Excellent Primer on Real Foods, Where to Find Them and How to Use Them!

All the ingredients for soaked and cultured pancakes--delicious and nutritious!

All the ingredients for soaked and cultured pancakes–delicious and nutritious!

If you are keen on where to begin on how to use real foods–maybe you’re even wondering where to FIND real foods–then you’ll want to invest in the fantastic education from Kelly the Kitchen Kop.  And, through the weekend of Thanksgiving here in the US, you can purchase Kelly’s trainings at HALF OFF!  Simply enter BLACKFRIDAY as you check out.

What will you receive in Kelly’s trainings?  Here’s a breakdown:

For the Real Food Ingredient Guide E-book, you’ll find:

This revised version is cram-packed with new information.  What I’m most excited about is that it’s set up in a way that gives you exactly what you want in whichever format you need it in at the moment…

  • It has a newly revised 7-page quick reference guide for when you want fast answers to questions like,
    • Will you please just tell me what I’m supposed to buy?!”
    • Or when someone puts you on the spot and you need a quick reminder of “What was so bad about that food again?
    • Or maybe when you’re at the store you might need something to flip to for guidance there on various ingredients, including “good, better, best” options.
    • It’ll also help you know what to look for at your local farm and what questions to ask.
  • It has a more detailed section with facts on the different food groups and ingredients, for when you have time to dig in a little more, and it includes information on where to go for even more in-depth reading and research.
  • If you’re more of a visual learner, you’ll find an easy top ten real foods and top ten junk foods list in pictures.
  • It also includes new bonus material:  How to bring your family from junk food to real food, and how to overcome the six main obstacles everyone faces:
    1. Motivation – You won’t be willing to make a change if you don’t understand why it’s so important!
    2. Confusion/feeling overwhelmed – You’re probably sick of trying to navigate all the information from the ‘experts’ like what’s ‘good’ vs. what’s ‘not good’, especially when that keeps changing; and you just want to figure out the age-old question of “What the heck can I eat?!”  Especially before meal planning or grocery shopping…
    3. How to afford real food – You’ll learn loads of tips all in one place.
    4. Dealing with family complaints – This can wear you down at times, so I’ve got ways for you to get past this one!
    5. How to make time for real food – There are so many ways that I’ll bet you’ve never thought of!
    6. Sticking to it for the long haul – This is often what trips people up.  Life gets in the way and you find yourself slipping backward.  You’ll learn here how to prevent that from happening or how to get back on track.

And, for Kelly’s Real Food for Rookies Online Class, you’ll receive:

  • 12 weeks of online classes with videos, downloadable audios, and written materials.
  • LIFETIME access! Read/listen/watch at your leisure: on your break at work, while the kids are sleeping, in your pajamas, whatever! If you have a busy week, no big deal, just pick it back up on your own schedule.
  • Exclusive expert interviews with Sally Fallon Morell (President of the Weston Price Foundation), Dr. Kaayla Daniel (author of The Whole Soy Story), Jane Hersey (Director of the Feingold Association), Tom Naughton (Fathead filmmaker), and now one more: Jimmy Moore from the Livin LaVida Low-Carb blog!
  • BONUS: Free copy of the Kitchen Kop Real Food Guide
  • Save time and money while serving Real Food
  • Read labels and avoid dangerous ingredients
  • Make nourishing “fast food” meals to avoid last-minute trips to the drive-thru
  • Find healthier alternatives for soda pop, refined sugars, heart-killer oils, sugar-bomb breakfast cereals, factory farmed meat and more
  • Serve nutrient-dense foods that are necessary for good health
  • Take control of your health and change your family’s future!

Both of these tools are invaluable in your journey to greater health and empowerment for yourself and your family.  It takes a village to recapture  the information that’s been lost over the years in regard to how to take care ourselves with nutrition, and Kelly’s classes and information are priceless in their role of keeping you well!  And, from Thursday, November 28th until Monday, December 2nd 2013, you can get these classes and information at half price, by entering BLACKFRIDAY as you check out.

Wishing you the best!  Here’s to your health and the health of your loved ones!

How to Make Butter | Slow Food International – Good, Clean and Fair food.

Straight from Ireland, land of grass-a-plenty and happy cows, simple instructions on how to make butter in your own kitchen!

How to Make Butter | Slow Food International – Good, Clean and Fair food..

