I can’t stop raving about this recipe. Its become a staple in my diet. Its so healthy and versatile and once fermented it seems to keep very well in the fridge. Perfect then to mix with whatever herbs or veg I have to hand and cook up!
Most of the time spent it in soaking and waiting and fermenting. So this isn’t a recipe you can cook for dinner tonight unless you’ve started the process 2 days ago.
Give it a try though, I’m sure you’ll love them too!
Ever wondered how to make kefir cheese? I bet you haven’t! But won’t you be so glad to know 🙂
It’s easy to make this live probiotic soft cheese. A perfect replacement for Philadelphia Cream Cheese or Boursin.
First you must make milk kefir. (See my post here about how-to).
I just thought I’d share with you that I just signed up for over 20 years of current and back issues access through Permaculture Magazine.
It seems a great offer, it was only 12 pounds sterling for the year.
I like it because I can use the search function to easily search through all of the back issues for a keyword.
And if you have a smart device such as an iPod or iPhone or android you can easily read through the issues on their app.
It’s free to access some issues and also loads of information on their blog, and podcasts here.
Here’s the link should you like to check it out.
I finally got some more water kefir grains today from Healthy Habits in Wicklow Town.
I had water kefir grains in the past but quickly felt overwhelmed from too many cultures on the go. I am now superhuman (ha, you should see my countertops!) at balancing all of my cultures, so I decided to give it another go.
If you’d like to learn more about water kefir grains and read loads of recipes, one of my favourite websites is Cultures for Health.
Ginger Lime Water Kefir recipe
Makes 3 cups/ double the recipe if desired.
3 cups/ 750ml filtered water, preferably non-chlorinated
¼ cup/ 50 gram sugar
½ teaspoon molasses, preferably blackstrap
a washed, organic eggshell (for added minerals)
pinch of sea salt
2 squeezed lemons or limes, including the peel if organic
a couple pieces of dried fruit such as raisins or apricots
1-2 inches of organic fresh ginger, sliced finely.
¼ cup/ 45 grams water kefir grains
In a 1 litre non-reactive container, such as a glass milk bottle, dissolve the water and sugar. Once mixed, add in all of the other ingredients: molasses, eggshell, sea salt, lemon peel, (save the juice for later) dried fruit, sliced ginger and lastly the water kefir grains. If you add the water kefir grains loosely in a small muslin sack or bag they are much easier to remove after.
Screw the lid on tight and give it a shake to mix everything. Then (importantly) leave the lid on, but unscrewed so that the carbon dioxide can escape. Or use an airlock if you have one. Bottles can and will explode if you don’t take care! If you’ve screwed the lid on, be sure to release the carbon dioxide every 6-8 hours by opening the container.
Let stand in a warm place of 68-72F/ 18-22C for 48 hours. 72 hours if the room is cooler. It should be gently fizzy.
Remove and discard the fruit (you can eat it) and lemon pieces and eggshell. Remove the kefir grains. Strain the liquid through a sieve to catch any other bits or kefir grains.
Stir in the lemon or lime juice using more or less to taste. In Cortney’s recipe, she also adds fresh ginger juice.
Transfer the liquid to flip top bottles such as glass Grolsch bottles with the rubber gasket. Leave at least 1 inch/ 2.5 cm of head space to allow the carbon dioxide to expand. Let stand at room temperature until pressure builds, about 24 hours. You can use a plastic bottle if desired to remove the possibility of explosions, but also to gauge that the pressure has built up sufficiently. Once the bottle feels hard, move to the refrigerator. Refrigerate for up to 1 month. Serve cold straight out of the bottle.
I’d recommend opening the bottles with care. I open them over the sink and with a plastic jug over the top of the bottle in the event of a surprise geizer!
The kefir grains need to be fed, so once removed from the mixture feed them again immediately in a sugar water mixture of ¼ cup sugar/ 50 grams to 1 quart or litre of water. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks. Drain and add fresh sugar water every 7 days. Or repeat the recipe and start again!
For health reasons, I normally try not to eat too many soy products. However I had a bag of dried organic soy beans sitting in my cupboard so I decided to do something with them. My dear friend Patricia Quinn had written in her book about how easy it was to make homemade tofu, so I decided to give it a go. I enjoy tofu from time to time but until making it myself I was never such a fan. This has all changed now and I shall make tofu more often after tasting how amazing it is fresh from the press. Well worth the work, and most of the time spent was actually just letting it soak and then after, letting it strain.
