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Monday, October 24, 2022

Kefir, second ferment

Well, I have exceeded my expectations with my kefir! I am so glad I purchased fresh kefir instead of dry, I'm sure I could have succeeded with the dry, but it would have taken me longer to get to the finished drink.

I think it took me an extra day at both ends, the first and second ferment, the reason being because the SkyCastle is on the cooler side, and cold temps slow down the activity of the kefir. I let the first ferment go for 4 days, I tasted it on days 2, 3 and 4. The point here is to get to a slight sour, yeasty, yet slightly sweet, it is complex. I watched so many YouTube videos, so many were tasting the first ferment, they described it so exquisitely, I wondered if I would be able to recognize when the first ferment was complete...
I had nothing to worry about, I was able to detect the flavor of a completed first ferment with no problems. I pulled out 3 bottles for the second ferment. 2 large Topo Chico bottles and one smaller bottle that originally contained a commercially available kefir water, the first one of its kind I tried.

I filled each bottle, leaving enough space to add juice, fruit and still enough head space for the carbonation to happen. I also started a second batch of kefir water, the kefir grains were apparently very happy, they had doubled in size and quantity. I was able to split off 2 batches to give away. 

I took the remaining kefir grains and started another batch. The first batch of water kefir that I drained went into the next bottles, I added grape juice to one, a mix of juice in another, and in the smaller bottle, I put in a couple of lemon slices. I capped them tightly and set aside for the second ferment.

It took about 3 days for the first bubbles to appear in the second ferment, by the 4th day, they were fizzy! I had been tasting them a little bit on each day, I placed the 2 larger bottles in the fridge, the smaller lemon flavored bottle didn't last long enough to be refrigerated.

I did notice the way the fermentation slowed in the cold and increased in the warmth, I had placed my second fermentation bottles near the wood stove, they really began to bubble vigorously. I didn't allow them to get too warm, I didn't want any accidents, explosions, or dead ferments. 

It turned out to be just enough, the end product was tasty, fizzy and all around fun to drink. I can't wait to have enough going to be able to drink as much as I wish. For now, I'll just keep working both ferments.

My second batch I added grape juice to one bottle, and apple cider to the second bottle, on the smaller bottle I stayed with the lemon slices. I expect to be able to start drinking those in a few days. 

If you live close by to me, ask me about getting a batch of kefir grains from me, otherwise, if you want to get the same ones I have, go here KEFIR LINK and order from Amazon, thanks!

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Monday, October 17, 2022

It's Alive!

I am a strange combination of healthy eating and eating absolute garbage, well not actual garbage, but snack foods and less than healthy foods. I like to feel that I'm making up for the less than foods by consuming much more healthy fare.

My healthy food of the week (hopefully it will last more than a week though), I'm doing water kefir now. I am somewhat familiar with commercially available milk kafir from the health food store and the healthier sections of the grocery store. It's much harder to find a commercial water kafir drink, I finally found one and wanted to try it before going to all the trouble of making my own water kefir drinks.

Turns out I did like it and began to learn everything I could on the subject, fortunately it is so so SO simple! No special equipment, no expensive tools, no complicated or long methods are involved. I went ahead and purchased a batch of fresh (not dried) kefir grains to start with, that bypasses the first steps involved in STARTING or activating the growth, I would be essentially starting in the middle of step 2, and since there are only 3-4 steps in total, and I tend to want (almost) instant gratification, I couldn't argue with that route.

So, just what the heck ARE kefir grains? Well, first off they aren't actually "grain", what people are calling a grain is a tender but rubbery, bouncy, almost like a soft gummy bear like texture nodule that this bacteria and yeast grow in, these living organisms grow their own structure to live in, and much like a happy sourdough starter, once you start your own colony of kefir, it will multiply, it will grow larger and you will most likely end up giving it away to your friends and family.

The kefir grains live and grow in a sugar water solution that you supply, that's all, you should also give it minerals, so brown sugar, molasses, anything like this that contains minerals will make your kefir happy. As they consume the sugar in the water, they ferment and create probiotics which happen to be super healthy for us!

So I ordered from a person on Amazon (Kefir Link), I wasn't exactly sure how much I would receive, there seemed to be lots of measurements and numbers being thrown around, it said 1/4 pound, then 7 ounces, I just don't know what 1/4 pound or 7 ounces of kefir looks like. The reviews sounded pretty good, it was going to be fresh (not dried) grains, the price was reasonable, so I pushed the button.

