A little culture

Our house finally has a little culture. And no I don’t mean opera, fine dining (well, maybe) or cultivated people. I have been culturing and fermenting and brewing and all sorts of fun things today. πŸ™‚

The last 2 days have been challenging days. Between a seriously ill friend, chronically ratty children, concerns over noisy roosters, unpacked boxes, letting peak oil run rampant through my head, daylight savings coming to an end and my supposed extra hour instead translating into 1 or more small people getting up at 5 am to interrupt my alone time, well lets just say it’s been challenging. And I needed something to help drag me out of it. So yesterday, when I realised I had over cultured my milk kefir I decided to press the curds and see if I couldn’t make some form of cheese.

Milk kefir is Β created by the addition of milk kefir grains to milk, cow or goats, raw or pasteurised, homogenised or not and even nut and other non dairy milks. These “grains” are live bacterial cultures and they do funky things to the milk, resulting in milk kefir which is kind of like yakult but about a hundred times better. It’s kind of yoghurt like in flavour and can be quite tart depending on how long you let it culture. It’s thicker than milk but not as thick as yoghurt, more like a drinking yoghurt and it has a stack more beneficial cultures than yoghurt ever could. It’s probiotic to the max and extremely good for you. The grains partially digest the lactose so some with lactose intolerance may find they can handle kefir and for vegans it can (with some coaxing hey Fran πŸ˜‰ ) cope with alternative milks such as nut milks or grain milks like almond, rice, coconut etc.

Anyway, I had left my milk kefir too long and it had cultured itself into curds and whey which, apart from being a pain to get the grains out from, is also not so good for drinking. But, since curds and whey are the forerunners of cheese making I figured if I drained and pressed the curds a bit I would have cheese. Given that I didn’t have any of the necessary equipment I dug out a clean baby muslin and hung the curds to drip. They were pretty dry as very little dripped out BUT I did end up with a nice fist sized ball of pressed kefir curds. They went to my sick friend today as, if she adds some chopped garlic and chives or similar, she will have a lovely cream cheese dip that is full of goodness and probiotic helath. Perfect food for recovering.

I had also dropped them up a large beef casserole so the bones had been simmering with a little vinegar (helps to get out all the healthful gelatin) to create a lovely and nourishing bone broth for her and the bones are on their second run now for some broth for us too. I shall leave it to simmer away all night and it will be ready in the morning.Β Waste not want not. πŸ™‚

But today I wanted to play around with a couple of other recipes I had either tripped across or been sent (thanks again Fran πŸ˜‰ ) and I now had the whey to do so.


Carefully marked wth permanent marker that of course isn't permanent on glass. Fabric night cap pulled down and vinegar put to sleep in the pantry.

Carefully marked with permanent marker that of course isn’t permanent on glass. Fabric night-cap pulled down and vinegar put to sleep in the pantry.

Firstly though I wanted to set some red wine vinegar brewing. Another friend had gifted me some quality home-made red wine vinegar. 2L of it in fact and it was coming to an end. It did however contain 1 really wonderful thing… Mother! πŸ˜€ Vinegar that is naturally fermented is made using a mother or culture which is added to the vinegar medium, ie red wine, white wine, malt or apple cider and the mother does the job of turning it into vinegar. And this 2L container with its remnants of red wine vinegar contained a big slimy rope of mother. πŸ˜€ So with Dr Google assisting I started to ferment some more red wine vinegar. I followed the instructions from hereΒ and with my 1/2 cup of red wine vinegar and cup of red wine (sorry Martin but your bottle of wine is a bit emptier πŸ˜‰ ) I started up a jar to ferment. I didn’t have a crock so I’ve used a glass jar, a cloth fruit bag and a dark corner of the pantry. Martin will find his bottles of red wine, over the next few weeks will disappear a little faster than normal. πŸ˜‰

Ok, slightly dodgy looking mayo. It hasn't emulsified properly but even so I want to check the taste. I can figure out the texture later. :)

Ok, slightly dodgy looking mayo (and I KNOW I can’s spell). It hasn’t emulsified properly but even so I want to check the taste. I can figure out the texture later. πŸ™‚

