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.
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.
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!