Archive for July, 2011

Dairy and Non-Dairy Yogurt and Kefir

In continuing our  series on fermentation and cultured foods, one  of the most interesting are the cultured drinks and yogurts found in other cuisines including those of Russia, Japan, central Asia, Europe, the Middle East and even South America. Most of these drinks are made of fermented unpasteurized milks of various animals. Cow’s milk is the most prevalent of fermented drinks although goat, sheep and even mare’s milk are used.

In Turkey and Southern Europe for example cold yogurt is mixed with water and a bit of salt. This is served with pastries, grilled meat dishes and pilafs. Some parts of the Black Sea area and the Mediterranean coast yogurts are made with goat’s milk or ewe’s milk. Some yogurt drinks in this region are often quite frothy, and sometimes have mild alcohol content. Other drinks are flavored with mint, cinnamon or a bit of cumin or turmeric.

In India, yogurt is used in cooking as a marinade, at meals as a cooling cucumber and yogurt sauce called ‘raita’ and as a drink called ‘lassi.’ This drink is much like a smoothie and is quite refreshing. Made of yogurt and blended with water and spices it is served very cold. Varieties are the salted lassi and the sweet lassi. Mangos are sometimes blended with yogurt (mango lassi) and other varieties use such spices as saffron is used (saffron lassi).

Kefir is a fermented milk drink thinner than yogurt that has origins in the region of Northern Russia. Nomadic shepherds discovered that fresh milk carried in leather pouches would occasionally ferment into an effervescent beverage.

Kefir is made from grains that resemble cauliflower. Like the scoby used in making kombucha, kefir grains are a living symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts in a mold of proteins, sugars and lipids. They can easily be found prepackaged in the freeze dried form as well.

Yogurt and kefir has gained popularity in the United States with many commercial companies using lab created strains of bacteria. These commercial yogurts are typically pasteurized with large amounts of extra sugars and varieties of flavors added including chocolate. The author has found these products to be useful in a pinch; however making one’s own yogurt, kefir and other drinks is easy, satisfying to the palate and healthier. As a family, making yogurt or kefir can be really fun too! Yogurt used in  smoothies can be a meal in a glass.The kids can make there own recipe by adding there favorite fresh fruits, nuts and spices.  Versatile yet tasty, yogurt can be used in baking as well as sauces, and soups. A variety of milks can be used to make yogurt including coconut, soy and nut milks . If you want to find out more about making fermented yogurt and drinks in your very own kitchen, join the author at the Co-op July 5 @ 7 pm. Call 412 242 3598 #5 and reserve your seat today. Come and taste the goodness!

July 10, 2011 at 5:34 am 1 comment

Fermentation and Kombucha

Fermentation is an ancient practice of food preservation and fermented foods can be found in many cultures around the world. These  foods are considered to be part of the everyday meal. In the US the buzz about probiotics in commercial advertisement these days concerns active cultures in yogurts and drinks. Interestingly, these food manufacturers advertise as if they invented these organisms. On the contrary, a healthy baby is born with these active cultures and a healthy adult will have about 7 pounds residing in there intestines. These microfloras help the body’s immune system in preventing chronic and serious disease. They also help to extract nutrients from the food that is ingested. Poor diet, stress, antibiotics, and a toxic system are some of culprits for depleting these essential organisms. This often results in poor digestive health and other health maladies including chronic illness.

What is fermentation exactly? In a nutshell it can be described as the transformative process of bacteria on food or liquid. This transformation activity is the microorganisms’ breaking down the foods into a predigested state. Additional nutrients are generated in this process and the bioavailability of these nutrients is greatly increased. Fermented foods are high in B vitamins, enzymes and minerals. These live cultures are imperative for good digestion and radiant health.

Kombucha is a fermented tea and comes from an ancient tradition which is thought to have its origins in China. The Symbiotic Culture of Yeast and Bacteria or Scoby for short is a round, flat gelatinous looking pancake. It is a living and asexual culture that reproduces babies. Making kombucha is a simple process and easy to learn. The culture is placed in sweetened black or green tea turning the tea into a sea of health giving acids and nutrients. The Kombucha culture feeds on the sugar and caffeine in the tea, and in exchange, produces other valuable substances which change the teas properties. The Scoby can be described as a miniature biochemical factory. Among the substances are glucuronic acid, gluconic acid, lactic acid, vitamins, amino acids, antibiotic substances, and other products. Only tiny traces of caffeine, sugar and alcohol can be found.

There are many claimed health benefits from ingesting kombucha. Claims have been made that it aids in cancer recovery. Healing of various disorders of the skin, digestive track, joints, hair regrowth and color restoration have been reported. I have found it to be energizing as well as very helpful with clients’ digestive and joint issues.

Why make your own Kombucha? It’s way fun and interesting to do and only costs pennies compared to shelf brands (about a $1.00 per gallon). Having control over quality and taste avoiding; pasteurization, distillation, additives, flavorings, dilution etc. is important. If you want a live scoby for yourself contact me for a startup brewing kit with detailed brewing instructions, hints and tips. Just click  with kombucha kit in the subject line  or give me a ring at 412 719 4140.

July 10, 2011 at 5:23 am Leave a comment

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