Once that was done I moved on to lacto-fermented mayonnaise ( a word I simply cannot remember how to spell) which I don’t eat but Martin loves (the things I do for you honey πŸ˜‰ ) so some quick adjustments, some Thermination and the mayo, looking more than a little doubtful, is in the pantry to do its thing over the next few days. Once it’s had some time for the whey and its wonderful healthful bacteria to ferment it will go into the fridge and hopefully my husbands belly. Maybe he will put some on my homemade oven chips. Or a salad fresh from our garden. Now that might even tempt me to eat some mayonnaise. Got the hang of spelling it now. πŸ˜‰

Ketchup was shorter to write than tomato sauce. The lighter layer on top is the whey layer and there is more mixed through.

Ketchup was shorter to write than tomato sauce. The lighter layer on top is the whey layer and there is more mixed through.

Next stop, fermented tomato sauce (ketchup for all my overseas readers). I’ve got several bottles of homemade tomato sauce in the pantry courtesy of the big tomato bottling but this recipe has intrigued me so thought it was worth a burl. I had a kilo of organic tomatoes which I pureed then rendered down for a cup of tomato paste and added in another cup from my bottled paste which already contained salt so I omitted the salt the recipe asks for. Otherwise I had all the ingredients, raw honey, apple cider vinegar (not raw sadly), the necessary spices and the key ingredient to ferment, fresh whey. πŸ™‚ Kefir whey to boot. πŸ˜€ May I just say, it tastes like the shop bought stuff! YUM! I cannot wait for it to culture and I reckon it will need some awesome sausages to accompany. πŸ™‚


It’s a little blurry but that sucker is heavy! Only a small batch for taste testing and we shall see. Brewing kits being watched on eBay though. It’s time we delve into the world of brewing.

My final effort for today was more along the brewing rather than fermenting lines. I had absolutely none of the necessary equipment but figured I could improvise and see what happened. Worst case scenario is I end up with some ripsnorting fertiliser. πŸ˜‰ I decided to make beer. Nettle beer to be exact. πŸ™‚ Nettles are little powerhouses of goodness, kind of like a multivitamin encased in stings. But the stings can be dealt with by using gloves and some blanching or, in my case, dried herbs which will sting you not. πŸ™‚ I brewed up a mega pot of nettle tea, over 2L to be exact and far stronger than that which they made on the link. I added 3 big handfuls of nettles to my #65 Fowlers Vacola bottle after sterilising it and then filled it with boiling water. I left the nettles to steep for a few hours and ended up with a very dark greenishΒ kind of liquid. The nettle leaves were strained out, wrung nearly dry and they will do wonderful things in my compost heap now. To the cooled liquid I added the juice of 3/4 of a lemon (all I had), 200g brown sugar (normally I would use rapadura but it can sometimes have a few gritty bits and I also happened to have brown sugar of which I wanted to get rid) and then as I didn’t have any wild yeast aside from my sourdough and I didn’t want to try my luck with wild harvested ones from the air, I used some brewers yeast I’d bought for other purposes and it turns out to be of the same family of yeasts used in beer making. Win! πŸ˜€ I had to hazard a guess at an amount so used a soup spoon full mixed with some of the nettle tea (wort?) to squish out the lumps then poured it through a strainer to catch any smaller lumps I’d missed. I then added a ring and capped it which will hopefully provide some form of airlock. We shall see. As I said, if it fails I’ve lost little I would miss and the nettle base means lots of goodness for the gardens. πŸ™‚ I have no problems with Martin drinking a beer or 2 but if I can make it myself cheaply and make it super healthy then why the hell not hey. πŸ™‚