Ever wondered how to make homemade tofu? I took photos of the process and I’ll try to explain clearly here.
First I soaked the beans overnight in water. They expanded to double their size. I used dried organic soy beans.
I strained them the next morning.
I made soy milk by blending and then boiling the beans in fresh water and bringing it to a boil. Actually, thats a lie- this is what you can do though, its not hard! I actually cheated and used the SoyaBella which made the soy milk for me in about 15 minutes. An unnecessary but handy tool. A gift from the other half many christmas’ ago and something I have put to good use. You can use it to grind herbs, coffee beans, nuts or to make your own flour from grains. It makes it even easier than it already is to make homemade almond or rice milk, as it strains it for you in the metal strainer. I’ll post a photo of the SoyaBella later in case any of you should like to see it?
I made about 4 litres of soy milk for this batch of tofu.
Here’s another link which describes with photos how easy it is to make soy milk and then tofu. http://www.lafujimama.com/2009/09/how-to-make-tofu-no-fancy-equipment/
Strain out the soy bean paste, also called Okara. I put mine in the freezer to use later to make vegetarian sausages. Or you can feed it to the hens. There are lots of things you can do with it if you do a quick google search.
Take the soy milk and heat it up to 180F if it isn’t that hot already. You can use a few different agents to curdle to the milk. All of these are recommended: Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate), Nigari Flakes (Magnesium Chloride). I don’t know about you but I hadn’t heard of any of these things. I read that you could also use Epsom Salts, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar- I had Epsom Salts so I used what I had. It worked perfectly. I dissolved 1 tablespoon of Epsom Salts with about a third of a cup of water. (this was added to about 4 litres of soy milk.) I added this into the hot soy milk in batches, first half of the glass, and one quick short stir through the milk to mix it in. Apparently over-stirring can disrupt the curd formation. I waited 10 minutes to see if it had curdled sufficiently to see plenty of amber liquid with the formed curds separating. It had curdled a bit but not enough, the liquid was still quite milky white, so I added the other water-epsom salts liquid along with another quick stir. This time it finished curdling quickly and as you can see in the photo below there was plenty of largish curds with amber liquid.
I strained the curds and whey through a sheet of muslin or cheesecloth. You can use a clean dishtowel or pillow case if thats all you have.
I let it sit in the strainer for about 20 minutes, then I lifted up the corners of the muslin and transferred the ball of curds in muslin to a smaller strainer. I put a small plate on top of it to press down and help it exude more whey from the curds. I added a very heavy cast iron pot on top of the plate to add further pressure. I let it sit out overnight like this.
In the morning I took of the weights and turned the pressed tofu curds onto a chopping board.
Chop chop chop
If you aren’t going to eat it immediately, cover it in fresh water and put in the fridge. Change the water daily and eat soon.
Finally I fried the tofu in some sesame oil with shoyu soy sauce and some turmeric sprinkled over it.
I didn’t know tofu could be so delicious. Try it! Let me know how you get on.
Here are some other links you might find helpful:
Here’s the link I followed during this first time that I made it -about how to make homemade tofu:
A very cultured evening in Bray
Lucy Weir, PhD
Zygonomy is the science behind the art of employing a culture. A culture, in this
sense, is a specific mix of fungal and bacterial strains, often 20 or more species that
exist in symbiosis. The yeasts produce alcohol, and the bacteria consume them,
which means the yeasts can survive, which means the bacteria continue to have a
source of nutrition. These cultures have been a part of our diet since the beginning of
human history, being used to bake bread, preserve food, create drinks, brew beer or
ferment wine. And therefore, of course, they have been essential in the development
of our culture, the way we eat and drink being central to how we relate and
I was provoked into learning more about the process of fermentation after last
Thursday’s wonderful workshop given by Courtney Tyler in Common Ground’s
ground-floor room. The building itself is beautifully atmospheric, an old storehouse,
down a winding lane. There is a sense of hope about the whole place, combined with
a feeling of “make do and mend”, a determination to preserve aspects of Irish
culture, but a welcoming openness to useful elements from other traditions. It
resonates with both old-world charm and a thirst for learning. All in all, it’s a great
place to attend a workshop.
