Or, How to Make Greek Yogurt, Water Kefir and Kombucha!
In my last post, we talked about whether or not you even need probiotics. If, after doing some research, you decide you want to supplement your diet with probiotics but you prefer a whole foods diet rather than a pill-filled diet, this post is for you. Or, if you ran to the local health food store, grabbed a bottle of probiotics and then had to pick yourself up off the floor after you saw how much it cost, this post is for you. Grab your pioneering spirit and get ready for the ride. I'm going to tell you how I grow my own probiotics at home.
1. Make Your Own Yogurt:
Let's start with something that is easy for the average America to imagine themselves eating. Yogurt. If you want to run to the local super market and buy some, great. It's easy and it's available. Be careful what you buy, though. Many store bought yogurts are full of high fructose corn syrup and chemicals. Check the label. Also, make sure it actually has live cultures.
If you're adventurous, though, you can make your yogurt at home. Before I started to use the method I will tell you about here, I tried a couple of different methods. Here are a couple links for those methods to get you started if you don't have my yogurt maker:
I had many adventures and misadventures in yogurt making. Sometimes my yogurt was wonderful. sometimes it was too sour. Sometimes it was runny. Sometimes it was lumpy. You never really knew what you were going to get. Besides, I really wanted to make raw milk yogurt and that is even harder do. Sigh. I gave up. I started buying Dannon Plain yogurt and adding my own flavorings/ sweeteners at home. At least I could control what was in my yogurt and knew the yogurt had live cultures.
Then about a year ago I got this little beauty for 1/2 price. It is a Cuisinart Electronic Yogurt Maker with Automatic Cooling. Best purchase EVER. This is not your average yogurt maker. You don't have to do a bunch of preliminary stuff to the yogurt. You don't have to do anything. I just dump my ingredients in there, press a button and walk away. It even chills it for me. When it's done, I strain my yogurt to make greek yogurt. YUM! My yogurt is perfect every single time! The only thing that would make it better is if it made double or triple the amount of yogurt at a time. As it is, I just keep it running until I have enough to last us a few days.
If you happen to own one, or decide to get one, this is my yogurt recipe:
Angela's Raw Milk Greek Yogurt
2/3 cup yogurt starter (I used Dannon Plain yogurt as my first starter. Now I just save some of the yogurt from my last batch to be the starter for my next batch)
1/2 cup dry milk powder (This is optional, but really helps the raw milk firm up better. Raw milk can make pretty thin yogurt, but the dry milk powder and the Greek Yogurt step fix that. Besides, it adds extra protein which I like.)
Raw milk to fill container to about 3/4 inch from the top of the container -- about 4 cups. (If raw milk is unavailable or if it scares you, you can use store bought whole milk. I won't tell.)
Dump the ingredients in and stir it a bit with a whisk, just to incorporate the ingredients. Then set the machine to 6 hours and walk away. When it starts to cool, you can either start the second stage or let it cool in the machine awhile. I just start the straining when it's convenient for me, since the machine will chill my yogurt for 12 hours. Often, I start the yogurt before I go to bed and strain it in the morning. Whatever works.
Make it into thick, luscious Greek Yogurt:
When the yogurt batch is done (or if you purchased Dannon Plain Yogurt), it is time to strain it into Greek Yogurt. I use a vegetable steamer, but a colander that fits over a pan or bowl will also work well.
Cover the strainer with a cheesecloth or other cloth. I use bandanas that are reserved for this purpose. I don't use bleach on them or any such thing -- just in case there is residue that would harm my beneficial bacteria. I like to keep them happy.
Stack your strainer over the pan. The pan will catch the whey that drains out. Pour your yogurt into the cloth covered strainer and pull up the sides of the cloth. Secure with a rubber band.
Pop the lid on and stick it in the fridge. After a few hours, it will be ready to finish up. Dump your now thick yogurt into a bowl and whip it with a stick blender until it is smooth and creamy. If you let it strain too long, it will resemble cream cheese. No worries. Just add a little of the whey back in and blend.
