Help! with Very old unused sourdough in my fridge



I'm new to this forum. My name is Beka, I'm 15 and I'm mostly a cake decorator but now I'm starting to bake bread too. I found this container of sourdough and am interested to experiment in sourdough breads

I need to ask a few questions about  sourdough. My mom used to make sourdough bread and has not used it for a few years...This sourdough, unrefreshed, is in a plactic container and has been in the fridge for I-dunno-how-long! Probably 3 yrs I gues??

Can I still use it? It has seperated into a brownish liquid and sticky white mixture and smells like alcohol. After refreshed, will it still work or is it too old? Has not been refreshed in soooo long I have doubts.

Thanks in Advance for you help. I would like to know soon as not to waste time if i need to make a fresh batch.

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Michael Bedward 2009 July 24
Three years is a very long time so you might have lost it, but you can try. I've revived cultures that have been neglected in the fridge for the best part of a year.
The separation is no problem, nor is the alcohol smell. That's 'hooch', a product of the yeast in the culture.  You can discard it. What's important is the white, probably quite solid, stuff underneath the hooch. If it smells horrible (like something died) then throw it away. But if it smells ok, you can try 'washing' the culture to revive it. Here's how...
Transfer the culture to a clean jar (e.g. a 1 litre jar) as best you can. Fill the jar half way with with cold or tepid water (not hot !) and stir vigorously for a while trying to mix as much of the solid stuff into solution. This might take a while. You will end up with something that looks like weak milk. Save one cup of this (no solid bits) and discard the rest. You might need to clean the jar if there is goop in the bottom or swap to another jar. Put the cup of saved liquid in the jar and begin stirring in plain flour. Add enough so that you get very thick batter consistency.
The above is a washing cycle :)  Leave the jar in a sheltered place (not too cold). The next day, repeat the whole process. What you're doing is trying to create conditions that benefit the sourdough organisms and retard any contaminating organisms.  
Keep doing this until you start seeing activity (bubbles, froth, mixture rising in the jar, nice smell). I've had to do it for four or five days sometimes.
If your culture had died nothing much will happen.
Good luck !Michael
hakeber 2009 August 5
THanks! King arthur flour had a blog post with the same predicament as mine. I just poured out the liquid, added flour and water every 24 hours, and in 2 days it was super healthy and even overflowed. made delicious buns and bread. Not very pretty. Does anyone have tutorials on the shaping and decorating of bread?

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