On another note, Mandy’s eggs aren’t looking hopeful for fertility. I candled them, the term used for using light (presumably it used to be a candle used) to check for black specks or veins inside which indicate a growing duck foetus but we didn’t see anything. However, as first time duck owners, first time broody bird owners and first time candlers we are giving it some more time and should all else fail, my friends at Cheeky Chookies are incubating some Muscovy duck eggs and I’ve put a provisional hand up for some. I am determined to have some babies in the farmyard. πŸ˜‰ We shall candle them again in another week and see what we can see. I’m on YouTube in the meantime, studying and learning. In other egg news, it appears our silkies, Blackie and Mrs Silverpants are finally laying. Well I think it’s them as the eggs are a different shape to our pekins when they were on the lay. We have eggs on the horizon again finally. πŸ™‚

I also just gave my kids a hair cut. Jasper was starting to look like an old English Sheepdog and Allegra wasn’t much better but the thought of 3 kids in a hairdressers keeping them quiet, entertained and then forking over money for the privilege of having Jas’s hair done and Allegra’s fringe, well I figured I’d rather keep my money in my pocket so I sat Jas in the high chair and set to, doing my best imitation of a professional. I must say it doesn’t look too bad to my unprofessional eye. I’m sure any experts would disagree but I’m happy with how it turned out. I trimmed Allegra’s fringe up too as it was in her eyes. I did a much better job of hers than I used to do on my own way back when. πŸ™‚ It’s not most of the way to her hairline. I’ll post a pic another time.

So as I sit here this evening, about to head off to my warm bed I can reflect that on a day that started out pretty awful it has ended on a lovely high note. Here’s hoping tomorrow is as great to finish but starts a little better. Hopefully the kids don’t wake until at least 6:30. πŸ™‚


16 thoughts on “A little culture

  1. wow i had no idea of cultured mayo or tomato sauce! soooo interesting!!!!!! My milk kefir has been frozen for awhile and my water kefir dried.. they might come back to life.. they had no fans here, i did make the cheese with the milk and didn’t mind it.. it sure uses up the milk tho so i started using milk powder but yeah… not the best.

  2. The Life of Clare says:

    I know a lot about fermenting (well actually nothing) and I don’t know about the benefits etc. but I know know about brewing beer/alcoholic drinks. We made apple cider from apples off our trees and I’m super interested in giving a Nettle Brew a go. The bummer is that I can’t seem to find any nettle around here. I’ll definitely have to keep looking! Thanks for yet another inspiring post.

    • I used dried nettle that I bought online. Check out http://www.herbcottage.com.au/ for your nettle. I would LOVE to hear about your apple cider as although I no longer drink I used to LOVE cider and loved a good scrumpy too (I’m Cornish by descent so I reckon it’s in my blood) and I plan to plant heaps of apple trees in order to grow and ferment our own.

  3. narf77 says:

    My kefir experiments have been very interesting. I find that if you use non dairy milks the kefir tends to be more alcoholic and “fizzy” in body and texture. I made soymilk kefir with homemade organic soybean milk and the results were like a sort of extremely sour fizzy vinegar…not sure how to use it but might just add it to my morning green smoothie ;). Coconut cream was amazing but too rich for me and they didn’t like thin coconut milk at all and were threatening to do what goldfish do when they go belly up, so I had to rescue them and resuscitate them in some cow exudation for a couple of days till they turned right-side-up. I allow my kefir to almost “flip” to the curd size before I strain it. It’s thicker and more like cheese and I store it in the fridge, strain it in a fine sieve and use it like uber tasty ricotta/ yoghurt cheese in lasagna and other rich Italian dishes. I also use it thick in cakes and to work with sourdough starter in all kinds of cakes and breads. A great experiment and lots of fun to mess around with πŸ™‚
    We made home made cider the natural way that flipped almost instantly to the vinegar side. It developed a mother as well but we disposed of it (that was back before the experimentation with ferments other than booze began πŸ˜‰ ). You are certainly getting into it today! Kudos on your work ethic :). I wish we had eggs that were fertile or otherwise but alas, our 20 chooks lay about 3 eggs a week and we are getting more than a little miffed (to say the least) about the lack of the ovarian orbs. Steve and the dogs like eggs and since we put the chooks into their new home, over 4 months ago, they have point blank refused to play ball. We are thinking about reducing the size of the flock and seeing if that helps. I love your natural endorphins and how you turned a blue day into something positive and cram packed full of possibilities. You give me the incentive to get stuck in!…but first…I HAVE to get rid of this RSS Feed Reader! πŸ˜‰

