naturally fermented

farm culture

Japanese Water Kefir

There’s a fair bit of life out here on the hill with us. Lots of things that need our daily attention and feeding. And it got just that little bit livelier today. 5 little chicks hatched out and came chirping through the succulent garden with their Mumma this morning. Adorable little critters. Then 3 (and another in progress) ducklings hatched out too. All this new life happening on the 2 minute walk from the house to give Mr Windsor his breakfast of pumpkin and carrots. So cool. On any given day it seems sharing our space with such a collection of brilliant souls is a permission-slip to wonderment. I can’t imagine ever tiring of it.

Then there’s the building obsession with the less furry or feathered kinds of life – cultures. We realised it had turned into a bit of ‘thing’ when we added up all the other growing members of the family. There’s the kombucha. And the sourdough. The sprouts. Mushrooms. Apple cider vinegar. And the Japanese water grains. If there’s something we’re missing please, please don’t tell me what it is. Some women like shoes I’m told.

The lovely thing about Japanese water grains, besides the delicious probiotic, naturally effervescent drink they produce, is that you can share them. In fact you’ll probably have to figure out who’s on your culture list before you even get yourself some grains. They multiply like baby chickens I tell you.

So here’s the recipe to make our version of this amazingly good for you little number, especially for all those people I handed little packages of grains to at the Farmer’s Market last week. Please let me know if you missed out, we’re bound to have spares in a minute or two.

 

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Japanese Water Kefir

makes 1 litre

 

1/2 cup water grains

50g organic rapadura sugar

1 organic lemon, quartered

3-4 organic cumquats, halved

2-3 organic cloves

1 stick organic cinnamon

2 organic cardamom, crushed slightly

1 organic dried fig, halved

1 slice organic ginger

1 litre filtered water

 

The fruit is all optional, bar the lemon, you really need lemon for it to taste great and have the bonus of an alkalising effect. Feel free to mix up the spices, take out the ginger or put lots in if you love it. Add dried apple or pear. Anything goes really, as long as you feed the grains with a sugar mixture to ferment, they’ll be happy. The fermentation results in less that a 1% alcohol rate too, so perfectly safe for little people and pregnant bellies.

To make the kefir, place your grains in the bottom of a 1 litre capacity glass jar (don’t use any other container because the kefir is quite reactive – glass is definitely the best) and add the dissolved sugar mixture. I find the rapadura dissolves in room temperature water but if you’d rather add hot water just make sure it has cooled to room temp before adding it to the grains. They don’t like being cooked!

Then pop in your choice of citrus and dried fruits, spices and fresh ginger.

Top with a square of muslin cloth held in place by a rubberband and leave the kefir to do its thing for 1-2 days. No need to stir in that time. When the sweetness has all but gone and you have a tangy, slightly bubbly drink, strain the fruit, spices and grains and bottle the liquid in the fridge for a day or two more before drinking. The longer you leave the kefir capped in the fridge, the bubblier it will be. Just remember not to leave it too much past 2 days before ‘burping’ the bottle to ensure you don’t have any fridge explosions.

You can use the fruit and grains for 2 batches of kefir, then refresh the fruit and spices and rinse the grains with filtered water. You can then give half away (or if you have chooks, they loooooove eating them and they get a probiotic fix too) or start 2 batches of kefir to meet your increased demand. It’s really yummy, you won’t have a problem getting through it. We drink it straight up, first thing in the morning before juice, or mixed into a green smoothie, or like this morning, poured over a fruit salad of loquats, grapefruit, passionfruit and fresh nutmeg. So good.

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peace & vinegar

apple cider vinegar

There’s that kind of silence that can make you feel a bit panicked. And then there’s the kind of silence that wraps around you and starts seeping into your skin before you notice it. The later usually comes with early morning light, and it’s the very coolest thing. It feels nourishing somehow. Like your insides had been waiting for it all along but didn’t know how to get through your skin to soak the quiet up. It was a soak it up kind of morning out on the hill this morning, and everyone was keen to pass the silence along in foggy puffs of warm breath. It started with the cows, and then passed to a lone sheep, who begged me not to give away his true identity in a bovine dominated paddock, and then it rolled over to Stella, and she wet-nosed it into my hand so I could hang at the back fence holding it for a while. Super quiet in the winter sunshine.

It didn’t last for long. I haven’t figured out how to catch it completely yet, but  I felt like I had packed enough peace into my pockets to get me through the first part of Sunday morning at least. I really try not to have too many plans for Sundays beyond tea drinking and riding of big brown horses. So there was tea. And then there was apple cider vinegar making. Mostly because we haven’t done that before, and because it didn’t seem to taxing an idea for a Sunday.

We were given a box of beautiful organic homegrown fruit from a friend’s orchard a while ago and after munching our way through fresh apples and adding them to our juice every morning, vinegar popped into my head. We whip through apple cider vinegar like no tomorrow, so it seemed like a grand idea to know how to make it ourselves. It gave us the perfect chance to put our finally finished cellar to good use too. And I completely appreciate this isn’t everyone’s idea of a relaxing Sunday, so feel free to skip homemade vinegar making, but give the ‘tonic’ recipe a go if you’re keen. It’s unbelievably good for you because of its alkalising effects, helping issues with fluid retention, cholesterol, memory, PMS, arthritis, blood circulation etc etc. The list goes on. And if you’ve developed any kind of ‘culture’ obsession, like we have with sourdough and yoghurt, kefir grains and mushrooms, then you can just call this good fun!

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Apple Cider Vinegar

 

organic wax free apples

champagne yeast

vinegar ‘mother’ (we got our’s from a friend)

 

 

We used our juicer to juice the apples. This gives a slightly cloudier version of vinegar but it continues to settle over time.

Once you have juiced your apples, put the juice into a large preserving jar and add the amount of champagne yeast recommended by the brand you are using. Don’t use yeast for making bread, they’re two completely different things!

Stir the yeast into the apple juice and cover the top of the jar with muslin held in place by a rubber band. This is the fermenting stage and will result in alcoholic apple cider. Depending on temperature, yeast culture and amount of sugar in the fruit you should have a fermented cider in about 5-7 days. You’ll notice the mixture will stop bubbling and start to settle in the jar.

Strain off the yeast from the cider into another jar as best as you can, leaving a little isn’t a problem, so no need to be too thorough.

When you have the strained apple cider add the vinegar mother culture and recap with a fresh lot of muslin to allow the cider to transform into vinegar as the mother culture works its magic.

Taste the vinegar after about a month and see if it’s to your liking. If yes, strain the mother off and begin a new batch of vinegar, otherwise leave things as they are to continue the process until you have the flavour you’re after.

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Daily Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic

 

2 tsp organic apple cider vinegar

1 cup filtered water

1/2 tsp raw organic honey, or to taste

 

Mix together and sip on throughout the morning. If your tummy is handling the change then you can gradually increase the amount of vinegar to 2 tablespoons in the same amount of water.

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