Sunday, June 1, 2008

Fermenticide

Thank you, Phelan at A Homesteading Neophyte, for sharing the hilarious tombstone generator link!

It's all too appropriate for this post...




Yes, I killed the Kefir.

Handcuff me and call the Culture Cops. Millions of healthy bacteria awaiting immigration to our lower GI tract, now denied their life purpose.

It gets worse. I killed the Caspian Sea Yogurt, too. Do not make me responsible for the survival of any small, helpless, living community...I left them to their own devices for too long.

The instructions that come with the cultures state that they can survive SOME over-fermentation, meaning that if you leave them too long in their cluster of covered Mason jars on top of the fridge, there is usually a portion that can be used to perpetuate their species despite the overly-soured contents and the resultant extra whey.

What happens is this...on a normal day, say with the Caspian Sea Yogurt...with a responsible adult in attendance, you take a small portion of culture, add milk, stir, cover with something permeable (I used a coffee filter), and leave it overnight on top of the fridge (my chosen location off the beaten path). The next day, you strain off the whey (easily, I just inserted a spoon down the side and poured the whey off), stir the remaining contents and cap it and stick it in the fridge.

Or with the Kefir, strain it, saving the liquid part for you to drink, and retain the kefir "grains" for making more, add milk, set the new jar on the fridge, and repeat the next day.

It's just THAT easy.

Then, whenever you want a smoothie that ROCKS, you put some fresh or frozen (my preference is the frozen) berries or fruit, add honey or your preference of sweetener if you need it, blend in a blender or with a stick blender, and drink down the delicious, probiotic fabulosity. The Kefir smoothie has more tartness, and the Caspian Sea Yogurt smoothie is mild.

That's how it worked. And worked and worked and worked. And was eaten and eaten and eaten.

Yes, I let it go too long up there on top of the fridge on different occasions, but always I could rescue it and reclaim it...it was forgiving. And still delicious!

Then came the weekend where I left the Caspian Sea Yogurt out too too long. It separated into clear whey and nearly solid and came out nearly like cottage cheese. And it was tart...whoooooo TART. It still tasted edible, but there was no portion of it that remained mild and creamy and uncurdled. I began having prodigious amounts of whey...something my fig tree appreciated, but evidence of the fact it was just pretty far gone.

And the Kefir? I had the Kefir on top of the hutch. The lone jar of Kefir. It turns out I liked the Kefir better than my husband did, and we ended up making a lot of the CSY for him, especially to take on his job shiftwork for lunches, dinners. The Kefir sat separate from the CSY cultures because you're not supposed to put them in too close proximity...the yeasts are differernt and if they "mix" even via the air I suppose, you can kill them.

(Sigh...) Yes, I left the Kefir too long alone. By the time I came to the realisation I'd neglected it, it was blowing bubbles...fermented bubbly alcoholic whey-ish bubbles. And it had turned..um...colors. This time, I had gone too far.

To the fig tree went the remains...solids and whey both...to be watered in. I am afraid of ferments that turn colors and an amateur's experimentation only can stretch the health violations so far and remain safe, in a manner of speaking.

I've learned from this. First, I had grown a lot of Kefir grains...the part that cultures the milk you add. Next time, I'll not put all my grains in one jar, but keep at least two jars of them going. With the Caspian Sea Yogurt, the sort you set aside each time to make more CSY is the sort it will reproduce. The literature states you can make it from the whey, which we also did, but once the culture has been over-fermented, the whey from the overfermented batches produces only over-fermented and very sour CSY. CSY is not supposed to be sour at all, especially after the whey is drained, so when the batches began retaining their sourness and changing in consistency from its distinctive pourable slick yogurt to a more curdled product throughout, you've lost your actual CSY. Or at least I never figure out how to regain it.

We REALLY used the daylights out of the CSY. I can't tell you how many gallons we made of that, using quart jars. It became a meal in itself, except that for me I never could enjoy it without it being in the form of a smoothie. When it was mild, it was helping my husband's joints and connective tissue aches and actually healing with noticeable effects. And..uh...he began looking younger than I look. Which was disconcerting, and is why I started drinking it, too!

We'll reorder the CSY culture. More on some other cultures I found out there, and what we'll be trying with them in another post. I'll wait on the Kefir, if we're attempting other cultures along with the CSY...don't want to bite off more than I can chew as far as simultaneous projects. But the Kefir is now in our repertoire and will be back. The fig tree will happily continue benefitting from my learning curve.

And this concludes my true confession.

Book me, Danno...

2 comments:

Carolyn said...

Taht is why I am afraid of doing my own Kefir. I am afraid I would forget it!

Carolyn

Jess said...

This is long, but I just found this interesting post on the kefir-making yahoo group. Thought I'd copy and paste it, since you have to be a member of the group to access the post.

My recipe for liquid kefir fertilizer [LKF] is complex but yet very
simple. It is the best thing that I found for trees, veggies and what
ever will grow in soil. I have very high yields that one would die for,
and those fruits, veggies and herbs have the most delish full flavour. I
think it not just the organisms, but the balance between the nutrients
that makes this LKF work so well. I'm certain that there are also
unknown growth stimulating compound in such a LKF that other things
don't' produce, such as normal composts and earth worm casting that are
not fed kefir.

I use old milk kefir, kefir whey left over from cheese making, the
washings of kefir jars, including water kefir. I have 2 tanks in the
shade outside under an orange tree, which I add those things to. I add
wood ash, eggshells bone that is ponded to grit, and seeded weeds that I
want to kill by drowning them in the LKF.

When the LF begins to acquire the most horrid aroma one can imagine, I
then add hand fulls of wood charcoal to calm down the horrid stench.
Then, when it's about 6 months or older, I use it diluted over the
garden, especially over mulched plants. But I give the LKF a good stir
first, sometimes for a hour! This is my own rendition of bio-dynamic
farming methods.

This gives nitrogen to mulch, for mulch removes nitrogen from the soil
in the initial breaking down phase of the mulch.

I also use an aquarium pump to oxygenate the LF for months on end. This
gives best results, and prevents unwanted nitrates forming. Otherwise I
stir the LKF as often as possible if no aquarium pump is used for
oxygenation.

BTW you may recall how I explained to the list, digging the garden at
night, I saw flashes of light coming from the soil when I hit it with
the hoe, where I previously dumped pure milk kefir over that part of the
garden some months before. It's similar to swimming in the ocean at
dusk, where moving your hands or feet quickly in the water, causes
spontaneous fluorescence. I think this is due to organisms that give off
light when agitated quickly with a little physical force. This is
life-force for the garden, something that I have never seen happen with
other fertilizers.