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May 2010
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GNOWFGLINS eCourse Redux

Lesson 9: Water Kefir

The water kefir lesson went pretty well. I made a gallon of it and though I added that peach juice to the second fermentation, it didn’t taste anything like peaches. It has a strong yeasty kind of taste to it, like a cross between risen but unbaked bread and some kind of yeasty beer. I didn’t like the aftertaste it left, so I took a hand of ginger and grated it up into the jug. It tasted significantly better after letting it sit for a day with the ginger, but it still has that odd taste that’ll take some getting used to. The grains are resting in the fridge in some sugar water currently, but I think I’m going to give another batch a try, perhaps half sized this time – a gallon is just too much for just me drinking it. I think lemon juice and ginger will be primary for the next batch. I get the impression that the water out at our new place will be much better for water kefir making than what we’ve got here in the city though. More minerals. I also discovered that in other parts of the world, they call this Tibicos.

Lesson 10: Dairy Kefir

I’ve been making dairy kefir for quite some time, though I’ve not been able to get past the taste. I keep making it though and using it in things, like for a soaking stage for oatmeal, or last week I tried to make a bread that I found where you only use ground wheat flour and kefir. It turned out not quite as well as expected, but I’m totally willing to try it again. I think I didn’t bake it for long enough, it was still a little moist in the middle. The flavor was much like sourdough though. I have been sitting my dairy kefir grains in the fridge, changing the milk each week, so it’s only been making maybe 1/2 cup every week. I collect it until I can find something to do with it. I’ve found a couple of recipes for salad dressings that sound pretty decent (one with grated parmesan, basil, garlic, salt, dill, egg yolk, avocado and parsley). I haven’t been able to put them into smoothies, the tartness is always too overpowering for me. I might try it as a veggie dip or let it drip in cheesecloth and use it as a sour cream substitute. Wardeh had some other good ideas, but I’m skeptical of the wang in any of these.

Lesson 11: Soft Spreadable Cheese

Having gotten the cultures a while back, I started messing with them. I made the cottage cheese, which was quite my favorite, and also made some ricotta (though it was not very ricotta like). I like cheese, but I don’t find much of a use for spreadable cheese at this point since I’ve not been eating much in the way of breads or crackers if I can help it. I’m assuming though that you can use this as a substitute for cream cheese, in which case I’m sure there’s cheesecake, cream cheese frosting among other uses for it. I didn’t actually try this lesson as I had no need for cream cheese at the moment, but it seemed quite straight forward and I was confident I could manage it. What I liked the best about the recipe was how she showed us how to make smaller batches. If you need only part of a drop of the rennet, mix 1/4 cup of water with one drop and one TB will be 1/4 of a drop (1/4 cup = 4 TB). For some reason, it never occurred to me to dilute it as such!

Lesson 12: Sourdough

Which brings us to this week’s lesson, sourdough! I’d sent away for the starter from Carl’s 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Starter back when these lessons first began. It comes in a dry powder that I’ve set up re-hydrating this week. I’m using my sprouted wheatberries for the flour, I ground up a half gallon jar full and popped it in the freezer until my starter is ready to make bread. It looks like the first day’s re-hydration and ferment made it nice and bubbly, I’ll wait for a few more days and a few more feedings to make the bread perhaps this weekend. I’m afraid of what will happen though, there are so many horror stories of sourdough not turning out right, I’d hate to brick my first loaf. I plan to try this sourdough chocolate cake and sourdough english muffins.

Side projects

In other news about whole foods, I had a couple pounds of carrots leftover from something I made a while back and decided after going to Polvo’s (again) that I should make some pickled carrots. I pulled out my fancy fermentation crock. It’s specially made to have a groove where the lid can sit in water and seal everything in (but still let gasses escape). Here’s a diagram of what I’m talking about:

I bought this crock at a local artisan farm not too far north from here and I have to say it’s one of the best purchases I’ve made. The weights are made from unglazed clay and they’re nice and heavy to keep everything down, even little carrot slices.

This week I’m also going to start up my first batch of wine. A friend gifted me a carboy, primary fermenter and some gadgets (corker, bottle washer) so I only needed to get a few things to be able to make wine (hydrometer, siphon, bungs). I picked up a kit of spanish tempranillo for the first batch. The kits are big juice bags with all the things you add to it to make the wine turn out a specific way. One kit will make 30 bottles and I’m looking forward to it! I have a tendency of only drinking a glass and then re-corking the bottle for a week (bad!) so I think I might bottle it in smaller glass soda bottles instead of full, four-glass-plus wine bottles for singular consumption. There will probably be a separate entry about the wine making itself, but I’m VERY looking forward to it and hoping it doesn’t turn out like vinegar or something you’d only want to use to get brake grease off of car parts.

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