Making Homemade Dairy Yogurt

Homemade yogurt

Wonderful homemade yogurt.
Photo courtesy of Vera Almann. 

Why Should We Culture Dairy Products?

• The culturing of dairy reduces the lactose (milk sugar) in the milk, transforming milk into a rich source of immune-building probiotics that is lower in naturally-occurring sugars and higher in Vitamins B and C

 • Culturing dairy generally makes it much more digestible by breaking down the casein (milk protein) that can be very troublesome for many

 • It also increases the enzymes in the milk (even pasteurized milk that is then cultured has a boost to its enzyme capacity), which helps to digest the components of the milk

This ancient way of preservation helped to create some of the incredibly nutritious foods our forefathers consumed. Regardless of whether or not there was an understanding of the healing byproducts of their preserved foods, they were an integral part of keeping them well. (There have been upsides and downsides to the advent of refrigeration and modern food preservation techniques!)

The easiest way to make yogurt is to purchase a yogurt maker, which is essentially an incubator that keeps the temperature at a stable 110 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature at which most thermophilic (heat-loving) cultures thrive.  This is not a mandatory tool, however.  Here are other options:

  • You can also use a mesophilic culture, which cultures dairy in the 70-78 degree Fahrenheit range.
  • You can use a different, stable heat source, monitored with a food thermometer, to keep heat in the 110 degree Fahrenheit range:
    • An insulated bag or ice chest, containing heated bottles filled with hot water
    • A food dehydrator with the trays removed, set at the 110 degree Fahrenheit setting
    • An oven or microwave warmed by its incandescent bulb, possibly with bottles of hot water to increase the heat if necessary
    • Set in the shade on a hot summer’s day (such as in the desert southwest)

In any of the above options, it’s important to start with whole, organic milk, preferably pastured, and raw if you can find it.  Avoid using ultra-pasteurized milk.  You can use goat’s, sheep’s or cow’s milk, though goat’s milk tends to make a thinner yogurt.  If you use raw milk, you’ll need to make a “mother batch” of starter yogurt, otherwise the innate bacteria in the raw yogurt will eventually weaken and override the yogurt cultures.

Visit Cultures for Health for instructions on how to prepare raw milk for a reusable cultured format.

You can also start a homemade yogurt from a small, fresh, 6-8 oz. container of organic, plain, live-culture, unsweetened yogurt.  Look for one without additional thickeners or gums.  You would then treat this as a thermophilic culture starter, adding the contents of the container to your warmed milk.  It will likely only produce one additional batch–if you want to do more, it’s better to use cultures designed for this.

Homemade Dairy Yogurt Instructions for Pasteurized Milk

Using a food thermometer, bring 1 quart of pasteurized milk to the proper temperature (160 degrees Fahrenheit for most thermophilic cultures)—you can set the thermometer in a pan with the milk and slowly heat it to its correct temperature.  Allow it to cool to its proper culturing temperature (105-110 degrees for thermophilic; 72-78 degrees for mesophilic.)  Although this milk has been pasteurized previously, simply bringing it to the proper culturing temperature is tempting fate…because the milk is devoid of its naturally-occuring beneficial bacteria and enzymes, it is a sugary substrate for potentially pathogenic bacteria to proliferate in warm conditions.  Better to first re-sterizlize it then allow it to cool to culturing temperature.

Remove from heat and pour into a glass, quart-sized jar.  Add your cultures and stir well to incorporate into the milk.  Cover with a paper towel and cinch with a rubber band.  Place the jar in an environment (incubator, oven, yogurt maker or on the counter) that is correct for the type of culture you are using.

After about 6 hours, check your yogurt to see if it has “set”—you’ll know, because it will all move as one unit away from the sides of the jar when tilted.  It will also take on a lovely tart smell.  If not, allow it culture for another hour or two, or even longer if necessary, but checking every hour.

(Note–If yogurt goes too long at the culturing temperature, it will become liquid whey and milk curds.  If this happens, you can strain off the whey and use it to drink, as a base for a smoothie, or as a wonderful soaking medium for grains, legumes and meat marinades.  The milk curds can be enjoyed as a thicker type of yogurt, or yogurt cheese, topping a salad.  I’ve had some success using yogurt that has differentiated like this to start a new batch of yogurt, though sometimes it’s best to just start over—you’ll just have to experiment and see for yourself.)

