Category Archives: Yogurt

~ Kefir Cheese & More…

cheese making 101

Today we’ll talk about making living, cultured cheese at home. Cheese can be made with dairy kefir grains or lighter yogurt strains. The process involves several steps, however, the overall procedure is very simple.

It is a basic 3 steps in cheese making…

1. Culturing the milk with a selected strain of kefir or yogurt until the milk separates into ‘curds and whey’.

2. Hanging the product to remove more of the ‘whey’ and to ‘dry’ the curd/fat solids.

3. Enhancing the cheese by forming it, adding dried herbs, and aging it longer, if desired.

finished kefir yogurt cheese

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So Let’s Get Started…

First, start by culturing fresh dairy with the selected culture strain. Milk kefir grains seem to work the best but other types of yogurts may be used. Even different yogurt strains mixed together can form a better end product and add to the probiotic makeup. These include Fil, LangFil, Amasi, or even Buttermilk yogurt type strains.

Allow the milk to culture per directions, most should achieve separation within 24 to 48 hours. After the milk has split into ‘curds & whey’ remove as much of the ‘whey’ as possible leaving the milk solids/fats for the cheese production.
Note: Save the ‘whey’ as a starter for other ferments like lacto veggies. Makes a great drink for children. Save under refrigeration.

kefir cheese making
milk kefir bagged

Next step is to place the milk fat solids into several layers of cheesecloth or porous cloth. Make sure the weave is proper to hold the solids in.

Bring up the corners and tie together with string. Hang this, over a bowl, for 6 to 8 hours or until the desired thickness is achieved. If a firmer cheese is needed then place into the refrigerator and allow the cheese to thicken. The process of refrigeration will pull more moisture out due to humidity controls.

forming cultured cheese

Lastly, is removing the cheese from the cloth and enhancing it further. This is done by forming the solids into a block form, a mold, or mound. Before that herbs and spices may be added to enhance the flavor. A little sea salt and pepper is all that is needed sometimes, but adding herbs like basil or thyme will take it to another level!

If a thicker cheese is wanted, once formed, it can sit longer to firm up even more. By these methods, soft spreadable cheese or harder cheese can be created.

But What About the Cheese Going Bad?

The chance of living, cultured cheese is very small if any. By the process used, this cheese is alive with active cultures that have depleted the ‘food source’ so other bacteria and yeast have nothing to feed upon.
The cheese will be suspectable to mold spores if left out and uncovered.

cheese with herbs

Now Some Fun…

We have living probiotic cheese maybe with or without herbs and seasoning. Now, this can be enhanced by adding other cultured foods or infusions.
A mix of honey infused garlic and fresh cheese sounds like a winner. See how to make garlic honey here.

If milk kefir grains or yogurt culture starters are needed, visit our store for a selection of over a dozen starter types.

Live, Grow, Share Cultured Foods…

~ What is Mongolia Milk Airag and Kumis? ~

airag milk

What is Airag?

Airag is the traditional national beverage of Mongolia. The most important animal of the Mongols is the horse. Horses don’t only serve as riding animals, the mare’s milk also has a special status. A glass of homemade Mongolian airag is said to bring health and vitality. Also known as kumis, it is made by fermenting raw unpasteurized mare’s milk over the course of hours or days, often while stirring or churning (The physical agitation has similarities to making butter). During the fermentation, lactobacilli bacteria acidify the milk, and yeasts turn it into a carbonated and mildly alcoholic drink.

How Fermented Airag is Used…

airag milk

Airag refreshes and sparkles softly on the tongue. It contains a small amount of carbon dioxide and a low amount of only 2% of alcohol. The taste is slightly sour, but quite agreeable after getting used to it. The exact taste depends on both of the characteristics of the pastures and the exact method of production. The beverage is a rich source of vitamins and minerals for the nomads. A Mongolian will normally empty it, but it is also acceptable to just take a sip and return the bowl. To reject the offer right away
would be gravely impolite.