After I did that, I began to look around the SkyCastle for large enough glass jars and containers. I am a bit of a hoarder, I blame that on my dad who grow up in the depression, you don't throw away ANYTHING that might come in handy, no matter how far into the future that might be... much to the annoyment (is that even a word???) of PB... we have had this long term battle over how many glass jars and bottles I NEED to save, he is constantly asking me if I'm done with a jar or bottle, translate that to: can I throw it away now? Wellll, if it is of a good size and has a decent lid, then the answer is almost always NO, you can't toss this, yet. Eventually he does wrestle away many of my jars and bottles, but I manage to save back just enough.

I looked through my bottle/jar stash and found just the perfect couple of containers for my new pets. Hmmm, pets, well they are a living entity, they grow and multiply, I am feeding and caring for them, I'm not exactly eating THEM though you can, just their by-products. OK, enough of that visual.

I had a large 2 quart Mason jar that I saved from a cold coffee making setup, I just don't make that much coffee, hot or cold to use that size of jar, the other jar was from a cold coffee concentrate that I had bought from the grocery store, it's 32 ounces or 1 quart. The second jar has a small mouth, but it's the perfect size, honestly when I bought these originally, I knew I would be saving those jars for something I would do in the future.

My kefir showed up a bit earlier than I expected them to, and they stayed in my mailbox for a few days, in my defense, my mailbox is some 6 miles away and I don't tend to make a special trip just to check my mail, I knew I was planning on going to town in a few days, and the temperature was going to be mild,  so I figured it would be OK, I had read a couple of reviews from people in hot places who said they had left theirs in their mailbox for a few days in the heat of summer and it turned out just fine.

Once I got my kefir babies home, I still wasn't ready to start so I popped them in the fridge for a couple of days. I had read mixed thoughts on that, most said it was OK, a few said that wasn't ideal, the directions on the package even said not to do that, I'm such a rebel, I did it anyhow.

Fast forward to last Thursday, that was the day, the day I would get everything ready and start my kefir farm. I found 2 suitable jars, I had coffee filters and rubber bands, I didn't have the exact sugar I really wanted to start with (a less processed, more natural sugar), I did have some regular brown sugar, that would work for now.

My water is about the most perfect part of this, it's well water so no chemicals, no fluoride, we do put bleach in the tank, but just enough to make the water safe to STORE, it's actually pretty good water otherwise. It is also high in minerals, which is something the kefir likes, so it's not a worry.

I had 2 containers of kefir grains, tightly packed in these things that you would see in a food take out for your condiments. I added about a quarter cup of brown sugar to the water and added the kefir grains. A few hours later, I realized I wanted to mark the level of the kefir grains at the bottom of the jars so I would know how much they grew, I could tell that they had already puffed up a bit. 

I placed the covered jars in a darkish cabinet and covered them with a towel, apparently kefir are shy and prefer to work in the dark. The following day, I marked a second line to show their growth, one jar seemed to be doing better than the other, it could have been the fact that my jars were 2 different sizes and the smaller jar just made it look like those kefir were doing better. 

So today (Saturday), it had been 2 full days, the kefir grains had puffed up, gotten larger and definitely multiplied, some of the grains were floating, a really good sign, and there were bubbles, at the top of the jar and buried within the kefir grains themselves.

I considered going another day, but thought I should taste my experiment first. I didn't know exactly what to expect, except for the descriptions of those who described what theirs smelled and tasted like. The descriptions were yeasty, fermented, sour smell. Mine definitely had all three of those things going for it. It is said that a properly developed liquid would no longer taste sweet but rather yeasty, fermented and slightly sour, well it also had all of those things going for it as well. I could barely taste a hint of the former sweetness it had started out with. 

I wanted to do a second fermentation, which is where you drain off the liquid, saving back the kefir grains and a little bit of the fermented water, then you place that liquid in another glass container with a good lid, at this point you can add fruit, fruit juice or a myriad of other things to add a flavor and wait for the juicy bubbles to form.

Yes, it does get fizzy, at least what I've seen on other YouTube videos on the subject. It's not supposed to take very long either, just add whatever fruit or juice you wish, bottle and wait. That's where I am now. I managed to hide back a hand full of large glass bottles with good lids, I filled 2 of the larger ones and a smaller one. I added grape juice to one, a mix of fruit juices for another, and for the smaller one, I cut up a lemon and put that inside of the bottle.

I closed up the lids tightly, something that may or may not be risky, if you want lots of fizz (and I do!) you have to tightly cap your bottles, but you have to either burp them, or don't let them go for very long. I've seen on YouTube from 6-12 hours, or 24 hours, I suspect it depends on the fruit or juice you add and the temperature where you are storing your capped bottles. The warmer it is, the more it ferments and the bubblier it can get. Right now we are at the cooler end, not cold enough for a fire in the wood stove, but definitely cooler, generally in the 50s F inside of the SkyCastle.