We sat round a scrubbed wooden table and watched as Courtney took us, first,
through the art of sauerkraut making. She had already chopped, into a large
stainless steel bowl (“some people say you shouldn’t use metal- I think stainless steel is
fine, along with glass or ceramic”) a huge red cabbage (she held her hands before
her like a fisherwoman to depict its original size), beetroot, turnip (which surprised
me), raisins she’d made herself from grapes (she told us how she’d come across an
abandoned polytunnel heaving with grapes – about as unlikely a tale as you’re going
to hear, but evidently true!), and salt. How much salt? A lot. She took a large pinch of
salt from a jamjar, large crystals of sea salt with what looked like seaweed flecks
attached, and said, “I think I’ve put about four of these in already”. She added
another two. She peeled a couple of garlic cloves and there was a discussion about
whether or not garlic ferments (it has anti-fungal properties, so tends not to pickle as
readily as cabbage, but she maintains that a little can add good flavour) and turmeric
(“if I’ve brought it”). But no water. sauerkraut, she told us, is “cooked” in its own juice.
She added some ginger, rubbing it against the grater without peeling or cleaning it:
the process itself will kill off harmful bacteria: in fact the skin contains the lactobacilli
the ‘good’ bacteria – this is the beauty of preserving through fermentation.
You could, of course, just stick with cabbage, but half the fun is in experimentation
with flavours, and adding such variety keeps things interesting, just as weaving
anecdotes through the recipes kept us listening. You can also add juniper berries.
This is the essence of culture: to take what’s fresh and, using tradition, extend by
trying something different. Courtney encourages us to play around and taste
It takes just two or three days for the vegetables to begin to “sour”, but they’re better
after up to six weeks. You can keep them for a year or more: this is a preservation
technique, after all, but Courtney warns that they lose their crunchiness and she, for
one, finds this less interesting. By massaging the mixture, the brine is released. Use
a wooden masher if you have one to crush the juices out of the vegetables – it’s
astonishing how much liquid they hold – and when that’s done, put everything into a
large preserving jar. It needs to not be airtight – it could explode – but muslin’s useful
as a barrier to keep the culture you want in the jar, and what you don’t want out of it.
Parchment paper also works. Waste nothing. Use the outer leaves of the cabbage to
press the chopped vegetables down and use a weight to keep them from floating to
the surface, above the liquid, where they’ll be exposed to moulds you didn’t invite.
Use the juice from a previous batch to start the next one, and so on. The microbial
content will alter with time, and that will in turn alter the flavour.
Kefir is the most powerful source of probiotics (bacteria and yeast that support the
digestive process) in terms of quantity of flora per weight. The process of keffiring
breaks down the lactose and caisein, particularly in cow’s milk, making it much more
likely that those who are lactose intolerant – one of the attendees fell into this
category- would be able to drink kefir than pasteurized cow’s milk.
Courtney shared her own experience that her allergies disappeared after regularly
drinking kefir, which can be made from either cow’s or goat’s milk. Courtney has two
goats herself and she enthused on their affectionate natures (“they’re just like dogs!
They’ve got such unique personalities!”. She grazes them with a couple of horses in
a field behind her house, and the uses two shipping containers, one for housing
them, one for milking and storage (the effort of milking is borne out in the taut
muscles of her forearms which are as muscular as a sailor’s. She also squats while
milking which, she assures us, is excellent for her glutes!).
Between talking, grating, mashing and gesticulating, Courtney passed round bottles
of kefir, kombucha, ginger, and fruit soda. We poured a small amount to taste of
each in turn into our emptied cups (we’d been given little cups of Chai to begin, with
the sort of elegance usually reserved for a Japanese Zen tea ceremony). We
discussed the difference between intolerance and allergy, and the importance of
starting slowly. During our discussion, a clearer picture of Courtney’s lifestyle
emerged: her house is evidently a veritable fermentation factory, armies of bottles
marshalled on every available surface not already occupied by the rows of jars
squatting or stacked on shelves, eliciting a single, eloquent, “Seriously, Courtney?”
from her partner.
We discussed the need to develop the hoarder’s habit when it comes to suitable
containers. Grolsch bottles with the rubber gasket are good: you’ll hear a buzzing,
hissing sound as the the gasket lets excess gas escape. Sugar, lots of sugar, is an
essential ingredient to feed the culture. Images of slave ships struggling to feed the
ravenous but increasingly refined tastes of northern Europe and the Americas spring
to mind. Fair trade is best!
