Oh, hi everyone! Before I go barreling in to blogging again, let me sum up the last month or so.
Rest, go on vacation to see best friend, finally feel like I am doing with schooling, get over the feeling like I have to shoehorn activities into each day otherwise they don’t get done, relax for real, come home, have amazing fellowship for 2 days, be lethargic for a week, have sinus issues for a week, regroup, and plot out blog posts for the month of June.
And here we are now!
One of my ongoing tasks with this blog is to prove that real food is indeed for everyone. That it IS possible to make these foods and live this kind of life even if you don’t have the ability to be at home all day. Let’s face it, between soaking, sprouting, letting things ferment, and all the other prep work, it can be very intimidating. My key to “doing it all” is simple: I don’t. I decide which things are most important to me in terms of health, ethics, and logistics. What’s going to do the most for my body, can I justify my purchases, and do I have enough space for everything.
Cultured and fermented foods are a big part of my diet. Somehow, however, I have managed not to write much of anything about them until now. (Have you seen my sourdough tutorial?) But they were the first noted diet addition when I started eating traditional foods in 2009. Fortunately there is a brand of fermented vegetables available in the northeast called Real Pickles. I quickly got hooked on their sauerkrauts. I also started buying milk kefir from the supermarket, then the farmer’s market, then last year started making my own. It plays a big role in the Body Ecology diet. I decided that since I already bought my own raw milk every week, buying grains for culturing would quickly become a more frugal option.
Why eat cultured and fermented foods?
In a phrase: they’re good for you. Extremely good. Most every culture on earth has some form of cultured food as part of their diet. It’s not only a method for preservation. Cultured foods, when consumed regularly, build probiotics in your gut. They play a vital role in your overall health. These days, between not consuming fermented foods and high use of antibiotics means that most of us have very poor levels of good bacteria in our guts.
There’s one thing about cultured foods. They take time to culture. I can’t speak for water kefir or kombucha, but milk kefir also takes time to strain if you use grains. Usually the instructions for making milk kefir look like this:
1. Put grains or culture in fresh milk.
3. Let sit until milk takes on a yogurty/custardy consistency.
4. If using grains, strain out grains. If using a culture, retain some of the kefir for the next batch.
5. Put grains/culture in clean jar with new batch of milk and start process again.
There is just one little thing with my making of kefir. I make it in mason jars. When I got my kit from Cultures for Health, I received dehydrated grains and a plastic mesh strainer. So let’s go back to that straining step, shall we?
That’s not a large strainer. I tend to culture at least a cup of milk each time. It’s not going to all fit in that strainer. Let’s also note that bit of kefir escaping over the lip of the jar. I’m too
cheapfrugal to let any of this deliciousness run down the side and somehow not find its way into my belly.
This means that when I strain kefir, I want to be there to make sure all of it gets in the jar. I’ll be honest, it takes me about 15 minutes to take care of the kefir this way. The time turns into a meditation for me, because I am so focused on the work and can’t really do anything else then. It’s comforting. I also like being able to slow down this way.
Incidentally, I recommend checking your kefir daily. During the cooler months it takes two days to culture, no matter how much milk is in the jar. When it’s warmer, I have to strain daily. In fact during very hot and humid days I could possibly strain off twice a day. The time to do so is just not there.
So now, I present…
Soli’s guide to REALLY making milk kefir
(This guide presumes you have active milk kefir grains. If yours are dehydrated, follow the instructions you are given to make them active.)
1. Check that your kefir is ready. It should resemble the consistency of yogurt. Get your mesh strainer (and NEVER USE METAL, the culture will corrode the metal over time), a clean jar, lid, and a spatula.
2. Start pouring some of the kefir through the strainer into the jar below. I like to run the spatula between the kefir and jar to loosen it up and make pouring easier. (I also like to lick some of the kefired cream from the spatula. You’ll only have this option with non-homogenized milk, because the cream rises to the top.)
3. Use the spatula to help move the kefir through the strainer quicker.
4. As the strainer empties, pour in more kefir. You may need to scrape the jar to get the kefir clinging to the sides. Something else I do is scrape the bottom of the strainer, which seems to help make things go quicker.
5. When you get to the end, you’ll see your grains in the strainer. Get as much of the kefir into the jar. I don’t worry about some kefir clinging, and have never had an issue with things going sour or bad.
Transfer the grains to a clean jar, and cover with milk. Cover the jar and start the process again!
6. Place a lid on your strained kefir. I like to date them, in case I don’t remember which jar is older. You can see my geekdom and how long I’ve been planning this post by the date here…
7. Drink up and enjoy! You can keep your kefir plain, do a second culture with spices or fruits, make it into smoothies, or even salad dressing. The latter is a great option if your kefir is tasting a little more sour than you like. I made this salad dressing last week. It’s SO GOOD.
Do you make kefir or other cultured drinks regularly? Do you want to try doing so now?
I’m sharing this post at Monday Mania, Traditional Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Simple Lives Thursday, Fresh Bites Friday, Fight Back Friday, and Seasonal celebration Sunday.
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