Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Water kefir - fruit flavoured

About a month ago I encountered a few problems with my water kefir grains. They'd been chugging along nicely, doing their thing, when all of a sudden the liquid became thick and the grains slimy. Oh no.......I've killed them!

Jan, the lovely lady who gave me the grains had also experienced similar problems. After a bit of net surfing I came to the conclusion that the little blighters had a mineral deficiency. Previously I used organic raw sugar, 1/4 of a organic lemon and a tablespoon of organic sultanas with the grains and water for the ferment. It was time to go back to basics, no more lemon, reintroduce half rapadura sugar (it's full of minerals) as well as adding 1/8 of a teaspoon of bi-carb to the water (more minerals if you are not using spring water). Thankfully the grains sprang back to life and began bubbling again.

Now if I want lemon flavour in the kefir I simply add the juice of half a lemon after I bottle the fermented liquid. Another method that I have been trying is a secondary ferment with crushed fruit or fruit juice. I make the kefir in the usual way, strain off the grains then add approximately 3/4 cup of pureed sieved fruit to 1L of kefir. Seal the bottle airtight and allow to ferment for another 12 - 24 hours on the kitchen bench. The longer you leave it the more effervescent it becomes and slightly more alcoholic too......hiccup! I've not let it ferment any longer than 20 hours as I'm a little worried that the bottle might blow as it gets very fizzy.

Mango flavoured water kefir - thank goodness for frozen mango from last season

After about 20 hours fermentation

If you try this don't be expecting it to taste like soft drink, it has a mild slightly fermented fruity flavour, I find it very refreshing. I'm eager to try some grape juice but I'll have to wait till they come in season, any fruit with a high sugar content would be suitable. I've also seen kefir made with freshly crushed apple juice instead of water. From my understanding you only consume small amounts of the apple kefir and you need to halt the fermentation before it tastes like apple cider vinegar.

Berry flavoured water kefir

After 20 hours fermentation

A word of caution, if you intend fermenting grains in juice or other liquid always use excess grains in case the fermentation kills off you kefir.

A few weeks ago I did a swap with the lovely Narelle at Just Like My Nan Made. Narelle was eager to obtain some kefir grains and as I always have excess I was more than happy to help out. In return Narelle sent me two chokos...yay and a bar of her handmade soap. Thanks again Narelle, I hope those babies are working for you.

Little chokos and handmade soap

Cheers Lisa

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sourdough bread - 1st attempt

Inspired by some fellow bloggers I decided it was about time I tried my hand at making sourdough bread. Me being me I wanted to make my own leaven. Goodness there are so many methods out there for making a starter, it's soooo confusing. After having rave reviews on several blogs, I settled on Dan Lepard's leaven recipe (I found that at Gillthepainter's blog.) At the same time I reserved Dan's book 'The handmade Loaf' at the local library, thankfully it arrived just in time to make my first loaf.

After feeding and caring for the baby for eight days, it seemed to the untrained eye ready to use. It was doubling in size every day, there were bubbles on the surface, surely it must be ripe.

I used the White leaven bread recipe and religiously followed the instructions. What a labor of love this sourdough bread making is, a whole day to make two loaves of bread!

Actually I think it kind of worked, not the best example but it wasn't a total brick and the taste was not too bad either. By now my starter is 11 days old and last night for the first time the starter was frothy, I think it's now ready to use.

Apparently you are suppose to name your starter. As I don't want to break with tradition I've named it in honour of my Dad 'Kev'. He was a pastry cook and loved to bake and a great inspiration to me.

Kev - late 40's or early 50's. It looks like he's icing either a wedding cake or a very large Christmas cake

Have a great day


Monday, July 4, 2011

Cheese making and fermentation part 2 - milk kefir and yoghurt

Ok, so a day has turned into two weeks, I'm just hopeless with this blogging business at the moment!

Another topic discussed at the workshop was milk kefir. If you are not familiar with kefir have a look at Dom's Kefir for some very detailed information. Kefir is a fermented food, full of friendly micro-organisms and yeasts. It has many health benefits and can help create a healthier digestive system.

I've been making this wonderful stuff for about two months now. The organic markets where I buy my fruit and vegetables has a stall that sells fermented foods. I was chatting to them one Sunday and offered them some of my water kefir grains in exchange for milk grains.

Milk kefir grains - this is what I started with, not even a teaspoonful

After a few weeks of culturing the grains have multiplied and grown in size

It's really easy to make, simply place the grains in a sterilised glass jar, add milk, then allow to ferment at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours, strain out the grains, put the liquid in the fridge or allow it to ferment for another 24 hours for a thicker more tangy kefir. The grains multiply with each batch you make. I started with less than a teaspoon, now I have about 1/2 a cup of grains. Drink it straight or make it into a smoothie. As I'm without a blender at present and I'm not that fond of drinking it straight, I use the kefir instead of milk, buttermilk or whey in cooking and baking. Not the best use of it, as cooking destroys all the probiotics but it makes lovely light cakes, bread and scones. Kefir can be used to ferment milk and make a light curd cheese or ferment cream into sour cream or fermented butter.

Kefir after two days culturing, the grains and kefir rise to the top

We also learnt about making yoghurt using raw milk and yohurt starter culture. In the past all of my yoghurt making has been done using prepared yoghurt, milk, a bit of milk powder thrown in to thicken it, then incubated overnight in a thermos. Whilst this has usually worked, it has been a bit hit and miss at times. I have to say after using a starter culture I'll never go back to the old method. The end product is far superior not only in taste and texture but the number of beneficial bacteria are in the millions as opposed to the thousands in the other method.

Yoghurt culture - you only need 2 - 3 grains to set 1 - 1.5 L of milk

If you intend using raw milk when making yoghurt with a culture you need to heat the milk to 85C first. The bacterial present in raw milk will work against the culture you inoculate your milk with and it wont thicken. Once heated, allow the milk to cool to 43C, add a few grains of yoghurt culture, pour into a suitable container, glass is best, then incubate overnight at 43C (I use a large thermos that I heat up with hot water for 5 - 10 mins). The next morning pour the yoghurt into a muslin lined sieve and allow to drain for 10 - 15 mins. Place in the fridge and allow to chill before devouring. Keep the resulting whey to make ricotta or use it in cooking.

Yoghurt draining

The finished product, thick creamy yoghurt

Elisabeth had samples of kefir grains and yoghurt culture for sale on the day, which was great. The culture she uses (Type C aBt) makes a mild almost sweet tasting yoghurt. Actually it tastes wonderfully creamy, great to use on fresh or poached fruit or just eat it by the spoonful!

If you are interested in cheese making or making your own yoghurt with a starter culture here are a few sites with lots of info and products to get you started - Cheeselinks and Green Living Australia .

Phew....that was a long post, I should have put a rambling warning at the start!

Cheers Lisa