This is getting filed under the “cheese” tag, even though Kefir isn’t technically a cheese but is more like a yoghurt that you drink. Still it’s a fermented dairy product, so I’m tagging it “cheese” and running with it.
I’ve been reading about mesophilic yoghurt-like cultured dairy products and decided to try making kefir because (a) I drink, like, two litres of that stuff a week, when I have the chance, and (b) the local Indie Hippy Food Mart had dairy-kefir starters (but nothing for matsoni or filmjolk or other thicker mesophilic cultures). Er… Mesophilic means that it cultures/ferments at room temperature rather than at somewhat-warmer-than-room-temperature, meaning that I can set it up in a warm corner of the kitchen and just let it do it’s thing for a couple of days and then strain it through a mash bag, and voila! I’ve got a drinkable yoghurt-substitute that I can use in baking (the same way as I use the milk that, ah, “wild-ferments” in the fridge with distressing frequency) but that I’m also comfortable using as a breakfast drink.
I’m pretty happy with the results, so far. I mean, it’s my first attempt. It’s setting up really nicely, strained well and, while I definitely want something firmer than kefir is ever going to get, the taste of the stuff is pretty good. I want to let it ferment for another day or so – I like my yoghurt sharp, and this stuff still tastes a bit of the mild sweetness of milk left to warm on a counter top.
That said, some of it is going to get baked into muffins tonight (my lovely wife has asked me to make them on the regular because they make a good lunch substitute that can be spread out over the course of a long day in the shop which… is fantastic, but is also (I confess) incentive for me to get myself some whole wheat pastry flour and cut more of the sugar out of the coffee-cake-based recipe I’ve been adapting already). More of it will be sampled tomorrow morning – possibly sweetened & flavoured with some of last summer’s vanilla-nectarine preserves that I can (hopefully) whisk in before serving it up.
I could potentially use some of it to dress tonight Fabulous (if not very fancy) Friday Dinner – basa baked with tomato-peach salsa and rice, but I will probably go with store-bought yoghurt – which has the consistency I want, and which I have hanging out in the fridge right now – instead.
I’m using a kefir starter – a powder that you stir into the milk and let do it’s thing – rather than kefir grains (which, as I understand it, are SCOBY-like lumps that live in the bottom of your fermentation jar and that you save and re-use over and over again to keep making new batches of kefir). So I’m not exactly fermenting things “for real” just yet. But it’s a nice way to start, and I’m really excited about the results and the potential used for what I’ve made.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 As a mesophilic ferment, that also includes thermophilic beasties, it CAN be used as the bacteria in various cheese-making adventures. This may or may not happen at a later date.
 Speaking of which, the Unknown Cheese that I made by accident in early January? I let it keep doing it’s thing and… Okay. While I wasn’t brave enough to try eating it, the result when I (urgh…) threw it out was actually… It had a consistency that was just slightly firmer than cream cheese or chevre, smelled somewhere between double-cream brie and blue cheese (meaning: stinky as fuck, but in a recognizable way), and was turning a fairly uniform pale orange.
Part of me wishes I’d hung onto it a little bit longer, just to see what developed. You never know. It might have been something good.
 I’m imagining a mix that includes extra eggs (AKA: the called-for number of eggs, rather than half of them) plus a couple of tablespoons of pumpkinseed- or peanut-butter, at least some whole wheat flour (probably half-and-half), and maybe some cooked amaranth mixed in with the cocoa, dried cranberries, pumpkin butter, chocolate chips (hell, yeah), and crumbled pecans.
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