As Courtney tackled opening a particularly lively grape soda, the discussion moved
to safety tactics for dealing with potentially explosive bottles (exploding bottles are an
occupational hazard for the inexperienced fermenter). Put the suspect bottle in a
large jug or bowl, and open it under the umbrella of another jug (you need fierce
dexterity for this), preferably not glass. And no, the fizz doesn’t fill you up with wind:
there’s even evidence that kefir reduces flatulence in those who are lactose
While we tasted the various concoctions, all good, fresh, interesting (alternately
sharp, sour, sparkly, sweet and fruity on the tongue), Courtney began to describe
making the next concoction, “ginger bug”. Start small, with non-chlorinated water,
one teaspoon of sugar, one of ginger, and stirring the mix as often as possible for the
next couple of days. Watch. After three or four days, carbonation builds up, you’ll see
little bubbles appearing at the edges. When it’s “lively”, it’s ready to use as a starter
for your homemade sodas: just add it to a sweetened juice or syrup. Cover with a
muslin cloth (or, if you’re really strapped, a clean pillowcase, cut up). Beneficial
yeasts from the air can then get through.
When making kombucha, you need tea and sugar and a starter. All the while,
Courtney pounded with her “sauerkraut stamper”, the only object (rejecting her
alternative inheritance of an enormous collection of dolls) from her grand-aunt in
Michigan who had herself inherited the stamper from the first immigrant ancestor of
the family who had brought it from Germany in the eighteenth century. It was dark
wood, stained purple with all the pounding of cabbage, but only marginally rounded
at the edges.
Pickles were discussed. Cider apple vinegar. The air sharpened with memories.
Water kefir. Something similar was made, one of the participants remarked, by her
grandparents. She took some to her parents to taste and her father closed his eyes
and said, “You know, you’ve brought me back fifty years!” In barrels in the corners of
kitchens all over Scotland, the north of England and the northern half of the island of
Ireland, people tended their “ale plant”. Some fed it molasses. It tasted of ginger, and
As she pounded, Courtney talked briefly about other things that could or could not
successfully be incorporated into sauerkraut. Broccoli and kale can give off a
pungent, unpleasant odour, unless used sparingly. Nettles do. Cucumbers need lots
of salt. Caraway seeds work in white cabbage sauerkraut. Eastern European and
French traditions were discussed. including different uses for fennel, and fennel
seeds, and how every society has traditional remedies to increase the production of
The conversation flowed as Courtney moved the discussion back and forth between
cultures, coming back to the sauerkraut, pouring it into a huge jar, tamping it down
and covering it with a cabbage leaf, at least two inches of liquid covering the
vegetables. She talked a little more about developing the “ginger bug”, tending each
topic like the cultures themselves – a moment of attention here, a tweak there.
Culture, like conversation, needs nurturing until it gets active.
Finally, fruit soda, a brew made by boiling up a large pot of water with fruit – Courtney
had redcurrants and grapes (how much? Again, she held her hands as though
holding a small rugby ball to indicate the sort of quantity of fruit required), and sugar
(two cups, but like all Courtney’s advice, this was tempered with the suggestion that
we taste as we go to see what works for us). Mash the fruit, squeeze everything
through a muslin cloth (or the nearest equivalent). Wait for it to cool to body
temperature or about 80 degrees F which is when the starter is happiest, and stir it
all together in a demijohn or preserving vessel. Primary fermentation is when you
add your biotic to the sweet liquid. To add fizz – that’s secondary fermentation – store
it in an airtight bottle and if needed, add another spoonful or two of sugar.
There were sixteen of us there, from France, Eastern Europe, various parts of
Ireland, England, Scotland, and the US. She held us rapt. Play, she said. See what
works. Don’t worry about quantity. Respect tradition and learn as much as you can
but the main thing is experimentation. The art of fermentation is a willingness to fail,
and try again, and fail better. Like the evolution of societies themselves, the very
roots of our cultural history were in symbiosis with bacteria and yeast. Bread and
beer and wine are famously revered. Reviving an interest in their lesser known
cousins – kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, natural soda – marks a welcome and
Courtney’s website is www.hipsandhaws.com
Another useful website is the American website www.culturesforhealth.com. It has
endless recipes and instructions for all types of cultured foods. Particularly helpful
are the free ebooks that you can download on signing up to their mailing list.
