need to use your hands to mix the flour. Keep adding flour until your dough begins to resemble dough, but is still sticky and gummy.
  3. Pour the dough into large loaf pans and fill ⅓ way up. Cover the pans with a towel or cheesecloth and allow to sit in a warm place for 4-12 hours, until the dough is at least doubled in size.
  4. Place the loaves in a cold oven and turn the oven on to 350 degrees. Bake bread for 50-60 minutes, until the edges are golden and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
  5. Remove to cool on wire racks for at least 30 minutes.

Using this recipe, you can make 2-3 loaves, depending on the amount of flour used and size of loaf pans.


Making pioneer sourdough is amazingly simple and you don’t need cooking experience. You should need a glass jar, flour, water and patience.  Just keep your eyes on the starter and feed it at the right time, and that’s pretty much all there is to it. You will gain experience after a few tries and you will know when to cut the feeding or increase it.

My grandmother used to sleep with the sourdough starter to keep it from freezing and her teachings have been passed down in our family for more than 100 years. I encourage you to make pioneer sourdough and discover how is it is to bake like in the old days.

Other Useful Resources:

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5 thoughts on “Making Old Pioneer Sourdough For Traditional Baking”

  1. I would love to make sourdough bread; however, when I bake bread I bake 5 loaves at a time and freeze the ones I won’t be using right away. I’ve not seen a way to use sourdough starter for baking more than 1 loaf at a time and I really do not want to bake that often. Can you offer suggestions for increasing the amount of sourdough starter and how much to use to produce 5 nice loaves?

  2. I like your way to make sourdough starter. It is much simpler than what I have made. I would be interested in making yours. What is the recipe for making bread using your sourdough?

  3. I’m with Patricia. I want to know your bread recipe using this. I’m on day eight and last time I had to remove some old starter to make room for new growth, I placed it in a new mason jar rather than toss it and now have two healthy starters. I’m waiting the 3-4 weeks for bread making starter. One starter I’m feeding the dormancy schedule and the other the reduced, keep it active feeding schedule.


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