    • Our chooks are sadly deficient in those orbs of goodness too. Our silkies however are just reaching maturity and seem to want to brag about the fact that they are now “women” so hopefully they continue to feel the need to brag. We also have 1 dorking girly who is showing off all her bodily changes upon reaching maturity but is yet to do what the big girls do. She seems to be a favourite of Black Boy our rooster too. He is very solicitous and protective of her although he sure doesn’t feel the need to keep his attentions from straying. πŸ˜‰ It is rather funny when he turns that roving eye on Okku – she won’t have a bar of him and is mean enough to chase him away.
      I didn’t set out to turn my day around per se, more find a distraction so my head didn’t explode and see me pegging my kids to the clothes line or something else equally indicative of my levels of insanity. πŸ˜‰ The only bad thing about my day of culturing was that I had managed to clear the kitchen bench and all that work covered it in dishes again. 😦
      Just figuring out what to culture today.

      • narf77 says:

        sounds like you are “culturing” a most positive attitude :). I was in a bit of a deep blue funk today. Not usual for me (probably hormonal…it’s contagious you know πŸ˜‰ ) and after a walk being dragged from pillar to post with Earl and grumbling my way around Sidmouth I got home and we decided to tidy up the middle room and I just cleaned out and tidied Pantry 1 and suddenly everything is lightness and sunshine again. I think I was feeling lazy and unproductive. I am starting to feel the need to get back outside again after the heat of the summer and I guess all of the activity that everyone is starting to engage in (including you πŸ˜‰ ) was making me feel slothful and sack like. After our manic cleaning event we are feeling much better :). My sister is going to start a blog today (with prompting from her loving big sister πŸ˜‰ ) so we need to show her how to do it. I recon she will love blogging. She is OCD as well ;). Hows about culturing some butter? My daughters were going to shell out the best part of $7 for 1/4 kilo of French cultured butter and I recon it would taste amazing. If you do, let us know how you go πŸ™‚

        • I tried it once but stuffed the recipe. I’m picking up some raw “pet” milk and cream on Friday so I reckon I might give it a go. The bit I love is that cultured foods including milk, keep for months in the fridge. How’s THAT for preservation!

          • narf77 says:

            I have kefir in the fridge from months ago. Not off, just a bit sour πŸ™‚

            • Ttis brilliance itself AND if you think about it historically, the cow would have gone dry over the winter so any extra milk from autumn whilst she dried up (and the spring and summer if you had a good cold cellar) could be kefired and kept outside int he snow to keep it cool whilst you drink it over the winter. Then comes spring, fresh cows milk with the birth of her calf.

              • narf77 says:

                Sounds like a great way to live doesn’t it? You would appreciate your food SO much more if it was tenuous and the true value of your food was reflected in how much you were able to “put up” and store to shore you up over the long winter.

                • I totally agree. They dying of the year (winter) would have held so much more significance as you would be hoping against hope for a short winter and for enough food to see you through. A wolf winter where the winter was so long and deep that the wolves would start to hunt the other white meat was a thing to truly be feared. It reminds me much of the winter faced by our northern hemisphere brethren at the moment. 😦 There is 1 benefit of globalisation. At least those in the grips of winter don’t need to rely upon snowed in gardens for spring food.

  4. wow you have been fermenting! I am interested to try the red wine vinegar, I buy apple cider vinegar with mother, but I do like the darker vinegar for salad dressing and the ones in the supermarket all contain “other” ingredients.

  5. foodnstuff says:

    Wow! You have been busy. Now I’m going to be busy following all those fermenting links. Nettle beer! I have a huge patch looking great at the moment. Off to read about it. Thanks for a great, inspiring post!

  6. LyndaD says:

    Lordy Earth Mother – is there no end to your talent and enthusiasm. All this fermenting is new to me. I havent even had the “b…s” to make yohurt and i have a yoghurt maker !!! Im hopeless.

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