Don’t cry over sour milk

We try to eat fairly healthy at Seven Trees, lots of home-grown non-industrial foods. But there is always room for improvement. One recent addition to our regular diet is kefir, an ancient form of fermented milk.

Kefir grains after being drained from cultured milk.

The great and powerful Wiki says:

Kefir is a fermented milk drink made with kefir grains that originated with shepherds of the North Caucasus region,who discovered that fresh milk carried in leather pouches would occasionally ferment into a carbonated beverage. It is prepared by inoculating cow, goat, or sheep’s milk with kefir grains. Traditional kefir was made in skin bags that were hung near a doorway; the bag would be knocked by anyone passing through the doorway to help keep the milk and kefir grains well mixed.

Marco Polo mentioned kefir when recounting his travels.

Kefir contains multiple strains of lactobacillus and yeasts that combine to turn milk into a superfood. Lactobacillus is what you get in yogurt and other cultured dairy products, good for you, but they don’t stick around long. You have to keep eating them to retain their help. But the yeasts in kefir push out the bad guys and colonize your intestines for the long haul. It’s great for digestive issues, and preliminary studies show some immune system benefits as well as potential cancer-fighting properties.

Kefir in mid-fermentation at room temperature.

You can buy kefir starter at many stores, but it doesn’t have the full complement of ‘cooties’ and can’t be renewed indefinitely. For that kind of kefir ‘mother’ you have to get a batch of starter grains from someone already growing them. After a few growing cycles the grains expand and you can split them off to share or freeze as a backup supply. We got ours from a person on Craiglist, but there are also online groups & forums where people arrange to share kefir.

The grains are incubated in milk, at room temperature, usually for 24 hours. Then we pour it into a colander over a bowl to separate the fermented kefir milk from the mother grains. The finished product can also be left out to ferment further, which raises the nutrient value, but makes a stronger tasting drink. The grains are put into a clean jar and topped up with fresh milk to ferment the next day’s batch. We use raw Guernsey milk from Old Silvana Creamery. The finished kefir milk goes into another jar and into the fridge to cool for morning.

So what do we do with all this fermented goodness? Kefir can be used in recipes calling for yogurt, buttermilk and sour cream (with a little more tweaking you can make cheese from kefir). But we make smoothies. Another recent addition to our eating habit is “primal”, a low-carb high-fat unprocessed anti-diet (more on this next week) and smoothies are a great way to start the day with lots of good nutrition. We use 1 cup kefir, 1 cup frozen blackberries, 1/2 a banana, 1 heaping tablespoon flax seed, and 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Blend until smooth, and enjoy.

Since drinking these for breakfast every day we’ve noticed a lot more energy and less random hunger. It does add a little work to the mornings, and sometimes the process isn’t so smooth.

Whoops!

We made a huge batch of minestrone this week for canning. The recipe calls for beef broth, and when we can ours we leave the fat included for more nutrients. It usually rises to the top as the jars cool, and this is what I found in one pint.

Our new little kitty, Otto von Bismarck is finding his way around, in and out of the house. He also knows the value of naps. He has figured out how to climb up things, but isn’t so good at the getting down part yet. Good thing we’re such suckers…

 

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