Nourishing Food

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When I am about to have a new baby I know that one of two things is going to happen to my cultures. Either I give them to a friend who is looking to start fermenting or I kill them. I’ve never seen a third option happen.

So when Joshua was nearing his arrival I gave my water kefir grains to a friend who was interested in water kefir. Just recently she gave the water kefir grains back to me, concerned they weren’t working. Sometimes cultures die, either from a lack of food and proper environment or from some seemingly unknown reason. But in order to know if your starter culture is a goner, it’s a good idea to give it a concentrated dose of its favorite things to find out if it is still kicking.

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In my experience, water kefir’s favorite things are warmth, food, and minerals. So I rinsed out a homegrown eggshell and added that along with some organic molasses to the sugar water and water kefir grains. I cultured it in a warm spot and checked it after 48 hours. The liquid began to have the slightest water kefir flavor.

I was encouraged but knew this round wasn’t a great culture so I dumped the slightly cultured sugar water and repeated the eggshell and molasses routine. This next round had that very definitive water kefir flavor while still being a bit sweet. So I bottled it up, fed the grains again, and the next batch cultured even faster. And now there is this deliciously bubbly beverage bottled up next to the kombucha and the grains seem to be thriving once more.

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The Needs of All Starter Cultures

All cultures have basic needs such as food and appropriate culturing temperature, but each one is just a bit specific. Based on my own failures and successes, these are the basic needs of the common culture starters:

  • Water Kefir – warmth, frequent feedings, minerals.
  • Kombucha – warmth, air, just the right cycle of feeding times.
  • Milk Kefir – moderate warmth, frequent feedings, a stir here and there through the culturing process.
  • Sourdough – moderate warmth, frequent feedings, aeration through vigorous stirring.
  • Yogurt – Moderate warmth (depending on whether it is mesophilic or thermophilic), lack of competition from other bacteria (i.e. raw milk or an unclean culturing vessel).
  • Fermented Vegetables – Moderate temperature (65 – 85), appropriate salt to vegetable ratio, at least 2-3 weeks of fermentation time.

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Another common problem with culture starters such as water kefir, milk kefir grains, and kombucha is not adding more sugar water or milk to the culture as the culture multiplies. As the culture multiplies, I have found it is best to keep the ratio of culture to culturing medium the same. So toss extra SCOBYs or grains to the chickens or ramp up the amount of milk or sugar water you are using so that the ratio is maintained.

If one of your cultures doesn’t seem to be working properly, address their needs through frequent feedings and proper environment to see if it is simply a matter of giving the culture what it needs. If it still doesn’t work or if anything funky begins to take hold, tossing them into the compost is a good idea.

Happy culturing!

As I was going through photos I realized I have a lot of things I meant to share here but just haven’t gotten to. The rains came and left, company came and left, and the only excuse remaining was my broken login. Well, Stewart fixed that too so now I am out of reasons not to share when time allows.

Ferments seem the most logical place to start, right?

Vegetables

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I do most of my fermenting in canning jars of various sizes. These jars become a convenience food after weeks of fermenting on the counter top. When meal time rolls around I can just plop some jars on the table and we have the raw/enzymatic portion of the meal covered.

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I pretty much like all fermented vegetables at this point but one of my absolute favorites, by far, has to be cortido. That jar above on the right is one of the tastiest things you can eat and I will pretty much put it on everything – eggs, salads, tacos – until it is gone.

Kefir

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We recently acquired some new kefir grains and I’m so excited because I see milk kefir as a one-stop-shop for whatever ails you. I make about a quart a day from Abby’s milk and everyone wants some. We all feel better when we’re drinking it and it makes me wonder why stuff like this isn’t used by anyone and everyone with a health issue. Maybe we should start the billion dollar milk kefir industry?

Sourdough

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This was a loaf of chocolate chunk gluten-free sourdough banana bread. Yes, it is a mouthful in so many ways and it was pretty tasty too. But more importantly, hungry little Ruthie fingers.

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And then there was this plate of Gluten-Free Sourdough Blueberry Pancakes. Covered in grass-fed butter. Drizzled in this delicious raw mint honey. I don’t want to tell you how to live your life… but might I gently recommend something like this for breakfast alongside a hot cup of coffee swirling with raw milk?

Kombucha

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This easiest of fermented beverages is now taking over my counter tops (along with all of the other junk I haphazardly throw on there). We love kombucha but when my Dad comes to visit he seems to enjoy it as well. I don’t think he cares a whit about probiotics or liver-cleansing acids; he just thinks it tastes great!

Ruthie calls it “boochie water” and follows in line with her older siblings who just can’t seem to get enough. That’s what I love about fermented foods – not only do we feel great eating them, they’re almost always the kind of delicious you’ll never find at the grocery store.

What are you fermenting these days?