Friday, September 5, 2008

Fermenting juice with milk kefir (Cheat's Apple Cider)

Hooray! I've just heard that Rebecca has some water kefir ready to send us - so soon I'll be able to ferment all sorts of different sweet drinks (assuming I can keep the kefir grains alive this time.)

In the mean time, my son and I have been fermenting apple juice using milk kefir. The apple juice is from our CSA and is very sweet and concentrated so it lends itself well to fermenting with kefir I think.

Opinion's divided over whether milk kefir grains can or should be used to ferment anything except dairy products. In Wild Fermentation, Sandor Katz writes that you can use them to ferment almost anything you like, as long as you give them some time to recuperate in dairy straight afterwards - so we thought we'd give that a go.

We've developed a system where we use half our grains to ferment apple juice, while the other half ferment milk or cream. Then we do another dairy ferment with all of the grains in together, then divide them in half again and go back to the beginning of the cycle.

I think that means that, taken over time, each milk kefir grain is spending roughly a third of its time in apple juice and the rest in dairy. (Any mathematically minded person able to confirm that?)

Here's some apple juice we fermented - with the grains still floating in it.

We call it our Cheat's Apple Cider. Apparently milk kefir can be very slightly alcoholic, so I suspect this apple juice is too, but only a little. When you take the first gulp, you get that warm feeling flowing through your veins ... but none of us have ever managed to get tipsy from it!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Something foraged, something fermented

Last night we had big chunky potato wedges - made from a mix of huakaroro and urenika potatoes - with chickweed pesto and kefir sour cream on the side.

Actually I'm going to stop calling the chickweed thing 'pesto', out of deference to Italian friends! It wasn't a true pesto, but was a paste based on this pesto recipe.

I used chickweed instead of basil, and cashew nuts (soaked and dried) instead of pine nuts. I was pretty inaccurate with measurements, and when I had a taste and found I'd put in far too much garlic for me to bear, I added a whole lot more cashew nuts. It turned out deliciously in the end!

(Speaking of foraged herb pastes, Hannah from World Sweet World has had success with Nasturtium leaves.)

The kefir sour cream was a batch I'd started a couple of days earlier. I put all our milk kefir grains in with 400 grams of organic cream and left it for about a day and a half in a warm cupboard, then strained out the kefir grains.

Usually when I've made sour cream this way, the cream has a tendency to separate, and after straining out the kefir grains the soured mix is still not thick enough. I have to leave it to sit for a few more hours to separate again, then spoon off just the creamy stuff on the top to use.

However, this time the cream must have been extra thick because it didn't separate at all; it just fermented into one big mass of sour cream!