Many of the foods you find in the supermarket today are modern foods–foods that humans have only recently started eating. Think of how we’ve tinkered with so many foods; stripping grains, bleaching sugars, emulsifying liquids. Think of how many foods we can buy today that our great grandparents had never heard of. Even the foods we might considered simple and unadulterated–a jug of milk, a bag of salad mix, a basket of berries–are arguably ‘new’ to our diet in that we’re eating them every day instead of rarely or once a year. Fresh milk is a perfect example of a seemingly ancient food that is actually a modern addition to the adult diet.
Fifteen thousand years ago, when humans were busy domesticating goats and sheep, was also the advent of humans drinking milk beyond infancy. Milk was fresh or non-soured while leaving the udder but quickly started souring due to ambient microflora in the nanny’s (female goat) or ewe’s (female sheep) teats. On a warm day, these microflora needed only a short window of time before they’d transformed the milk from a sweet, lactose-rich broth to a tangy, fermented delight. Fifteen thousand years ago, sour milk was the norm!
Today, every supermarket in American holds gallons and gallons of non-soured milk. Ironically, none of it really fresh–or hours out of the teat–and much of it is even weeks old. Pasteurization, homogenization, refrigeration and cross-country roadways have all helped this modern milk stay in an unnatural state. While milk is a key ingredient in many of dishes we eat (and the morning beverages we depend on), it is also an anomaly when placed in historical context. The human gut has spent fifteen thousand years adapting to sour, not sweet, milk.
Luckily, souring your milk by making kefir, buttermilk, sour cream and other fermented dairy products is surprisingly easy. Most of these foods are made through a nearly identical process: warm the milk, inoculate it with microorganisms (a splash of buttermilk or a gurgle kefir will do), then hold at a warm temperature for approximately 8 to 20 hours. During this time, the microorganisms are busy multiplying. They’re turning lactose into lactic acid and making the milk more digestible. They’re also making a less safe food into a safer food. The more acidic environment inhibits the growth of unwanted, harm-causing bacteria. Fresh milk, on the other hand, is a blank canvas, waiting to be colonized by whatever crosses its path.
In addition to the health and safety benefits of sour milk, there are other perks to worth mentioning. When you make your own fermented dairy, you can:
* Make a zero-waste food: If you buy milk in glass jars and incubate in reusable containers, you’ll have nothing to throw away. More, you can reduce your exposure to questionable plastics.
* Control the type and amount of added ingredients: Most commerical dairy products have stabilizers and / or loads of sugar. When making your own, you control what gets added.
* Save money: If you buy one gallon of high-quality milk and convert it into four quarts of freshly made kefir, it’ll cost you approximately one quarter as much money as if you bought that same amount of kefir pre-made.
* Eat fresh, truly probiotic foods: When you make your own cultured dairy, you are inoculating milk (or cream) with active microorganisms then letting those microorganisms grow and prosper. Because these microorganisms are most active in the first several days following inoculation, you can now have the privilege of eating these foods when their probiotic activity is at its peak.
How to Make Kefir, Buttermilk and Sour Cream
- Warm 2 quarts of organic milk (for buttermilk, kefir) or 1 pint organic heavy cream (for sour cream) to 75-90°F.
- Add 2-3 tablespoons recently purchased plain kefir or cultured buttermilk. Use buttermilk as the inoculate if you are making sour cream. Choose a brand you like the flavor of to use as the inoculate (this inoculant, interestingly, is referred to as ‘the mother culture’). Stir the inoculant in gently for 10 seconds then transfer milk or cream into clean glass jars.
- Cover jars with lids then hold at 75-90°F for 6 to 18 hours. You can leave the jars fermenting for even longer if you’d like (up to 48 hours). I swaddle my jars in a down jacket or sleeping bag to keep the incubation temperature constant. You can also use a picnic cooler filled with warm water. Make sure to keep the incubating dairy in a vibration-free location (not on top of the washing machine). Make sure the temperature stays constant (no sweltering window sills, please).
- When the milk or cream smells sour and looks slightly or significantly thickened, transfer jars to the fridge. For sour cream, extend the shelf life by stirring in 1/8 tsp salt. For the kefir or buttermilk, enjoy by blending with fruit and sweetener.
Written by: Louella Hill, also known as The San Francisco Milk Maid (www.sfmilkmaid), a home birth mama and a professional cheesemaker. She teaches cheesemaking classes throughout the Bay Area and makes lots of cheese and fermented dairy products for her strong-boned family.
