Thursday, May 17, 2007

Dairy Fermentation & More - Introduction & Day 1

After looking through Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions, I decided to take a shot at her chapter called “Mastering the Basics” in which she explains how to culture your own dairy for maximum health benefits. I documented my dairy culturing and a couple other food fermentation experiments over a three-day period. Here is my account of the first day:

Sally Fallon’s first recipe calls for something called a “piima culture.” According to Fallon, “Piima culture (also called vili or Finnish culture) is derived from the milk of cows that feed on the butterwort plant. Centuries ago, Scandinavian farmers discovered that milk clabbered better when their cows consumed this herb” (82).

Dairy that is allowed to ferment has been shown to naturally break down “thirty to forty percent of the lactose present […] so that the high lactose content is reduced. However, a special enzyme activity also takes place. Fermented products that are not pasteurized or heated in way that destroy the enzyme activity have significant levels of enzymes that contribute to the digestion of lactose in the intestine” (Dr. Betty Kamen, Health Freedom News in Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions 82).

Although I have had a milk allergy since I was young, I decided to see if consuming homemade fermented dairy would help my body react less to dairy products.

I bought creamline milk and whole cream from Yoder Dairies yesterday. I tipped the creamline jar upside down to get a feel for the thickness of it, but it didn’t move! I was a little nervous because of that. When I got home from work, I shook the jar of creamline really hard and finally saw liquid movement in the jar. I shook it some more and then poured myself a glass. Some congealed cream tried to pour out as well, but I kept that in the jar, put the cap back on, and shook hard again before returning it to the refrigerator. I tasted the glass of milk I’d just poured. Delicious! Now that is milk!

At this point I took the piima culture (in jar) out of the fridge. I had previously cleaned a few mason jars and lids, using hot water and natural dish soap. Sally Fallon’s instructions for fermenting dairy (in Nourishing Traditions) explain that the jars must be “immaculately clean.” When I opened the piima culture jar, I saw that its consistency is very similar to whipped cream cheese, but a bit thicker. I cut the starter culture recipe in half since I didn’t want to use my whole point of cream up for just the starter. A pint is 2 cups, so I measured out 1 cup of cream with an equally clean measuring cup, and then I added ½ tablespoon of piima culture. I stirred it using the measuring spoon and then took my roasting thermometer and turned it on to test the temperature not only in the kitchen, but also in the cupboards, etc.

Piima’s ideal culturing temperature is 72-75 degrees. One of my cupboards was 73 degrees, so I put the starter culture in there cupboard, and I put the remaining piima culture (the original one) in the freezer. Later in the evening, about 2 hours later, I checked the temperature in the cupboard again. It had dropped to 69 degrees, so I took the starter culture upstairs. It’s always warmer upstairs. My bedroom closet registered 73 degrees, so I put the starter culture in there for the night. This morning I checked the temperature in the closet and it is 74.9 degrees. So, once 7:30 p.m. rolls around tonight, if my starter culture looks reasonably thickened, then I’ll put it in the fridge where it’s supposed to firm up.

Once it has done that, I will add a bit of starter to the rest of the cream from Yoder Diaries to make piima sour cream.

Now, on to making yogurt …

I will use 1 quart of creamline milk (must be only gently pasteurized and non-homogenized as well) from Yoder Dairies along with ½ cup of commercial organic plain whole milk yogurt. The instructions say to heat the milk on the stove to 180 degrees. Once it reaches that temperature, take it off the stove until it cools to 110 degrees, then add ½ cup yogurt and mix together. It then says to pour it into a glass, ceramic or stainless steel dish and cover, and then place in oven set to 150 degrees. I will use my Pyrex glass (small) casserole dish. The instructions say to leave the mixture in the 150-degree oven overnight, but since I’ve never done this before, I don’t feel comfortable leaving the oven on all night. So, I’m going to put the mixture in the oven for 8 hours during the day instead. After that it goes in the fridge where you check it every so often, mopping up (with a paper towel) the whey that rises to the top.

I first went to preheat the oven to 150 degrees when I realized that my oven doesn’t heat below 170 degrees! I was concerned, but then I remembered that my toaster oven heats as low as 150 and is just the right size for my Pyrex glass casserole dish. Whew!

I started heating my creamline milk on the stove in a saucepan using my roasting thermometer to check the temperature (the recipe calls for a candy thermometer, but I’m sure a roasting one will do). I began by heating the chilled milk very slowly, stirring periodically. Every 3-5 minutes I’d test the temperature. If it ever stabilized, I turned the burner up one notch. Once on level 8 for my stove (on a scale of 1-10)—the equivalent of about medium-high I’d guess—the milk reached 180 degrees. This took close to ½ an hour. I took the milk off the hot burner and set the thermometer in it. I am now watching the temperature drop …

It has now taken almost 45 minutes to cool the milk from 180 degrees to 110 degrees. Note: when making yogurt, allow plenty of time in your schedule. While waiting for it to cool, I’ve emptied the dishwasher, eaten breakfast, swept the floor, etc. Finally, the milk made it to 110 degrees! I had let my commercial organic plain whole milk yogurt sit at room temperature for the last ½ hour. I added ½ cup of yogurt to my warm milk. Stirred. Then emptied the mix into the glass casserole dish and set it in the toaster oven set to 150 degrees, with a stainless steel toaster oven pan covering it. We’ll see how it’s doing in 8 hours …

Tonight at 7:30 p.m. I checked on the piima starter. It had thickened nicely so I put it in the fridge.

I took the yogurt out of the toaster oven—it had thickened and cultured well. I covered it with the Pyrex casserole plastic lid and put it in the fridge. A few hours later I checked it for whey, mopped up what had collected, and put it back in the fridge. I will try to my homemade yogurt in my yogurt breakfast smoothie tomorrow.


The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

A homesteader friend of mine recommends using a cooler with a heating pad to create a warm enough environment. I don't know how warm it was, but the yogurt was great.