Whey and curds in yogurt

Notice the whey in the middle of the curds in this yogurt that cultured for too long

Once your yogurt has set, enjoy it immediately, or set it in the refrigerator to halt the culturing process.  Whenever you make yogurt, always reserve about 1/2 to 1 cup to start your next batch, following the same instructions of bringing your milk to the proper temperature, pouring it into a new glass jar, adding your existing yogurt, stirring, and setting it at the culturing temperature for 6-7 hours.

Turkey and Fermented Quinoa Patties

Sprouted Quinoa and Turkey Patties

 

These patties will be a lifesaver for you–they are a wonderful dish to have on hand for a quick reheat in the toaster oven, or as a protein entree in a brown-bag lunch (with a freezer pac!)

We love them straight off the griddle, paired with raw sauerkraut and a dollop of creme fraiche  (or, if you ask the kids, with organic ketchup!)  Another favorite is to break one up and top it with rich bone broth–such a nutritious meal!

They are just a handy, nutritious option that tastes great!  They are certainly worth the bit of time it takes to cook them, and even this can be shortened if you have a large griddle.

Turkey and Fermented Quinoa Patties

Makes approximately 28-30 patties

  • 4 cups cooked Quinoa (soak your quinoa in water and water kefir overnight before cooking)–I like to cook mine with bone broth for added flavor and nutrition
  • 2 pounds Ground Dark Turkey
  • 5 Pastured Eggs
  • 1 cup freshly shredded raw Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 teaspoons organic Poultry Herb blend
  • 1-2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 cup frozen, organic Spinach
  • Ghee, coconut oil or grass-fed Beef Tallow for the pan
  • 12″ fry pan

Combine all ingredients into a glass or stainless bowl and mix well.

Melt a tablespoon of oil in the frying pan over low-medium heat.

Using an ice cream scoop or serving spoon, make 3-4″ patties that are about 1/3″ in thickness–in a 12″ pan you should be able to fit 3 patties easily.  Cook for about 4 minutes on the first side, or until golden brown, then flip.  Allow another 3-4 minutes of cooking, then transfer to a non-plastic plate or dish.

Continue re-oiling your pan with each batch.

Patties store well in the refrigerator for 3 days, or in the freezer for 3 months for reheating in the toaster oven or in a pan.  Wrap separately in parchment paper and use heavy duty aluminum foil or a freezer-safe container for storage.

 

Freshly-shredded raw Parmesan

 

All ingredients in the bowl, ready to mix!

 

Everything ready to cook

 

Patties ready to flip…

 

…et voila! Crunchy, savory, nutritious patties, ready to enjoy or to save in the freezer for another meal!

Heavenly Cake!

Almond and coconut flour raspberry chocolate chip cake--Heavenly delight!

Our family has found a new favorite treat…and the fact that it is made so easily makes it a favorite of mine, for an entirely different reason!  Unlike many coconut flour recipes, this cake is light, not too crumbly, and wonderfully moist.  Once cooled, it has enough body to hold up to application of a frosting, though I love it just the way it is.

I use chocolate and raspberry as my distinctive flavors in this version, though you could certainly try blueberry with lemon zest, amaretto with dried cherries, fig with chopped pistachios…or just plain vanilla.  The options are only limited to your cupboard’s offerings.

This is not an overly-sweet cake, which allows the flavors of the ingredients to shine through.  It is subtle and yummy!

Since you’ll be working with coconut flour, it works best to allow all ingredients to set out and come to room temperature, lest the saturated fat content in the flour makes the batter difficult to blend.

Additionally, almond flour can be store-purchased, but I prefer to make mine fresh, using organic, soaked and dehydrated almonds that I grind in my coffee grinder just before use.

Freshly ground organic almond flour

Raspberry and Chocolate Chip Cake Made with Almond and Coconut Flours

Makes an 8″x8″ cake

4 Eggs, room temperature

3/4 cup Whole-fat, Plain Yogurt, room temperature

1/3 cup Coconut Sugar

1/2 cup fresh Almond Flour

1/2 cup Coconut Flour

1/2 cup fresh or frozen Organic Raspberries

1/3 cup Organic Dark Chocolate Chips

2 tablespoons Vanilla Extract

1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt

1/3 teaspoon Baking Soda

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, Fahrenheit.

 

Combine all dry ingredients in one bowl, and all liquid ingredients in another, mixing each well.