We like to flavor ours with vanilla and either pure cane juice sugar (the kids) or stevia (me). Then we mix in whatever yummy fruits we want that day. Yum.
2. Water Kefir Pop
The back jar is unflavored Water Kefir in it's first ferment. The front jar is Blueberry Water Kefir.
Water Kefir is so simple to make. All our kids really like this, so it is easy to get them to take their probiotics every day. All you need is Kefir Grains, Sugar, Trace Minerals if your water doesn't have enough minerals to feed the Kefir, and water. I got my Water Kefir Grains here. (BTW, you cannot use water kefir grains and milk kefir grains interchangeably. They are two different things.) If you don't have the minerals, you can also use Molasses to give your grains a boost when they need it. (I got my minerals on Amazon.) A fine-mesh plastic strainer is also handy. Kefir grains don't like metal.
To make Water Kefir:
Mix the sugar water -- 4 Tbsp sugar, 5 drops minerals and fill the jar with chlorine free water, leaving room for the grains. Shake to mix. Add 4 Tbsp water kefir grains. Cover for about 24 hours and it's done. Strain off the Kefir Grains and mix up your next batch. Then you can flavor the finished kefir however you like and leave it for 8-24 hours. Chill and drink. Easy.
Some of our favorite flavors so far are:
Vanilla Cream Soda
After the first ferment, mix in 1 tsp - 1 Tbsp sugar and 1 Tbsp real Vanilla. Allow to sit on the counter for a day to get fizzy. Then refrigerate.
Orange Cream Soda
After the first ferment, mix in 1 tsp sugar, 4 Tbsp not from concentrate orange juice, and 1 tsp vanilla. Allow to sit on the counter for a day to get fizzy. Then refrigerate. To serve, stir in a touch of cream.
After the first ferment, mix in 1 tsp. sugar and a good handful of frozen cranberries that you have cut in half (if you don't cut them first, they won't release much of their flavor). Allow to sit on the counter for a day to get fizzy. Then refrigerate.
After the first ferment, mix in 1 tsp. sugar and a good handful of frozen blueberries. No need to cut the blueberries. Allow to sit on the counter for a day to get fizzy. Then refrigerate.
3. Continuous Brew Kombucha
Kombucha is full of wonderful probiotics and digestive enzymes. I usually drink about 1/2 quart a day and I can always tell when I haven't been drinking it. It is zippy and fizzy and tasty. I guess it is an acquired taste, though, because most of my family skips it for the Water Kefir Soda Pop.
To make Kombucha, you will need a Scoby (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). (Some people call it a Kombucha Mushroom, but technically, it's a scoby.) It's ugly. It's weird. It resembles shoe leather. Don't worry. You don't have to eat it. You just float it on top of a black tea and sugar mix. Then your scoby will consume the black tea and sugar, leaving you with a fizzy Kombucha drink. You can't get Kombucha without that ugly scoby.
The first time I made Kombucha, I purchased a scoby mother. You can get one here. I used the traditional method and it was time consuming. Then we moved and I stopped making it for awhile. I just wasn't keeping up with it. You have to keep feeding your scoby to keep it alive, so obviously, I killed my scoby mother. I know. I was cruel.
Then one of my kids asked me to start making it again. By this time, I had heard of the "Continuous Brew Method." I knew that the old method wasn't going to work for me, so I didn't want to spend $25-50 on a new scoby that I might not maintain. This time I actually grew my own scoby with store bought Kombucha. It took longer to get started, but I'm still making tasty kombucha from the scoby I grew well over a year ago.
If you want to try growing your own Kombucha Scoby Mother using store bought Kombucha, I used the tutorial found here.
You can find a lot more information about these and other cultured, probiotic-rich foods at Cultures for Your Health or just start doing some google searching. I have experimented with lots of other cultured foods, but these three are my mainstays. I keep them going all the time. Have fun experimenting and improving your health with home-grown probiotics!
Have a great day!
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