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We recently got a sourdough starter, and have loved trying out many different recipes with it.

In a few weeks we will by flying home (after spending the summer in Alaska), and we would really like to take the starter home with us.

What's the best way to get it safely through the airport?

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    The answers provided are good, and go directly to your question, but you might also consider packaging it up and mailing it to yourself. Bypass any nasty TSA questions. – Cos Callis Jul 26 '17 at 15:35
  • @CosCallis but you must take into account that a fresh / liquid starter will always be very active at room temperature. So you need to make very sure, that it stays safely within the container you are shipping it and that a container can handle the buildup of pressure that will certainly happen during shipping time. – Stephie Jul 26 '17 at 17:13
  • Is "home" also in the US? Some countries may not allow you to enter with some kinds of foreign food, particularly if its express purpose is to host microbes. – Matthew Read Jul 26 '17 at 19:48
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    @MatthewRead Yes, "home" is also in the US - good thing to clarify. – David Oneill Aug 2 '17 at 17:14
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    No need to transport the starter, just make a new one at home. It will be the same: contrary to popular belief, sourdough starters get colonised with local wild yeast over time, they don’t retain the original culture composition at different locations. – Konrad Rudolph Nov 24 '18 at 13:21
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If you don't want to transport liquid (= active) sourdough because you don't want to risk it to spill out of your container, note that you can either

  • mix some of it with more flour than usual until you get a dryish crumbly mass that can be stored in a plastic box or bag or
  • spread a thin layer on parchment and dry it. Break up the "sheet" and store it in a dry place.

Both forms should be safe to be transported in either your checked baggage or in your carry-on luggage. Be prepared to answer questions from security either way. But I suppose liquid sourdough might raise the same questions.

At your destination, rehydrate the crumbs, add them to your usual water / flour mix and continue cultivating it as before. A few feedings should be enough to get the sourdough back into good shape.

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    I'd use the dried flakes as a backup, even if transporting some as a liquid. The flakes store for quite some time (years?), so should the sourdough change significantly after being moved, you can restore some of the original Alaskan strain. – Joe Jul 26 '17 at 15:40
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    @Joe but drying can influence the composition as various bacteria strains have different drought tolerance. And yes, dry can be stored for a long time. My favorite would be the barely wet crumbs as they leave the sourdough mostly unchanged. – Stephie Jul 26 '17 at 15:51
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    I have done this flying to and from Japan. I may have been lucky but I was never asked questions about it and I had it on my carry on just to be sure nothing happened to it. I usually just spread it out on plastic wrap, dry, crumble it and keep it in a ziplock. It revives remarkably well. – BlackThorn Jul 26 '17 at 17:25
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    Sorry, just visualizing ziplock filled with quantities of power flakes and flour and a DEA agent with arms folded prepping for a cavity search and saying "Sure it is sourdough starter..." – dlb Jul 26 '17 at 18:52
  • @dlb ^_^ maybe OP should have this post available on a mobile phone.... – Stephie Jul 26 '17 at 18:59
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Treat it like any liquid. You don't need much. Just put some in a 100 ml plastic bottle if carrying on. Alternately, if checking your bags, put your starter in a larger plastic container with a screw cap...like a Nalgene bottle, for example. You can build it back up once you get to your destination.

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    Just remember that you just take some in the bottle, not fill it or you might end up with a nasty mess in your bag. – Stephie Jul 26 '17 at 15:22
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Disguise it as cookie - the airport does not generally take your food items unless they are forbidden when entering or leaving the Country. Mix a small amount (10g) of your starter with about 3-4 times the amount of unbleached or whole grain flour. Once you can no longer incorporate the flour press it flat to form a cookie - you can even add raisins to the disguise if you want. Place it in a plastic bag and store it in your travel bag with your other snacks. If asked just tell them its a macrobiotic cookie, which is pretty close to the truth...

Once you arrive at your destination remove any raisins that you might have added and break the cookie into pieces in a bowl - add water and flour as you would when refreshing your starter. Let it ferment for 4 - 12 hours depending on how you normally use your starter - use or store as usual.

I usually make a counter starter occasionally from my refrigerated starter. The recipe was 10g starter, 10g water, 20g of flour usually whole wheat and rye. The end result will be something like this. Sorry I don't have a cookie picture. You can get creative if you like - this is my pet starter..

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TSA did NOT allow us to take a partially filled bottle even though it was a 3 ounce bottle. If you check with TSA, write down who you talk to in addition to the date and time and what they recommend.

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Using a wide mouth 1/2 pint jar...feed your starter in starter jar and then fill small 1/2 pint travel jar almost to top. Leave uncovered for three days before travel. The top of the 1/2 pint will dry over. This "skin" will protect the nearly dessicate starter safely hiding under the skin. In this way you will protect the lacto family of worker yeasts, which thrive in a moist environment, for the travel. Once you arrive to your sestination, remove the protecting skin and revive your starter. If you are a sourdough keeper you will recognize when they are ready to go to work on a fresh loaf of loveliness.

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