There has been a bit of conversation on this forum, and suggestions for how to get a starter going. However I don't think that anyone has posted instructions for the beginner on how to create a new starter from scratch.
I realised when I started to think about how I created my starter that I had very little idea about what I was doing at the time, and blithely mixed instructions from several different sources. To my surprise it worked extremely well, and continues to supply me with excellent bread (if I do say so myself).
I was unsure whether my 'technique' would work again, so I thought that I would have another go at it - however while I do that I thought I might try a couple of other suggested techniques. I will try to keep you posted on the progress of the different starters.
To start with (lots of unintended puns here), here are some general principles gleaned from different sources.
1. Make sure that your containers are [i]clean[/i] before you start. (I poured some boiling water in my jars and left them for 10 minutes beforehand). The idea is to try to avoid contaminating your starter with unpleasant organisms (the starter is especially vulnerable early).
2. Use filtered or spring water where possible
3. Use organic ingredients where possible
4. The aim of the refreshing steps is to add extra food for the organisms that you are culturing. Each time you refresh you need to add extra flour and water. You will need to throw some starter out to make room for this - otherwise you will rapidly accumulate litres of the stuff...
5. If you read around a bit the instructions all seem to differ, but are all quite dogmatic - you must use this, you mustn't use that, you should cover, you musn't cover etc. I think that what this probably means is that actually creating a starter is not that hard - there are lots of different ways, all of which can work.
I am going to try three quite different methods to get a starter going.
This is more or less what I tried the first time I made a starter. It involves using some organic sultanas which are fermented for a couple of days in water with a little sugar - before adding the flour
This is a version of Dan Lepard's method in The Handmade Loaf. I haven't followed Dan's suggestion and added a small amount of live yoghurt at the start - because I don't eat dairy products - however you could if you like.
This is the simplest of all - just using wholewheat flour and water. It is loosely inspired by Peter Berley's "The modern vegetarian kitchen", as well as the sourdough doctor FAQs [url]http://www.faqs.org/faqs/food/sourdough/starters/[/url]