Separation of dry and wet ingredients for good blending

 

Include the chocolate chips and raspberries to the dry ingredients and coat with flour mixture.

Coating the berries and chocolate chips in the flours

 

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry, and mix to combine.

Consistency of batter before baking

 

After greasing either a square or round 8″ baking dish with ghee or coconut oil, pour in the batter and smooth the top with a spatula.

Place cake in the center of the oven and bake for approximately 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Heavenly cake, fresh from the oven

 

Allow cake to cool in baking dish before removing to a non-plastic storage container and refrigerate.

 

Enjoy!

 

For the Love of the Various Cheeses!

Cheese is a hot topic at our house—but I think that’s the norm, isn’t it? I have yet to meet a man or a first-grader who doesn’t list one of the countless cheeses as a top-5 favorite food.

And I’ve watched many a woman pondering, hovering, at the dairy cooler at Trader Joe’s  —“Should I go with the gouda, or goat brie? Maybe I should give this Camembert a try—I wonder how that would be with fruit?”

It’s serious business.

So, when I say it’s a hot topic at our house, I really do feel like I’m preaching to the choir. It’s just that on this issue (as numerous others), I feel like we’re singing a little different song.

Given my findings on the differences in the digestibility of different types of milk, I’m not one to run to just any grocery store and pick up just any old fromage. Often, I’m looking for something made from goat’s milk or a raw cow’s milk—both of which are rather tough to come by in the standard dairy aisle.

Studies have shown that goat dairy is much more digestible for most people than cow dairy, even when both are pasteurized (the pasteurization process for any type of milk, used to kill unwanted bacteria, also destroys inherent enzymes that would otherwise be present to help digest the milk. Pasteurization can also alter the proteins and sugars in the milk.)

This digestibility factor is huge, especially when one considers the amount of cheese that most families eat. In our family, it’s a part of lunch generally, is often handed out as a snack with a piece of fruit or a carrot, and sometimes even makes its way to the dinner plate.

If I’m feeding my family something that is a challenge for them to digest, multiple times a day, then I’m not doing anyone any favors.

Enter the goat—its milk has many factors that tend to make it a better choice for regular consumption. Here are a few reasons why:

• It is much lower in a substance called alpha-S1 casein, a protein that is a major allergen in cow’s milk.

• It naturally has much smaller-sized, evenly-dispersed fat globules than cow’s milk, which leads to a naturally homogenized milk (commercially-prepared cow’s milk is mechanically homogenized, a process that takes butter fat and transforms it into tiny spheres of fat containing a potent digestive enzyme that pass intact through the walls of the stomach and small intestine without first being properly digested. Once these enzyme-containing spheres enter the blood and lymph, the enzyme can come free from the fat and cut whatever vessel it is in. These micro-injuries to the vessel wall require cholesterol to repair the wound, leaving behind cholesterol plaques—hence, hardening of the arteries and other cardiovascular damage as the end result.)

• This natural homogenization of goat’s milk is due to the fact that the milk does not contain agglutinin, and when fat globules are not bunched together, they’re much easier to digest (and they don’t offer up the mechanical-homogenization problems listed with homogenized cow’s milk.)

• Goat’s milk also contains different types of fatty-acid chains—it’s higher in short- and medium-chain fatty acids than cow’s milk, which are more easily digested in the intestines.

• Goat’s milk tends to pass much more quickly through the stomach than cow’s milk, likely due to how its proteins react with the stomach acids—it creates a softer curd in the stomach than cow’s milk, making it more digestible.

(For more information on the effect of pasteurization on milk, see Ultra-Pasteurized Milk. This link will open to the Weston A. Price Foundation’ssite, an invaluable tool in understanding the effects of modern diets on our health. It’s also a great starting place to find sources of raw milk in your area.)

Thankfully, our family enjoys the taste of the various goat cheeses—2 staples are the imported Dutch gouda and the pre-sliced Dutch from Trader Joe’s. And I also love their goat brie—it’s a dream melted with fresh strawberries on the side.

But we also enjoy raw cow varieties—the issues related to homogenization and pasteurization are moot, making these choices much easier to digest.

Again, I really like the raw Gruyeres and Emmantelers from Switzerland and found at Trader Joe’s—although they’re not organic, they are rBST-free. And we are big fans of all the Organic Valley raw offerings, though these are quite a bit more costly. There are also raw artisan selections, crafted in smaller batches, that are a true treat when we find them.

