This summer has been all about experimenting– experimenting with recipes, with gardening, with owning a dairy animal and figuring out what to do with it… Experiments are exciting but the natural result is that sometimes they succeed…and sometimes they fail. And as any scientist will tell you, there are almost always more failures than successes. Of course that scientist will tell you that a failed experiment gives you just as much information as the successful one, but that sort of logic isn’t as comforting in the kitchen or on the farm. I haven’t been blogging as much lately mostly because I’ve been really busy with real work, but also because so many of my experiments have had poor results and those just aren’t as much fun to blog about.
If you don’t know what milk kefir is, its basically a fermented dairy product that uses yeast and bacteria (“probiotics”) to turn regular milk into a slightly thickened, somewhat fizzy and supposedly much healthier drink. I’ve had store bought kefir and it reminds me of drinkable yogurt but with a slight fizz that is quite pleasant. People often use it as the base for smoothies.
Mistake 1: I ordered kefir starter expecting to receive kefir grains (which are reusable) but got a powdered culture instead which isn’t as easy to reuse. This was a disappointing discovery but I plowed ahead anyway.
Mistake 2: making the assumption that something made at home with goat milk would taste anything like commercially made cow milk kefir flavored with who knows what.
Basically my kefir just tasted like old goat milk that had gotten thick and sour and icky. Maybe it could have been saved by adding a ton of sugar and flavoring but if I did that I’d kind of offset all the extra healthiness I added through fermentation. I can get probiotics in other ways that don’t require as much sugar and flavoring to be palatable.
Water Kefir is similar to milk kefir except that you use a water/sugar solution to feed the yeast/bacteria grains. I’ve heard that you can make awesome healthy homemade “sodas” with all the fizz and flavor of soda but with the healthy probiotics of kefir. Someone in an online fermenting group sent me some of her grains and I’ve been diligently feeding them sugar water for a couple of weeks. So far I’ve made a lot of sweet, slightly yeasty water but very little fizzing. I’ve tried leaving it out on the counter uncovered and capped and in the fridge capped. The results aren’t bad, really, they just aren’t what I was hoping for.
Ginger Bug Soda
Supposedly another way to make homemade soda is by using a ginger bug. Since I love gingerale I thought this would be perfect. I’ve had the same results as with the water kefir, though. I end up with a sweet, slightly yeasty liquid – gingery this time- but no fizz. In my attempts to produce fizz I left some capped on the counter for too long and I think that I *may* have accidentally produced ginger vinegar, complete with a tiny vinegar mother.
I’m still experimenting with the water kefir (WK) and gingerbug. I’ve heard that sometimes with the WK it takes your kefir grains several cycles to get established and really start thriving and all it takes is a spoon full of sugar a day. The gingerbug hasn’t been tossed out yet and I’m feeding it sugar but I’ve stopped feeding it ginger since it feels like I’m just wasting a relatively expensive ingredient. I suspect my gingerbug will end up in the compost pile soon.