Fermentation is a Thing

I think it could be easy, to make you think that the girl behind this blog is 100 years old.

I could tell you stories of how my family had little money when I was growing up, so my parents reared meat rabbits and raised chickens. They grew their food on less than 1 acre of land, and that I remember harvesting potatoes with large silver spoons in the moonlight.  We ate tomato sandwiches on homemade bread with tomatoes picked from the backyard and drank grape juice pressed from real grapes in my moms kitchen.

Mashed potato poultices were spread over sprained ankles and bread soaked in milk was placed on our bee stings and bug bites. Peppermint was always on hand for stomach aches and “fresh air” was a daily requirement and remedy.

I know it doesn’t sound real. The truth is, we just didn’t have a lot of money, and what we did have, my parents tried to put to good use. They were Urban Homesteaders, before Urban Homesteading was a thing.

By the way, I’m 39.

I’m all grown up now, and I don’t have the same trials my parents had, my path is my own.

I live in a small town, but a in a nice new development.

I have an old soul, but I live by my Apple Watch and iPhone.

By trade, I’m a Baker/Shopkeeper, and a certified Food Handler, yet I purposely FERMENT foods in my kitchen.

And then I feed them to my family. Yup, on purpose.

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Probiotic Butter churned from cultured 35% cream.

I can’t pinpoint the moment in my memory when Fermented Foods became a thing with me, but I can tell you how much I absolutely love this process. There is just something so real about letting nature take its course, and embracing some of the methods our ancestors used. I love the way all our human brains can come together to bring about technology and huge advances in modern science, but there is a side effect to watch for.

We can forget something that was good.

Kefir "Yogurt". It stands in for smoothies, dips, salad dressings,
Kefir “Yogurt”. It stands in for smoothies, dips, salad dressings, and sour cream.

I began by purchasing some kefir grains. My older sister had just been diagnosed with some digestive intolerance’s, and a colleague of hers told her that kefir had cured her own stomach issues. I thought if nothing else, this could be a fun experiment. I activated my grains once they came in the mail and within a week we were enjoying our own cultured Kefir smoothies. Two weeks after that, we were also enjoying probiotic yogurt, sourcream, dips and even spreadable cheeses – all of which were produced from excess Kefir. To this day, we always have these things on hand. I actually just strained some fresh yogurt for tomorrow, 20 minutes ago.

I had so much success with Kefir, that I decided to try Sourdough. What could be more cool than baking bread with wild yeast, caught from the very air we breathe? Add to that, the theory that a well developed sourdough allows the gluten in the bread to be transformed into something everyone can digest… the temptation was great. My daughter, who is lactose intolerant was doing just fine with digesting Kefir, imagine if I could give her back fresh baked bread, with organic wheat flour?

starter
Lily the 9th, a very happy sourdough starter!

Developing a viable starter was tricky. I killed my first 8 attempts. They say if you name your starter, you’re less likely to kill it. “They” don’t know me. I had no problem cultivating the wild yeast, it was getting it to live past day 3 that was the problem. I had to quit babying it, and finally, I had it – a beautiful, hungry, viable starter! I named her Lily the 9th.

Using Lily, I made a number of breads, muffins, crackers and waffles. I enjoyed being able to say what I had made, and my daughter seemed to digest it all okay… but the constant feedings of the starter and the side effects my daughter started to have made the effort seem… not worth it. I split Lily the 9th into separate starters for other people, and called it quits on my end.

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Fresh Sourdough muffins, baked with whey strained from Kefir with Kefir Butter

Sometimes it’s enough to just know you tried it, and to admit that it wasn’t for you. It wasn’t for me.

There’s also a cost factor. I spend $6 a week on milk, and occasionally $2 on 35% cream, for butter. With a properly scheduled rotation, it provides us with very healthy, probiotic kefir, yogurt, sour cream, creamed cheese, and butter, enough that we do not run out. If anything, I sometimes have to slow it down by placing my grains in milk and sticking them in the fridge.

Keeping a sourdough starter on the other hand was expensive. I may adore the ways of our ancestors, but organic flour is costly, and feeding 1/2 cup to a starter each day wasn’t cheap, so it helped with my decision to stop.

While those are my experiences so far with fermenting at home, my sister Joan has had her own adventure with Kombucha! I had some of her brew over Christmas, and it was excellent. No, there is no alcohol in it, it actually has a very sharp, acidic quality to it.

I was one of those kids who drank vinegar and liked it. You?

I’ve also started a Ginger-Bug, and have been updating its progress over on my facebook page. We have achieved natural fizz now, and I’m super excited to make REAL gingerale. The good stuff, not the stuff that’s loaded with sugar and caramel colour in the store.

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The all natural fizz on top of my Ginger-bug! This carbonation started around day 3.

If you’re interested in starting your own fermentation project, I really recommend the Cultures For Health website. They have so many starter kits and huge library of recipes to help you get the most out of your product. I love it to bits.

Happy Fermenting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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