Similar to Isgelen Tarag (Kefir), it is possible, but not as common, to distill Airag into Mongol Arkhi (milk liquor).

Strictly speaking, kumis is in its own category of alcoholic drinks because it is made neither from fruit nor from grain. Technically, it is closer to wine than to beer because the fermentation occurs directly from sugars, as in wine (usually from fruit), as opposed to from starches (usually from grain) converted to sugars by mashing, as in beer. But in terms of experience and traditional manner of consumption, it is much more comparable to beer.
It is even milder in alcoholic content than beer.
It is arguably the region’s beer equivalent.

Kumis is very light in body compared to most dairy drinks. It has a unique, slightly sour flavor with a bite from the mild alcoholic content. The exact flavor is greatly variable
between different producers.

Kumis is usually served cold or chilled. Traditionally it is sipped out of small, handle-less, bowl-shaped cups or saucers, called piyala.

How Airag is Made…

The milk is filtered through a cloth and then poured into a large open leather sack called a Khukhuur, which is usually suspended next to the entrance of the yurt. Alternatively, a vat from larch wood (Gan), or in modern times plastic, can be used. Within this container, the milk gets stirred with a wooden masher or buluur.

leather airag milk
milk fermentation

The stirring needs to be repeated regularly over one or two days. Traditionally, anyone entering or leaving the yurt would do a few strokes. The fermentation process is caused by a combination of lactic acid bacteria and yeast, similar to Kefir.
The stirring makes sure that all parts of the milk are
fermented equally.

Traditionally, this fermentation took place in horse-hide containers, which might be left on the top of a yurt and turned over on occasion, or strapped to a saddle and joggled around over the course of a day’s riding. Today, a wooden vat or plastic barrel may be used
in place of the leather container.

Enjoy and Happy Culturing!
See our web store for all your culturing and fermentation needs:
Organic Cultures Store

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~ Wild Yeast Fermentations ~

  This post will cover fermentation with wild yeast and bacteria.  Before the isolation of yeast strains by traditional peoples the use of wild yeast was the only way to prolong food stores.  However, other methods were used, too, like drying and salting of meats and fish or seeds and grains.
Later, through the years, each culture of indigenous peoples saved certain culture strains for continued use until today. These included yogurt bacteria, molds used for tempeh and koji, and bacteria/yeast used for water kefir and kombucha.
grape water kefir

Basically, what yeast does is convert sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas (CO2).  In fact, if you take a look at the origin of the word yeast, you’ll discover that it comes from the Old English gist and Old High German jesen or gesen, which mean “to ferment.”  You may not realize it, but wild yeast spores are present everywhere. They’re in the air we breathe; in plants, flowers, fruits, and soil.  With continued experimentation with fermenting and brewing, one will keep finding more and more sources of wild yeast.

Those who wildcraft for food stocks know how potent the wild yeasts are in nature.  One of the better-known foods that carry wild yeast is berries.  Blackberries and raspberries placed in a sugar liquid produced a nice effervescent beverage that can be taken home or used right in the field the next day when camping or hiking.  Black elderberries, whether fresh or naturally dried, also produces a nice fizzy elixir when made in the same manner.
Another well know fruiting body that carries beneficial bacteria are vineyard grapes or wild ones. This is seen as a white residue on the outside of the grapes.
grape yeastRose hips harvested after the first frost also contains wild yeast and/or bacteria.  Any type of wild edible berry will contain the yeast and bacteria needed for making fermented beverages.

~ Good Sources of Wild Yeasts ~

rose hips elderberries– Organic grapes, plums, fruits that have a white bloom.
– Elderberries
– Wild Grapes
– Elderflowers
– Blueberries
blackberries– Blackberries/Raspberries
– Fresh or Dried Figs
– Prickly pear fruits
– Tree barks—birch (
Betula spp.) and aspen (Populus spp.).
– Unripe pine cones. My pinyon pine cones were loaded with yeast, and many people have reported excellent results using unripe pine cones from their local pines.
– Pinyon pine or white pine branches.
– Raw local honey
– 
A lot of unwashed organic fruits (apples, peaches, lemons, etc.) are also excellent sources of yeast. Make sure they’re organic and clean.

