“Sourdough” simply means “wild-yeasted”. Whether sourdough pancakes or sourdough bread, the batter or dough contains a bacteria and yeast culture which imparts a flavor to the bread. This flavor does not need to be the powerful tang of San Francisco sourdough, which contains a particularly potent strain of bacteria (“Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis”), but all sourdoughs have a fuller and more interesting flavor than their baker’s yeast counterparts.
Your sourdough is a living culture, so it must be cared for. For one, you should feed it by mixing in a heaping spoonful of flour and enough water to maintain the consistency. A healthy start needs to be fed only once every week or two so long as it is kept refrigerated. A room temperature starter, however, should be fed daily. Keeping your sourdough start out will result in a much more vibrant starter, but if you do not use it often feeding it may become burdensome. Thus you can keep it in the fridge, but allow it to regain full vitality by leaving it out for half a day before use.
Your culture will also appreciate it’s jar being cleaned periodically. This does not have to be done often (or at all), but keeping the jar tidy will ward off molds that may grow on the weak bits of culture on the edge of the jar.
Some people concern over the consistency of their starter. However, your starter will be happy at almost any consistency. I usually keep mine just watery enough so that it is not doughy at all. I find this consistency easy to handle and a suitable average for my recipes. If, however, I only made bread with my sourdough, I would keep it denser–the same consistency of the bread’s sponge.
“Aside from its applications in baking, sourdough was used most often to provide a form of libation. Given warmth and sufficient time, a clear nefarious liquid rises to the top of all starters. A machination of the devil, prospectors called it hooch. It was strong enough to corn even the most hearty of individuals. With an alcoholic content of 15 per cent, a smell kinder to kerosene, and the taste of high grade mineral spirits, it wasn’t much competition for the ‘store boughten red eye.’ But to a forlorn prospector snowed in his cabin in the middle of an Alaskan winter, it was ambrosia in its sublimest form. Again in a display of wilderness creativity, a sourdough might refine his hooch with a crude still made from the barrel of an old 45-90 rifle. This would give him a kind of ‘white mule’ that could send him on an unforgettable shindy. Many a prospector passed away the confinement in his cabin with his sourdough pot bubbling enough hooch to keep him blissfully sotted the whole time. As the snow melted, he would eventually emerge with a horrendous case of the jim-jams and a solemn vow never to imbibe the stuff again. Such an affirmation was usually good for at least three days.”
Jake O’Shaughnessey’s Sourdough Book, p. 11