Where do you find these types of prepared cheeses if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods nearby? Try using these tools to find sources near you (each of the following will open to new pages): Azure Standard natural food co-op is a great resource in the western United States; and the Coop Directory Service is a great locater of natural food cooperatives in your area; finally,Greenpeople.org lets you enter your zip code or region to find nearby cooperatives and natural food stores.

Once you’ve located a source, if you’re using a raw cheese, have gone to the trouble to procure it (and have likely paid a premium for it), keep it raw. Don’t cook your raw cheeses—you’ll destroy those lovely enzymes. Use a pasteurized goat’s milk cheese for that purpose (such as in an omelet or over steamed vegetables.)

My favorite cheeses, though, are made from scratch, using raw milk, sea salt and healthy cultures. It takes time to do this, and there have been many an instance where I ended up with a gallon of a cultured dairy delight that more closely resembled yogurt than cheese solids and whey. So, sometimes things turn out differently than I might have expected, but I’m never disappointed—just surprised!

There is something so very satisfying to my soul in taking fresh, raw milk that I’ve just received from a local farmer , pouring it into a big pot and adding cultures and rennet to make a lovely, homemade cheese. It just feels right—might be my Scotch-Irish DNA singing to me.

And should you decide to make your own cheese—well, let me tell you, folks are going to think you’re doing something mighty special at your house. And you will be. But the beauty of making cheese, especially a soft cheese as I’ve made time and again, is that it makes itself—just give it good ingredients, let it sit for a while, then separate the curds from the whey. (To this day, one of the dearest compliments I’ve received was when a neighbor tried my cheese. She’d lived for years in Italy and was familiar with hand-crafted food—and when she took a bite and smiled, “I haven’t had something this good since I lived in Italy,” I was over the moon!)

Cultures for Health  is an excellent resource for recipes and all the ingredients you’ll need (less the milk!) to make your own. From the reasons why you should bother, to supply lists, to the pros and cons of raw vs. pasteurized milk, to storage and aging, you’ll be in the know on making this delicacy at home.

I encourage you to consider these points and suggestions when you make your purchases—it may take some effort in finding a source near you, but the rewards are there, and once you get your sources down, it’s much easier.

And most definitely, do consider making your own cheese, at least once. Let me know what you learn, how it turns out and any other tidbits you feel like sharing. I look forward to hearing from you!

What can Trader Joe’s do for You? Quite a Lot, and at a Darned Good Price!

Trader Joe’s has been a mainstay in my grocery-shopping experience since I was a teenager—and, except for my years in Northern Arizona, I have always had one nearby (and when I didn’t, I made a pilgrimage, every second or third week, to stock up on provisions, packing produce and perishables on ice to make the 2+ hour drive home.)

I am so comfortable with the store, in fact, that I can easily spot an item not offered in one store, but mixed in to the offerings at another. (No seaweed snacks back in Minnesota this last summer, but they did have more beef offerings.)

And on the occasion that my husband needs to pick up our weekly purchases, I close my eyes and make my list of items based on where he’ll be in one of the 2 or 3 local stores he will be shopping on my behalf.

I still rhapsodize about products that have been discontinued, many years ago—the Spicy Bean Soup from Germany, or the clarified butter that made my need to shop at multiple stores a little less necessary.

Certainly, my allegiance is clear. However, all is not perfect—it is a store bent on offering convenience, very fair pricing and meeting a slightly-left-of-center taste demographic that sometimes hangs a little too close to the middle-road for my preferences.

So, often regular salt rather than sea salt will be used as an ingredient. Or torula yeast will be used as a flavor enhancer in a snack food. Or soybean or canola oil might be included in a dressing, sauce or dip, rather than olive oil. There are different infarctions, and many would consider them minor.  However, for me, they won’t find their place in my shopping cart.

Therefore, dependent on how seriously you read labels, you may find that many of the prepared foods will not meet your standards. Not to worry, however—just take the time to look over the ingredients and decide if what is listed is a good fit for you.

From meeting the needs of those concerned with wheat allergies, to offering ingredients for simple, healthy recipes, Trader Joe’s has many options.

