Hi all! I am a proud beginner sourdough momma, and have baked a few rounds of bread from a beauitful, active starter given to me by a friend. Unfortunately, I recently went on vacation for 10 left it on the counter instead of in the fridge, and came back to a starter with some funky mold growing on top of a hefty layer of hooch. Characteristic fungal odor instead of the sweet tang of the starter I left. :( I live in Central CA, so inside temps were probably reaching 68-70 during the days.
Not wanting to give up on it, I dumped all but a tiny bit of starter out, poured just a tad into a clean jar, and tried to start over. I fed it every day for about a week, and it started coming back-- not quite doubling, but definitely rising, and gaining a pretty overwhelming tangy smell but no moldy smell. But now it's doing this weird thing where quite a bit of hooch forms after ~24 hours, and there is a section of rising dough on top of that.
Unfortunately, the website won't allow me to upload my images of my starter, but if you can imagine a canning jar with the bottom third of starter, followed by a quarter-inch layer of hooch, and topped by about a half-inch layer of more bubbling starter, that's what I've got. The color looks fine, the smell is VERY sour.
I've been pouring out the top, the hooch, and most of the bottom and re-feeding. Any suggestions? Should I just stir it back in?