~ Other Items That Contain Beneficial
Wild Yeast ~

bee pollenThere are other items found in nature that allows for fermentation.  Pollen from flowers contains wild yeast, so many are used for culturing pro-biotic drinks.  Massive amounts of yeast are within the bee pollen from the array of flowers that the bees have collected.
Pollen extracts are sometimes used to help desensitize plants to which they are allergic.  In addition, melbrosia, a mixture of fermented bee pollen, flower pollen and royal jelly, may treat menopausal symptoms in women, including headaches and urinary incontinence.
Pollen contains many nutrients(enzymes and high-quality proteins).  However, due to the external structure of the cell wall, it is hard for humans to digest and use these nutrients. Adding the pollen to milk kefir or water kefir grains allows the cell wall to break down.

Here are a couple of recipes for using bee pollen for a healthy probiotic beverage:

fermented pollenSuper – Pollen – D’Probiotica

For Dairy Kefir:
– Add 1 tbsp of fresh bee pollen to 1 cup strained kefir. Ferment in a glass jar with the lids cracked slightly or use an air-lock to vent.  Ripen at room temperature for 1 to 3 days day tell fermentation starts or to one’s liking.
For Water Kefir:
– Add 1 tbsp bee pollen to 2 cups finished water kefir liquid.
Ferment for 48 hours or to taste.

bee with pollenThe Butterfly

A great fruity beverage to use some milk kefir.
– 2/3 cup of dark grape juice
– 1/3 cup fresh milk kefir(grains removed)
– 1 tbsp of fresh pollen
– A slice of lemon or orange, with peel
– Sprinkle of cinnamon

Start with the grape juice and add the pollen.   Now add the dairy kefir, swirl a bit with a straw or chopstick to marble the beverage.  Allowthis to set for a few hours to incorporate and break down the bee pollen.

bee kaurtWild Nettle or Dandelion, Raw Bee Pollen, & Raw Honey Kraut

Here a great recipe to make sauerkraut using wildcrafted ingredients:
– To begin you will need a 1/2 gallon-sized ball jar, 1 medium cabbage, fresh nettle or dandelion leaves, local raw honey, raw bee pollen, and some sea salt.
– Now core and shred the cabbage, salt it to taste then spread on a tray or large bowl.  Use as much salt to taste, common is 2 to 3 % salt brine.  Allow this to sit for an hour for the salt to start breaking down the cabbage.
– Pound the cabbage with a wooden hammer (or a rolling pin can work) until the juices start to release and the cabbage softens.
– Mix with bee pollen, drizzle honey and sprinkle in cleaned and greens, with steams removed.  Add these ingredients to one’s liking.
– Place in a wide mouth ball jar and press down with your fist (you can use a cabbage leaf as a top barrier and then press on that) until the veg is submerged in liquid. If there is not enough liquid to start, check it in a few hours as the cabbage breaks down more.
– Cover and leave at room temp for about 5-10 days.  Check on the sauerkraut and keep pressing it down below the liquid and release the gas occasionally as it starts to ferment.  The kraut should taste tart yet sweet from the honey when it’s ready…  if stronger sauerkraut is desired leave it at room temperature. When you are satisfied with the taste, transfer to cold storage where it will last for up to 12 months.

  There are many ways to collect and use wild yeast from nature.  Unlike standard yeast used for yogurts or miso wild yeast can vary in strength and potency.  This can affect the results of the finished beverage, however, most will turn out with high rates of effervesce.  Try using other flowers and fruits or even leaves from edible wildcrafted plants.
– Fin