I met Miles last year in the Blackstairs Mountains at Eco Trails with Mary White at her Wild Food Summer School. Miles took us on a very interesting foraging walk and he is one of the few I’ve met to make his living exclusively from foraging. He sells his foraged wild goods to restaurants in London. Here’s a blog post he wrote about Hazel Catkins which I found really interesting. His website can be found here.
Above you’ll find an image I just shot from the hazel trees in the garden clearly showing the male hazel catkins and the tiny beautiful red female flowers that will become the nuts this autumn once pollinated.
I have some photos from the huge hazelnut harvest that we got 2 years ago I’ll post here below.
Was a lot of work husking them all and I recall there was 6 kilos of nuts! Unfortunately I didn’t dry them out properly and they got mouldy which was heartbreaking. I won’t be making that mistake again!
By the way I bought Miles book The Forager Handbook last year at the Wild Food event. It is an amazing resource I definitely recommend checking it out. See what Eatweeds.co.uk has to say about it here.
This is a ceremony that’s traditionally practiced in Galicia Spain. I have fond memories of a crazy gallega friend Lorena who did this for a birthday many years ago. It was mesmerizing. I would like to re-create this spell myself one day soon.
I don’t think it sounds as well in English as it does in Spanish or Gallician. But here’s the translation of the spell:(from Wikipedia)
|In Galician language||In English|
|Mouchos, curuxas, sapos e bruxas.
Demos, trasgos e diaños,
espíritos das neboadas veigas.
Corvos, píntegas e meigas:
feitizos das menciñeiras.
Podres cañotas furadas,
fogar dos vermes e alimañas.
Lume das Santas Compañas,
mal de ollo, negros meigallos,
cheiro dos mortos, tronos e raios.
Ouveo do can, pregón da morte;
fuciño do sátiro e pé do coello.
Pecadora lingua da mala muller
casada cun home vello.
Averno de Satán e Belcebú,
lume dos cadáveres ardentes,
corpos mutilados dos indecentes,
peidos dos infernais cus,
muxido da mar embravecida.
Barriga inútil da muller solteira,
falar dos gatos que andan á xaneira,
guedella porca da cabra mal parida.
Con este fol levantarei
as chamas deste lume
que asemella ao do Inferno,
e fuxirán as bruxas
a cabalo das súas vasoiras,
índose bañar na praia
das areas gordas.
¡Oíde, oíde! os ruxidos
que dan as que non poden
deixar de queimarse no augardente
quedando así purificadas.
E cando este beberaxe
baixe polas nosas gorxas,
quedaremos libres dos males
da nosa alma e de todo embruxamento.
Forzas do ar, terra, mar e lume,
a vós fago esta chamada:
se é verdade que tendes máis poder
que a humana xente,
eiquí e agora, facede que os espíritos
dos amigos que están fóra,
participen con nós desta Queimada.
|Owls, barn owls, toads and witches.
Demons, goblins and devils,
spirits of the misty vales.
Crows, salamanders and witches,
charms of the folk healer(ess).
Rotten pierced canes,
home of worms and vermin.
Wisps of the Holy Company,
evil eye, black witchcraft,
scent of the dead, thunder and lightning.
Howl of the dog, omen of death,
maws of the satyr and foot of the rabbit.
Sinful tongue of the bad woman
married to an old man.
Satan and Beelzebub’s Inferno,
fire of the burning corpses,
mutilated bodies of the indecent ones,
farts of the asses of doom,
bellow of the enraged sea.
Useless belly of the unmarried woman,
speech of the cats in heat,
dirty turf of the wicked born goat.
With this bellows I will pump
the flames of this fire
which looks like that from Hell,
and witches will flee,
straddling their brooms,
going to bathe in the beach
of the thick sands.
Hear! Hear the roars
of those that cannot
stop burning in the firewater,
becoming so purified.
And when this beverage
goes down our throats,
we will get free of the evil
of our soul and of any charm.
Forces of air, earth, sea and fire,
to you I make this call:
if it’s true that you have more power
here and now, make the spirits
of the friends who are outside,
take part with us in this Queimada.