Tonight I went to a workshop to learn about how to make these cultured, fermented goodies. The workshop was organized by the herdshare I belong to. In Ohio, you can buy into a herd of dairy cows and because you “own” a portion of the herd, you get to share in a portion of the product (provided you pay your monthly “boarding” fee). Participating in a herdshare is a legal way to get raw milk and other raw dairy products.
[Raw Milk Sidebar: Raw milk has not been cooked; it is raw. It has not been pasteurized and it has not been homogenized. It is alive, teeming with enzymes and vitamins. When it’s cooked (i.e., pasteurized), all those enzymes die and many of the vitamins break down. When it’s forced through small tubes at high speeds (i.e., homogenized), the shape of the lipids gets altered, basically voiding the fats of any value. If you’d like to know more about raw milk, I highly recommend Ron Schmid’s The Untold Story of Milk. It’s a 500-page lesson in biochemistry and the politics of hysteria. And it’s a damn good read.]
So, we belong to a herdshare so that we can (legally) get raw milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, etc. The cows are “boarded” and cared for by an Amish farming family that lives about 2.5 hours from Cincinnati. Adam, the head of the Amish family, is a very enterprising young man: he relies on the assistance and technical know-how of a handful of “English” (non-Amish like me…and I’m guessing you, if you’re, you know, on the Internet reading this) folks to help him run his business. The herdshare has an ordering Web site, we’ve got a Facebook page, there’s a cell phone number we can call if we have questions and issues and someone (obviously not Adam) will answer the phone and help us out.
Anyway, the Facebook group decided an evening of fermentation was in order. So, tonight, we learned how to make sourdough bread, kefir, and kombucha. If you’re unfamiliar with kefir, it’s a fermented dairy drink that’s almost yogurt-like. It originated in Eastern Europe, I believe, and it has many lovely, living things that keep your gut healthy. Similarly, Kombucha is an ancient elixir and tea that comes from Russia (or China–I’ve heard both). It’s a fermented tonic. And sourdough bread is, well, sourdough bread. Easier to digest than other bread products because the culture helps break down the flour so it’s easier to digest.
A big treat this evening was that Adam, his wife, and two of their four children were at the workshop. It was refreshing to see him again–I had met him a couple of years ago when I drove out to his farm to meet the cows. That’s a good story–for another time.
So, what you see in today’s picture (left to right) is the sourdough starter, the kombucha “baby,” and the kefir “brain.” We’ll see how my adventures in fermentation go. I need to go ahead and put the kefir brain in some milk tonight. Better go get started…