What happens if I use my sourdough starter before all of the good yeast and bacteria are fully developed? Would the bad bacteria make me sick? Or would cooking it kill all of the bad bacteria and make, whatever it was I made, safe to eat? For instance, I hear that you can make pancakes from the stater you would normally throw away during feedings. I'm not entirely sure my starter is ready for its debut, I just began growing it 5 days ago from course flour and water.
It will be safe to eat, as long as it isn't moldy, or has other signs of absolute 'spoiled', which for the most part, we are all aware of. If it simply doesn't 'smell tasty'...smells like turpentine, or who knows what, it is likely safe for consumption. I wondered, too, when starting my sourdough starter, how something that sits on the counter for days can be 'safe' to eat, but a sourdough starter needs to do just that.
An 'immature' or 'young' starter will probably just have no strength built up in it yet, and yes, you could use it for pancakes, but it might not help them be light and fluffy. I made some pancakes out of my 'discard', and while they were good, with a terrific flavor, then weren't quite as fluffy as other recipes or a pancake mix.
I have adapted to using the 'float test' for now, to be sure my starter is ready and able to do what I am asking of it: be the natural substitute for packaged, commercial yeast. I'm getting to the point of knowing when it is ready, but that's taken a week or two, and I have a very young starter... meaning I initially began this starter on Jan. 12, 2017. Yes, I used it at about 2 weeks old, but there wasn't much depth of flavor in it. Yes, it 'floated', and it made bread for us, but now I have noticed it is getting...yummy!! For your 'float' test, take out about a TB or so, and drop it into a wide mouthed glass of water. If it sinks, feed it, then recheck when it is good and bubbly again.