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. 🙂
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 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 😉 ) 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. Waste not want not. 🙂
But today I wanted to play around with a couple of other recipes I had either tripped across or been sent (thanks again Fran 😉 ) and I now had the whey to do so.
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! 😀 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. 😀 So with Dr Google assisting I started to ferment some more red wine vinegar. I followed the instructions from here 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 😉 ) 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. 😉
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 😉 ) 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. 😉
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. 🙂 Kefir whey to boot. 😀 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. 🙂
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. 😉 I decided to make beer. Nettle beer to be exact. 🙂 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. 🙂 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 greenish 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! 😀 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. 🙂 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. 🙂
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. 😉 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. 🙂
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. 🙂 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. 🙂