Sunday, February 27, 2011

Adventures in Kefir! Kefir! Kefir! and Sprouts!

To be honest, until I began to ferment my own kefir, I had no idea what it tasted like, looked like or the process it took to get it to a point of being palatable. I think we're there though! It has taken two weeks to get those grains to grow some, and now that they look like little cauliflowers instead of opague white booger balls the drink itself has changed too.

The first week or more the kefir smelled like sourdough yeast. After the first week huge separation was taking place, but the curds were large and really sour/yeasty. Stirring did not get it to break up much. I had a moment of thought and realized that I am feeding the grains at this point. They were turning whiter, but still had a gelatinous smooth look to them.

Since last Wednesday the grains have begun "blooming" and look more and more like the little cauliflower buds that I had been seeking. The feeding of the grains is much more important than having a palatable drink and lead to a better drink as time goes on I can tell.

There isn't as much separation now. I have decided I like that better. When I strain the kefir now, the curds are small and easy to send through the strainer. The grains are growing and definitely stand out now. It appears I have 4 of the little darlings. They are beginning to multiply!

My straining and restarting process are pretty simple. I set 3/4ths of a cup of organic whole milk on the counter after getting home from work (5-6) About 8 or 9 p.m. I break out the strainer, the pitcher bowl and a cup measure. Use plastic or glass. I have stuck a metal spoon into the mixture a couple times in this two and a half weeks and it does seem to inhibit growth (not kill, but that's all the metal these grains have been in contact with and it did inhibit)

Stir the culture with the handle of a plastic spoon rather briskly to break up the curds. If you break a grain, it's okay, that is part of multiplication! They are easy to see at the bottom of the strainer now, and easy to detect as I 'push' the curds through the strainer.

Pour about 1/4 cup of the organic whole milk into the spare cup measure and put the grains in it and swish lightly to rinse. Strain that into the pitcher bowl and stir or swish those contents lightly. Pour 1/2 cup of the kefir into the culturing jar and return the grains to it. Pour in the rest of the organic milk, sprinkle a little sucanat into it, swish, cover lightly and set to culture in its spot. Pour the rest of the kefir in the "keeper" jar in the fridge.

I have been enjoying the smoothies I am making with the kefir. My gut is enjoying it the best right now, and my butt is too. I do not have screaming diarrhea every day, several times a day any longer. Even having honey in the green tea yesterday, refined flour, root beer, coffee and ice cream did not provoke a major IBS incident.

Can you imagine how great I would feel if I didn't consume any of that processed stuff or high fructose stuff? Maybe I wouldn't be sitting here with a major swollen lymph node right now. Well, I will need to revamp all other foods I consume to meet some standards, but kefir seems to be the magic bullet to reorganizing my gut right now. Last weekend was almost a purge and cleanse. It seemed like the diverticuli were letting loose. Kefir is like adding scrubbing bubbles to the colon, except it leaves behind healthy bacteria and yeast to repopulate and even things out. I was able to drink some on its own last night, and it was almost sweet in after taste with a buttermilk presentation. Sheesh! Sound like a wine or coffee connoisseur but that is what it tasted like. Not unpleasant at all! Sooooo much better than last weekend or the weekend before! Two weeks and it is changing in consistency (less lumpy, less separation) and the grains are really growing right now!

They were at 2/3rds a teaspoon last Thursday. I will have to measure again tonight. The MP video and other sources say it will take up to six weeks to get them to a tablespoon or more. Up until then only a cup of milk can get cultured, otherwise "not enough" as MP's other video spoke of. Not enough grain to culture well or to allow for feeding them more. (My experience on the 17th, 18th and 19th) They will expend their energy trying to culture rather than grow if they are in more milk than 1 cup. That is why I add the 1/2 cup of cultured kefir back into the jar right now. It helps the grains grow, giving a little assist to the culturing process and bringing the culture into a drinkable state.

There is my synopsis of the past two and a half weeks of kefir grain growth and kefir culture process.

By date this is what happened to the kefir:

  • 2/9/11 Kefir grains received in the mail. Two little jelly like squishy slightly transparent grains about 1/8th inch in diameter and flat.
  • 2/10/11 Researched online for info online about starting kefir grains. Not much there. Rinsed the grains in the plastic strainer, heeding the words of those who warn that you should not use metal, or things washed in antibacterial soap or chlorine which can harm the grains. Put them in 1/2 c. milk and a pinch of sucanat and set on the corner cupboard shelf. Reading had said to shake so shook lightly a few times a day.
  • 2/12/11 Set culture on top of fridge to see if that would assist. Had big separation. May just be part of the process but the curds got huge, the kefir grains grew somewhat, the kefir was yeasty and sour smelling and not at all potable.
  • 2/13/11 Increased milk to 2 cups in the kefir, using just the fresh.
  • 2/14/11 I remembered that I had not received the free kefir making video series from MP, sent an email to Giselle and MP sent the link. Watched the videos and realized I had 'not enough" grains for even closeto two cups milk. Stepped back to one cup. Still using a lot of milk. need to devise a new plan.
  • 2/17/11 Tried the kefir in a triple berry smoothie and added some coconut oil which seemed to help make it creamier. Definitely quite drinkable. Still yeasty however. Still have loose stools.
  • 2/20/11 Made new yogurt with a new cup of Mountain High and had great success.
  • 2/21/11 Added a 1/2 cup of yogurt to the smoothie. Very good! The grains are responding to the 1 c. limit and pinch of sucanat. Still using a lot of milk rinsing etc.
  • 2/22/11 Have started setting out 3/4 c. organic whole milk at lunch or when I get home from work and let it lose its chill. When I have stirred and strained the kefir, I put the grains in a 1/4 c. milk to swish and rinse. After pouring a 1/2 c. of kefir into the culture jar, I strain this 1/4 c milk into the keeper batch. The grains go back into the culture jar with the remaining half cup of fresh milk and pinch of sucanat. I have been loosely covering the culture jar with a wide mouth plastic lid at this point. When the grains are 2 to 3 T's large I will give an effervescent culture a try.
  • 2/24/11 The grains continue to bloom. There are three 2/3rd inch grains and one little "start." It is getting easier to identify the new babies too. As the consistency seems to level off and the curds break up easily the new start was so apparent with its tough little rubbery texture there was no missing it!
  • 2/26/11 The setting out milk and rinsing with the 1/4 c. milk has definitely been a good addition. Keeping the volume at a cup and using half a cup of cultured kefir per new batch has also helped a lot in the grain growth department. When I strained the culture this time there was another new grain. The grain from the 24th had doubled and the 3 bigger grains are growing well also. I could theoretically have 1 inch grains by the end of the coming week.
  • Using the filtered water to rinse everything before using has also helped I think. I do reuse the culture and keeper jars for a few days before washing. I also rinse in filtered water to assure the chlorine and antibacterials are gone. You may shudder at reusing the containers without washing, but kefir is a potent source of good flora. It "eats" bad bacteria and yeast, converting it to the good stuff. Research shows that the people of the Caucasus area used goat stomachs to keep their kefir and it NEVER got washed after the initial cleaning before the first use. People in that area were super healthy until nuclear plants started having their little problems.
It is fun nurturing growth of kefir, sprouts (which are also doing very well and we are eating the first batch as the second batch does its thing) in addition to yogurt. It is even more fun to have a healthy gut again. Now I am looking at starting fir mjolk, and using that in concert with the other probiotics. I am of a belief that you do best with the culture of your body's origin. Fir mjolk is a Northern European cultured milk. I remember having it with rhubarb and toasted steel cut oats for breakfast. I know my mom and dad relished the culture and used for years the bit they got from my mom's visiting cousin from Sweden.

Today I am making more yogurt so I can make a version of the cream cheese brownie swirls with lo-grain rather than no grain. Here is the recipe (Thanks to Food Renegade) that I am going to convert and its conversions:

Grain-Free Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

Yield: 12 brownies

The Players
Brownie Ingredients

  • 1 c almond butter (1/2 c. coconut flour, 1/2 c. blend of unbleached white and Prairie Gold Wheat Montana flour that has been soaked in 1/2 c. kefir)
  • 2 eggs (from pastured hens) (4 eggs, coconut flour is very absorbent. My first try with pancakes was an amazing adventure of add liquid, stir, watch it turn into thick glop and then stand still, add liquid, stir...rinse repeat... until I researched and found you need to add an egg per 1/4 c coconut flour, hence add two!)
  • 1/3 c cocoa powder
  • 1/2 c canned coconut milk (full fat)
  • 1/2 c coconut crystals or palm sugar ( I am using sucanat and maybe some honey)
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/3 c chocolate chips (optional) (not adding)

Cheesecake Ingredients

The How-To

Set your oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the brownie ingredients until well combined, and pour into a greased 9×9 oven-safe baking dish.

Add the cream cheese to your mixer bowl and beat until smooth, add the rest of the ingredients and beat until combined.

Dollop the cream cheese batter on top of the brownie batter. Using a knife, or a toothpick, swirl the cheesecake batter into the brownie batter. This would be a great thing for kids to do! Another option would be to remove the vanilla extract and add your favorite extract flavoring to the cheesecake batter; mint, almond, orange, coffee, coconut–would all work well.

Bake for about 35 minutes–until the top has slightly cracked. Serve well chilled, just like cheesecake.

I'll let you know how it turns out!

Happy culturing!

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