I keep looking at my bottles sitting on the shelf, I know they won't explode, at least not yet... it's been around 6ish hours, I did open one of the bottles just a little to see (or hear) if it was building up any pressure, and I'm happy to announce, it did release a tiny bit pressure! So, success so far. 

I'll probably pop them in the fridge tomorrow and later in the day, give them a taste test, I'm hoping it turns out and that I like the flavor. I just remembered that I have some cucumbers in the fridge, I wonder how that would taste??? 

I also started my second batch of kefir water, this time I had the sugar I wanted to use, a turbinado style sugar I order from Sam's Club, I also added just a little regular brown sugar, I thought I had some molasses, and I might, I just can't find it. Brown sugar is just white sugar with molasses added so it should be just fine. 

My kefir critters have easily doubled in size and volume. I'll have plenty to share around in a very short time. I know of 2 friends who are very interested, and I'm sure once word gets out, I'll have quite a few people wanting to start their own kefir farm.

How about you? Are you familiar with water kefir? Have you hade it? Do you grow your own? What are your favorite flavors to add?

If you wish to order some fresh kefir grains, you can order from the same place I got mine, they are alive and thriving, click here Kefir Link

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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

It's October!!!! Dogs and wok..

Can you believe it's October already????? I just don't know where the summer went, but in all honesty, fall or autumn is my favorite time of the year, our rainy season has pretty much ended, there is still some greenery around, but grasses and other plants are starting to get that golden tinge around the edges. Our trees don't really change color, we have mostly pines and oaks, the pines pretty much look the same year round, the oaks keep their green leaves all winter, waiting until spring to turn color, fall off and grow nice green leaves in just a few short weeks.

The nights and mornings are getting cooler now, I have had to start breaking out my cold weather sleeping gear, it's not quite time for the down blanket, that will be next month.

The dogs have fallen into a regular routine, up at daybreak, eat around 8ish, I take them for a walk most days, I try for 2 walks a day, but I don't always get it in. They do very well on their leashes, I finally got a second retractable leash so they both have one now. They sleep most of the rest of the day, then it's dinner tine around 6ish, another walk if I'm going to walk them a second time, then they go to bed whenever we do. The little one sleeps next to me, Mr Pups is too big for getting in our bed, he has a nice soft bed at the head of my bed, all I have to tell his is to get into his bed and he does. They have their own dog door so they can come and go as they wish. At night I close them in so they can only go out if I let them out, that's mainly because of the critters that may be out and about, skunks are the biggest worry, it's no fun to wash a stinky dog in the middle of the night, ask me how I know...

Here's something I'm excited about, I finally got the wok I wanted! Last year (I can't remember exactly when) I bought an el cheapo wok from WalMart, it was $5. I just needed to know if I really wanted to cook on a wok often enough to justify buying one. 

Turns out I do like cooking in a wok, that began my journey hunting down a good one. It had to be small enough for me to use, that meant a 13-14 inch wok. The next thing was deciding between a carbon steel (traditional) or a stainless steel. I'm very familiar with cooking and frying in stainless, it doesn't stick if you do it right, which means heating up the pan first, pouring in some oil, wait to see the oil shimmer-almost smoking, then add the food, it generally cooks/fries without sticking. You can also get woks in non-stick and in cast iron, neither appeal to me, I don't like non-stick coatings that flakes off and smokes at high temps. The cast iron would just be too heavy to be practical.

I really couldn't decide between carbon steel and stainless steel. The carbon steel has to be treated much like cast iron, it needs to be properly seasoned and washed & dried properly. I really love my stainless steel cookware too. I had several of each kind in my Amazon cart, it turned out to be price that was the determining factor.

One of the stainless steel woks dropped in price, very significantly, it had been around $80 and dropped to $24.99, that's all I needed to see! I hit the buy it button and waited for it to arrive. It's still that price as of now.

I got it a few days ago, even though we had already eaten dinner, I really wanted to try it, so I made popcorn in it. The following day I got out my stir fry goodies and made a proper dinner. I quickly realized that my little RV stove just doesn't have enough horsepower to really get the wok up to stir fry temps. So a couple of days later, PB put together a separate high horsepower burner just for the wok. I can also use it for boiling large pots of water and other things.

That is what has been going on this week, hope your week is going fantastically!  Let me know what you are doing to get ready for winter.

All written text from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment, but please do not distribute without written permission. You may post a portion of this (or any) message from this blog on another site as long as you include a link back to this site and the original message.


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