So, what do I buy? Hands’ down, Trader Joe’s has some of the best pricing and highest quality of organic produce from any retail grocery outfit. It is always my preference to support all the local farmers in the area, but out of season (meaning, the height of summer here in the Sonoran Desert), there needs to be a Plan-B.  And, it is nice to fill in some of the blanks of what is offered in our CSA program.

So, when I do shop Trader’s for produce, I love the 4-pack of organic avocadoes, the organic micro-greens, the different organic fruits available in season, packages of different varieties of organic lettuce, the organic onions, garlic, and the bags of organic sweet potatoes…I usually find that at least 2/3 of my purchases are of produce alone.

And I also love the organic, free-range eggs for when I’m unable to get mine locally. The organic, unsalted butter is a great price, and comes in handy for when I run out of ghee—I just melt a few sticks down for my own homemade clarified butter. In the refrigerated section, I also like the carrageenan-free, unsweetened vanilla almond milk—wonderful as a base for the kids’ superfood shakes.

When I’ve not made any  cheese or goat yogurt , it’s wonderful to get some raw gruyere, or Dutch goat gouda, or goat brie from the store’s selection—and what a price! These products are not organic, but they are rBST-free—a compromise in quality on each over making them at home with organic, raw milks, but sometimes I simply run out of time to do all that I would like.

The store also offers great pricing on organic hamburger, free-range and/or organic chicken, nitrate- and nitrite-free and antibiotic-free turkey bacon. There are many other meat selections—again, just read the labels closely to make sure it’s something you are happy to consume.

I also love both of their organic, extra-virgin olive oils—they make a wonderful handmade dressing with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar and fresh herbs. They are also carrying organic coconut oil these days.  And from their herb and spice offerings, I am totally enamored with their smoked sea salt, the South African smoke herb blend, and the vanilla extract in bourbon.

We also use many of the organic, frozen foods, too—broccoli, spinach, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries—they’re all great to have on hand, and they are excellent quality.

And I love many of Trader Joe’s eco-friendly cleaning supplies, especially both varieties of their dish soaps–each cleans well, using a plant-based surfactant, and they are scented with essential oils, rather than chemical perfumes. I also like their Next to Godliness surface cleaner when I’m traveling and away from my homemade cleaners. And who can argue with recycled toilet paper and paper towels, especially at the price offered at Trader Joe’s?

Finally, if you’re in the mood for a little wine, they even have differentvarieties made with organic grapes—and, again, at a ridiculously-low price. I love the Trader Joe’s Chardonnay—wonderful to drink, and a great addition to chicken stock.

So, these are but a few of the ways that I have loved Trader Joe’s and encourage everyone I know to take some time and explore one when they have an opportunity. For taking care, naturally, their stores are a wonderful asset in doing so without too much of a dent in the pocketbook.

Just read the labels and enjoy your finds!

The Virtues of Cultured Dairy

Refreshing homemade yogurt.  Photo courtesy of Vera Almann.

Consuming cultured dairy was one of the first changes our family made when we started our journey of bringing whole-food nutrition into our lives–specifically, store-bought goat yogurt. The reasons were many, but here are a few:

• The culturing of dairy reduces the lactose (milk sugar) in the milk, transforming milk into a rich source of immune-building probiotics that is lower in naturally-occurring sugars and higher in Vitamins B and C

• Culturing dairy generally makes it much more digestible by breaking down the casein (milk protein) that can be very troublesome for many

• It also increases the enzymes in the milk (even pasteurized milk that is then cultured has a boost to its enzyme capacity), which helps to digest the components of the milk

Once I understood WHY it was important to consume cultured dairy, I quickly became interested in all the different HOWS—how to make my own, what types of culturing could be done, what types of milk could be used. I became culturally consumed!

After our family became used to the tangier flavor of commercially-prepared goat yogurt, I became keen on making my own—after all, I knew that making homemade yogurt was a skill still widely practiced in Europe, so the tools had to be out there.

Thankfully, there were a few online resources regarding the different types of culturing, and places to buy what was needed to get my own home chemistry happening—this was definitely the start of my seeing our kitchen as a place of production, experimentation and lab work! My paradigm shifted from seeing our home as a place of consumption to rather being one of creation.

Profoundly satisfying!

My study of cultured dairy brought me to understanding how traditional cultures have used the culturing process for centuries as a means of food preservation (in the tradition of sauerkraut, kim chee, and the like.) Before the advent of refrigeration, and when food came at a much greater effort (milking the animal, rather than stopping by Safeway on your round of errands), it was imperative that there be a means of preserving what was produced.

