How to make milk kefir

Basic How to make milk kefir
Add 1-2 tablespoons of milk kefir grains to a litre of milk. Or less grains for less milk. Use the best quality milk you can find. Organic full fat cow’s or goat’s milk is best.
Your grains will multiply quickly with pasteurised milk, so give away or compost the excess grains. Or experiment with them!
I always keep some excess grains in a jam jar in the fridge covered in milk, with a secure lid. In the fridge the cold slows down the fermentation and I change the milk once a week. I strain out the liquid kefir and drink it and cover again in fresh milk. This way I’ve got some grains backed up should anything happen to the ones in use!
If I am not ready to make or use the freshly made kefir I add it to a litre bottle in the fridge. I top this up each day with the kefir I’ve made until I am ready to use it. But a good idea would be to make the amount you or your family would like to consume each day.
I use milk kefir most often:
-to soak my porridge oats the night before breakfast the next day. I add some dried cherries, coconut, banana, or maple syrup.
-to soak in flour for pancakes the next day.
-to use in a smoothie
-to make kefir ice cream
-to make kefir cheese
-as a face mask mixed with oats and clay
Although many people seem to like just taking a shot of it when needed, or mixing with juice.
I have also dehydrated some grains to preserve them and have them as back up. They are easy to re-constitute.

Fermented Mung Bean Pancakes

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!

fermented mung bean pancakes – revisted

How to make milk kefir cheese

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).

Milk Kefir Cheese
Strain the finished milk kefir through a square of muslin or cheesecloth. I line a strainer with the fabric and a bowl below it (to catch the whey), and pour the kefir directly into the muslin atop the strainer. Strain from the strainer into the bowl below. This can take many hours. It strains quicker if you hang it. For example tie the corners of your cheesecloth into a loose knot around a wooden spoon. Dangle the wooden spoon over the inside of a large pot. Or hang it from a kitchen cabinet doorknob.
It does help if the kefir you’re adding to the muslin has been fermented for a little longer, or whey pockets are visibly forming. Either way it should be ok. You want the muslin or cheesecloth to be thick weave enough that just the whey slowly drips through. The milk solids will remain in the cheesecloth.
I like to add chives, parsley, garlic and salt. If you’re using fresh herbs instead of dried the cheese will have to be eaten within 2-3 days maximum. It should last up to a week if stored in the fridge.
*Note I clean my muslin directly after use with cold water first then warm soapy water in the sink.  Just before using the cloth for straining cheese or yogurt- I then boil the cloth with water with a little bit of vinegar or baking soda in it, to remove any odours and to sterilise it.
Permaculture Magazine cover

Permaculture Magazine access to back issues

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.


Permaculture Magazine cover

water kefir grains

Ginger Lime Water Kefir Recipe

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.

This recipe is slightly adapted from Bar Tartine’s Cortney Burn’s of San Fransisco. I highly recommend this cookbook.


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!

ginger water kefir

Making tofu from scratch

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.

How to make tofu from scratch

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.

Homemade soy milk

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.


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.

how to make homemade tofu

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:

fermented and cultured foods

A very cultured evening- review of workshop by Lucy Weir

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

sparkled slightly.

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

important revival.

Courtney’s website is

Another useful website is the American website 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.

Hazel tree catkins and female red flowers

Hazel Catkins and ‘Nutkins’ blog re-post by Forager

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.

Catkins and ‘Nutkins’…

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.

Organic Irish Hazel nuts Organic Irish Hazel nuts Cobnuts

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 has to say about it here.

Wild Garlic Ramsons are in season

Delighted that the ramsons aka wild garlic is starting to pop up! At least they’ve started appearing in Wicklow. It’s always exciting to have the first wild harvest after the long winter and what a delicious one at that. Here’s a few images from last year.

Conxuro da Queimada

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

than people,

here and now, make the spirits

of the friends who are outside,

take part with us in this Queimada.

Page 2 of 41234