Amanda and Lucy loved these cacao macaroons when they stopped over after a Monday walk. They are gluten free, grain free and low glycemic because of the coconut nectar. You could also use agave or maple syrup if you prefer. Well, I promised to post the recipe, so here it is!
3 cups raw unsweetened, shredded coconut
1/3 cup coconut oil or coconut butter (I used coconut butter that I made, quite easy if you have a Vitamix or a high-speed blender. Just search for “coconut butter” on YouTube and you will find many videos on making it. It is literally just filling the blender with shredded coconut and blending until it changes consistency.)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup almond flour or hazelnut flour
1 cup raw cacao powder
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt
1 coconut nectar
Add all of the ingredients by hand or in a mixer. With a small ice cream type scoop, scoop them out onto a cookie sheet.
You can put them into a dehydrator at 110 degrees 2-3 hours, just enough to be slightly firm on the outside. Or you can put them in the freezer and eat them more like truffles. Either way, they are great!
Thank you thank you to Kris Wolcott and Mary Anderson for teaching the Nutrition class on Monday. The topic was Glorious Green and boy, did they whip up a storm! I was at a birth earlier in the morning, so when I got home to the class around 1pm, the kitchen was buzzing with smoothies, kale chips, kale salads, toasted sesame seeds. Ever inch of counter space was in use. I will post all the recipes over the next few days. For now, read about the Kale salad below.
Here’s a little about our presenters:
Raw Kale Salad Recipe
Combine one bunch of kale (thick stems removed and chopped) with several tablespoons of good quality olive oil. Add a dash of salt and massage the leaves for 2-3 minutes. This helps to tenderize the kale. Add a generous squeeze of lemon and let sit. Add avocado, carrot, apple, nuts, anything you like, just before serving. This salad will keep for a day in the fridge.
Easy Lemon Dressing
Kris is not partial to giving measured amounts. Instead she cooks by ratio. The basic ratio for salad dressing is 1 part acid to 3 parts oil. For the Kale salad, in a small bowl or jar, squeeze a lemon, add salt and pepper (pink Himalayan salt is good), whisk in good olive oil. That’s all!
Easy Asian Dressing
Here’s a general idea of measurements for the dressing: 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar , 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil, 1/2 tbsp honey or other sweetener (maybe more or less?), 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds, 1/2 tsp soy/tamari sauce. A little fresh grated ginger is also good. The honey is optional but at the demo, this dressing was my favorite. I’ll have to try it out without the sweetener and see how it tastes! Seasoned rice vinegar is sweet, so that may be enough. Use raw, unfiltered honey for the most nutrient value. Use tamari if you need the dressing to be gluten free.
Just found this blog that goes along with the new book, Nourishing Our Children. Click HERE for the link. Since they are here in San Francisco, I will try to get them to present at our nutrition class. Here are some photos from last month’s Weston A. Price Foundation presentation. Thank you so much to Lydia Rose for making bone broth and giving us an intro to WAPF!
Thanks to Kathryn Aaker for contributing this info. She had a homebirth last year. Her son, Noah, is 14mo! Here’s what Kathryn says, “I subscribed to your food blog and noticed the Korean soup recipes and thought I’d mention that there’s also some ladies in Oakland who make Chinese and Korean postpartum soups and stews, and sell them individually through Good Eggs. It might be a good resource for new mamas who might be too busy to cook!I truly believe that it was nutrition that literally helped me survive my postpartum, plus be able to continue exclusive breastfeeding! Angie Needels stocked me up with her amazing WAPF-influenced postpartum food, and it helped so so much.So thanks for educating families on the importance of this stuff! I know I definitely appreciated knowing what a difference it could make, when I really needed it most.Take care,Kathryn Aaker
Thank you so much to Tara Rota of We Holistic Lifestyle Coaching for coming to talk to some homebirthers about Gluten. Nutrition Classes will be a part of the Wisewoman Childbirth Traditions 2013 Fitness Program. Any of my clients, past and present, are invited to attend for free. Gosh, you could even host a class yourself if have something about a healthy, nutritious lifestyle that you would like to share.
We started the class by sampling some gluten-free, buckwheat crepes. The basics of this recipe comes from Gluten Free Girl and the Chef. Elizabeth put together the Pumpkin Bars with hazelnut flour from Elana’s Pantry (I would substitute Coconut Nectar for the Agave) and Harmony made the Scones with Almond Flour from Elana Amsterdam’s The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook.
I think we all liked the scones the best.
Stay tuned for next month’s Nutrition class from Wisewoman Childbirth Traditions!