We're going on a long road trip, and I have a wonderful sourdough starter that I want to survive our absence. What is the best way to keep a starter for a month without feeding it? Will freezing work?
Just refresh it right before you leave and refrigerate it. It will be fine!
If you are gone for a month, I think you might need to freeze it. Perhaps freeze half and keep the other half in the refrigerator to hedge your bets. I would also check a book on baking artisianal breads to see what is recommended.
It should be fine, but I'd freeze some as Maedl said just to be safe. I've read somewhere that you can freeze for up to a couple of months and be ok.
When you return, keep them out at room temp for a few days, feeding daily, to get the guys going again.
I think an important thing to consider would be how wet you leave it. Depending on what your typical proportion is, you may want to set aside a ja with slightly higher water content and one that is on the dryer side. Maybe feed it a double dose for a while before you leave so you have ample amount to try. In general yeast is not killed by even a very low temperature. It would be great if you have a minute to share how it goes once you get back :). And I'd say definately sterilize the jars for the portion you leave out of the freezer to lessen your margin of side effect error.
A month is way too long to let it go without feeding. Heck, a week is too long. Left unfed for a week, the wild yeasts will do what is called "overconsuming their food supply." They'll consume all the carbohydrates in the starter, then start on the only source of food left: the protein in the flour. Left for a month, it will have an extremely strong alcohol content (and smell - it reminds me faintly of gin), along with the musty odor of dead yeast cells because dead is what they will be by that time. It will also probably have begun to mold. If you've maintained it diligently and happily to this point, why let it go? You have some good options. I routinely babysit starters for people who are going away, so see if a friend will agree to follow your feeding instructions (write them down). The next best idea is to freeze it. Two days before you are going to leave, feed it as usual. The day that you leave, tuck it into the freezer. It will be waiting for you when you return, ready to go to work for you again after it has thawed (under refrigeration, so as to wake the yeast cells up slowly). Bon voyage!
I'm reminded of that chapter in "Kitchen Confidential" when Adam Last Name Unknown, who was Les Halles' outstanding baker, calls in hungover and God knows what else, with three words "Feed the bitch". The starter is being held in industrial size tubs with sacks and crates on the lids to keep them from blowing off, so it's a big job that nobody wants to do.
Enjoy your vacation petitbleu. Maybe a neighbor could feed your starter while you are gone.
Thanks, boulangere! Yes, I have kept it alive for too long to just leave it for dead. I'll try the freezing method.
Have a great trip and when you get back, tell us all about the foods you ate.