This ancient way of preservation helped to create some of the incredibly nutritious foods our forefathers consumed. I’m not sure if there was an understanding of the healing byproducts of their preserved foods, but regardless, they were an integral part of keeping them well. (One can only imagine where we would be, physically, had the refrigerator never come to pass.)

 

Soon I located a yogurt maker—basically, a warming container, that holds the temperature even so that thermophilic (heat-loving) cultures could flourish in the milk being cultured. In turn, I also learned that if there are some cultures that are heat-loving, then there are others that will culture at room temperature (mesophilic.)

Around this time, I also found the thermophilic cultures necessary to make yogurt with my yogurt container from Cultures for Health –they have many varieties of yogurt from which to choose.

Given that the milk is heated (albeit rather low, in the 110 degree Fahrenheit range), and the culture is rather acidic, I never felt right about using the plastic containers usually sold for homemade yogurt. Pretty early on, I started using glass Ball jars, which I cover with a paper towel that is held in place with the metal ring that is used for canning. This removes any concerns over plastics leaching, the paper towel keeps out anything I don’t want in there, and the glass jars make for a very clean washing and reuse (no greasy residue, as happens with plastics.)

Around this time, I also started reading about something like yogurt, only more of a drinkable cultured dairy—and it was a type of culturing that called on not just healthy bacteria, but also on yeasts, and in doing so made a rather fizzy, fermented drink. What a concept! Taking still, sweet milk, and creating a bubbly drink? In kefir , it happens!

So, between the 2 means of culturing, I soon had 4 jars of cultured dairy products on the counters—yogurt and kefir made with cow’s milk, and yogurt and kefir made with goat’s milk—and there was great variance in all of them! The goat products tend to be thinner and more tart—better as a base for a smoothie rather than spooning. The cow products do thicken up more—adding just a bit of stevia with vanilla extract, or fresh fruit, makes for a refreshing snack, definitely spoonable!

And once the Pandora’s box of culturing was open, I found myself trying out all kinds of cultures and methods—crème fraiche, buttermilk and various soft cheeses have all been part of my endeavors. Not once have I been disappointed—making freshly cultured foods is very satisfying, and it seems everyone is interested to try them. (It is a joy to bring along freshly-made chevre to a dinner party!)

These days, I tend to stick with kefir made from raw goat’s milk, and yogurt made from raw cow’s milk. It’s easy enough to switch this up if I choose—simply add a bit of kefir grains to either type of milk, allow to sit, covered, at room temperature for a day, and we have kefir. The same is true for the yogurt—add the cultures to our milk selection, and we’ll have fresh yogurt made from that milk chosen, in about 6 to 8 hours.

Yogurt and kefir tend to be the base for sweeter foods at our house—adding a little stevia and sweet spices creates a great foundation for some fresh fruit. But each is also wonderful when taken in the savory direction—add some to a homemade dressing, or use as a dip or sauce for vegetables—just add garlic, onion, sea salt and any herbs you like.

When I make yogurt, I just add fresh milk to what yogurt was left over from that day (I like to reserve at least 1/3 of the original for this—otherwise, there is nothing from which to culture the milk.) Then I put the mixture into a clean jar and leave it overnight in the yogurt maker, during which time it makes itself. How easy is that?

And in the morning, we have a wonderful, freshly-cultured food, ready to go. I remove the yogurt from the maker and leave it in its jar for the day, stored in the refrigerator to halt the culturing process.

Likewise, after milk has been transformed to kefir, I strain the kefir from the kefir grains, and place the kefir in the refrigerator to hasten the culturing.

Next, I rinse the grains in clean water and place them in a glass jar, covering them with fresh milk and storing them in the refrigerator. When I’m ready to make more kefir, I simply add the grains to a quart of new milk, and set the new mix out at room temperature overnight.

Simple and terrific!

So, if you’re not making your own yogurt or kefir at home, I encourage you to give it a try—it really does make itself. In fact, if your interest is piqued to learn more, I might suggest the Nourished Kitchen Get Cultured class on culturing foods at home.

When you culture at home, you make a product that is prepared with the healthy ingredients you choose, full of life-giving enzymes and probiotics. But if you plan to use a store-bought variety, just look for a full-fat, unsweetened, organic option. And do try the goat yogurt—you might just love it.