First task on getting home after more than a couple of weeks away is always to see to my microbial friends. The pasta madre looked none the worse for wear, so back into the fridge it went. My own starter, however, looked none too good. Definitely a bit stinky, and floating above the expected hooch was a layer of something powdery and beige. Spores? As for the yoghurt, words fail me. Stinky doesn't begin to describe it, and one jar -- how can I have left an entire jar uneaten? -- had a small surface colony of something definitely orange-red. Alas, I discarded the jarful first, before discovering that it might have been Brevibacterium linens, source of the joy that is Limburger and the horror that is sweaty feet. My old mucker Bernard Dixon tells me the odour also attracts mosquitoes, which cries out for some cod etymology about musky toes, but having tossed it there was no way to check.
Anyway, keeping kitchen cultures requires only basic microbiology, and the first rule for a potentially contaminated culture is to culture quickly and often. For the sourdough starter, that was easy. I tipped away the hooch and beige powdery stuff (normally I just stir it in) and removed 6 gm, which I fed with 12 gm of flour and 12 gm of water. By this morning it was bubbling nicely again and smelling sweetly yeasty with a sour tang and no nastiness. Another feed, and this evening it was ready to go into a simple bread that is bulk fermenting even now. More on that when it has been baked. So all is well, though I expect it will be even better after another couple of bakes.
The yoghurt I cultured too, and although it was a bit thin this morning I decided to strain it and stick it in the fridge. By this evening the texture was wonderful, thick and creamy, and the taste pretty good too, although a little bit cheesy and not as tangy as if I had let it ferment for the usual 24 hours. I've just made another batch, which I fully expect to be back up to snuff by tomorrow.