Thursday, May 3, 2012

Schamelot Water Kefir

I've been brewing water kefir off and on for a little over a year thanks to my good friend, Jess, and Ruth at Just Another Day In Paradise recently hooked me up with some fresh grains after I'd taken a break.  These were grains she'd been tending for several months which I originally gave to her!  Brewing kefir is a great way to keep up a friendship!

So this is how I do it...

I first add one cup of white sugar to a gallon pickle jar.

Then I fill the jar almost all the way with cold filtered water.

Next I add 1/4 cup water kefir grains to the jar.

Water kefir gets its wonderfully refreshing flavor from lemon and ginger. I usually halve a whole organic lemon and peel a chunk of ginger, which I keep already cut up in the freezer. The ginger peels easily from the freezer under warm water. I usually use the lemon and ginger for two batches of kefir. So on the first batch I only halve the lemon and throw in the ginger whole. On the second batch I cut the lemon halves in half again, and cut the ginger in half as well. It's o.k. to add a new lemon and ginger chunk each time, but I just try to save a few cents where I can. You may also need to add half a cleaned egg shell, or a pinch of sea salt, or quarter teaspoon of baking soda to stimulate the growth of your grains. Some people also add unsulphured sultanas, or golden raisins. I've heard of some people adding unsulphured dates. I suggest you do a little internet research on growing healthy kefir grains to find out more.

I add the lemon and ginger to the water and mix it up to dissolve the sugar.

After the kefir brews for about 48 hours (you can tell it's getting done because the water turns cloudy like Fresca Soda and there are bubbles rising and you can even take a little taste to test the sweetness--finished kefir isn't really that sweet because the sugar gets metabolized by the kefir grains) you just strain it all into a storage container.

I use a PUR refrigerator water filter with a tap that I got at Goodwill for $2.99. The kids gulp this down! It's close enough to soda as far as bubbles go to make an acceptable substitute, and it's so refreshing when it's cold! You can flavor it further with fruit juices if you like--just let the juices ferment on the counter another 24 hours before drinking, but my kids like it just fine straight up and don't usually want to wait another day to try something new.
(See all the other jars of yummy homemade dressings and ferments in my unusually tidy refrigerator!  That little jar  underneath with the red and yellow lid contains a happy little family of kefir grains that need to be adopted!  Let me know if you're interested.) 

 From a Living Kitchen!


24 Hour Greek Style Yogurt made with Half-and-Half

I started making 24 hour yogurt about a year ago when I read about how the long fermentation process "denatures" or predigests the offensive components to milk, like lactose, and casein. Additionally, the sugar used in making vanilla yogurt is metabolized by the yogurt bacteria making it gentler on my little guys' systems--we seem to have less problem with impulse control when they're off white sugar, or when the sugar's been metabolized by something else before the kids eat it (as is also the case with kefir and kombucha).

I start by gathering all my 1 quart wide mouth glass canning jars and lids into my pot and setting them on the stove to boil. It's important to have sterile jars, lids and tools while making yogurt so you don't introduce bacteria into the mix that might inhibit the yogurt bacteria from doing its job. 

 Add one and half cups of sugar to your pot.

 I use a gallon and a half of half-and-half, which will make just a little over a gallon and a half of rich, creamy, thick Greek style yogurt. Whatever warm sweet cream I have left over after filling all my jars I give to the little ones for a treat they love!

I pour most of my half-and-half into my pot using a slotted spoon to dissolve the sugar in the crean, and leaving about a cup of cream in the carton for Caeli's morning coffee. I still end up with a little extra warm sweet cream. I guess I could leave closer to two cups of half-and-half and probably not have any cream left over to treat the little ones, but they'd be so sad... 
I use a digital thermometer that has an alert function on it.  So I set my alert temperature to 180 degrees (the well-done temperature of poultry) and just wait for the cream to get got.  I set the stove top on 8 out of 10.  I guess it usually takes about 15 minutes starting with cold-out-of-the-fridge cream.

 While my cream is warming up to 180 degrees F, I wash the dishes!

  I put a clean dishpan in my sink with about 4 cups of ice in it. This is to cool my cream in after it reaches 180 degrees.

 Then I put my pot of hot cream into the ice, adding a little cold water to the dishpan of ice until my cream cools to 120 degrees.

 While my cream is cooling I take my sterilized jars and lids out of the pot and set them on the counter to cool and dry. I save the pot of hot water to continue to sterilize any new tools I use for filling my jars, like my ladle and funnel.

Once my cream cools I add a tablespoon of pure vanilla extract and stir it into the cream with my slotted spoon. 

I add a spoonful of yogurt to each jar as a starter culture. I just use store bought yogurt that says it has live, active cultures in the labeling. You can also use some left-over yogurt from your previous batch, but my kids usually lick the jars clean before I can reserve any for the next batch. I should probably make a little jar of yogurt to hide in the back of the fridge just for this purpose. You can use your own yogurt to start a new batch a few times but eventually you'll have to get some store bought yogurt again because the bacteria loose their vigor--or so I've read--never tried using my own yogurt more than once. 

 Here you can see I've dropped a rounded tablespoon of yogurt into each jar. Make sure your jars have cooled or the heat can weaken and even kill your starter.

 Now it's time to temper your yogurt starter with the warm cream. Just pour a ladleful of warm cream into each jar (I use a funnel to avoid so much mess) and gentle swish the cream and yogurt around in the jars. The idea here is to introduce the two to each other, not blend them together, so be gentle--no need to use a utensil to mix.

 After you've tempered your starter you can ladle or pour the remaining cream into each jar. I usually pour the cream almost all the way to the top, which sometimes leaks during the fermentation process, leaving little yogurt rings on the bottom of my dehydrator. Again, if I reserved closer to two cups of cream at the start I could probably avoid this minor inconvenience.

 But as you can see the little ones don't really mind when there's a surplus of warm sweet cream!

 Six beautiful full jars of warm sweet vanilla cream and yogurt starter ready to eat in about 30 hours. Trust me--it's well worth the wait!

 And the same six beautiful full jars snuggled up nice and cozy in our second-hand Excalibur dehydrator (the Rolls Royce of dehydrators!). You don't have to use a dehydrator to make yogurt. Remember that pot of hot water you saved to sterilize all your tools? Well, you can pack your jars into an cooler chest and then add some cold water to the pot of hot water until you reach about 115 degrees and pour it into the cooler with the jars. Put the lid on tight, maybe wrap the cooler in a blanket or towel and set it in a non-drafty location for 24 hours. I've done it this way many times, but since we have this dehydrator now taking up space in my dining room I figure I might as well use it.

 The Excalibur has a temperature dial that specifies what temperature you should set it at for what kind of food your making. Our sets yogurt at 115 degrees, but I've found that I get a creamier (less grainy) consistency when I set it between 105 and 115.

Now all you have to do is wait--and boy is it hard. The kids are so tantalized by the sound of the dehydrator going for the next 24 hours they can hardly stand it. And some of them would eat it warm right away. But I always insist we chill it first to get the best consistency--so thick and creamy it won't fall of of Dan's spoon while he insists on feeding himself. It's like custard, and would probably actually be good warm--or cold on warm apple pie--but just really gosh darn delicious all by itself!

 I hope your family enjoys this yogurt as much as we do!