Raw Milk

How to Second Ferment Kefir

The best kept secret about kefir is how much better it is when you “second ferment” it. Wow! Second fermenting powers up the nutritive value and further decreases the lactose content, and well, it just results in pure deliciousness because you add so many flavor combinations to it. So read on…

My favorite additions to infuse a second ferment kefir: an orange slice (rind, too!) and a vanilla bean, slivered lengthwise…

Simply put, a second ferment uses the kefir liquid leftover from the first ferment, after kefir grains are removed.

To a glass quart jar containing about 3 cups of your freshly cultured milk kefir simply add whatever fruit or spice or chocolate combo sounds good to you, lid the jar with a plastic lid, drape a dishtowel over the whole project to keep that kefir happy and dark, and wait as little as 6 hours or as much as 30 (personal preference–I’ve forgotten mine for 24 hours and it’s still good, but I like it best around 15 hours!). Shake occasionally (make sure that lid is tight first! and open it to release built up pressure especially if you are letting it ferment longer than 6 hours!) during the ferment process and before drinking. After however many hours you decide to ferment, add sweetener if you’d like and refrigerate. I promise, you will be hooked! You may decide you like kefir better blended in the blender before drinking, that’s fine. You probably want to remove the fruit rinds, cinnamon sticks, etc before you blend though!

A word to the wise, don’t be alarmed if your kefir separates and looks weird, it does that the longer you leave it on the counter, especially if you neglect to shake it a couple times in the second ferment process. It is not dead, you didn’t kill it! (just don’t leave it for more than a couple days…if that happens and it smells “off”, you will be glad you have kefir grains multiplying contentedly in that other jar with fresh milk in a ‘first ferment’ so you can try the second fermenting process another day!)

Should you lid it tightly or loosely? Boy, people do it both ways.My rule of thumb is loosely lidded for a first ferment, tightly lid it for a second ferment. With a second ferment you are steeping or infusing your kefir with yummy flavor. I’ve also read this past year more about how you want to anaerobically culture for the second ferment, so I tighten my lids for this part of kefir-making.

I am sugar free and my favorite sweetener for kefir drinks is liquid Sweetleaf stevia, the stevia clear option, which is available on Amazon and Thrive and in most health food stores. Sweetleaf also makes several other options for flavored stevia such as root beer, vanilla creme, hazelnut, etc.

Here are some delicious additions to try as you embark on your second ferment kefir adventure:

Orange Vanilla Kefir

My favorite! To 3/4 quart of kefir liquid add one orange slice and one vanilla bean (or up to a tablespoon pure vanilla extract). Leave the rind on your orange slice, and slice your vanilla bean lengthwise and open it up so all that good vanilla paste can flavor your kefir. I leave this blend in a glass quart jar on my counter with a loose plastic lid, covered with a dishtowel (to keep it dark!), for 15 hours and shake it if I can remember. When you’ve decided it is ready, you can remove the orange slice and vanilla bean (I don’t) and add a little of your favorite sweetener. I add liquid stevia to taste.

Raspberry Cacao Kefir

Whisk 1/8-1/4 cup cacao powder (to taste) into 3/4 quart kefir, add 1/4 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen), lid it and cover with a dishtowel, shake a time or two, and let ferment 6-15 hours ish. Add sweetener if desired, blenderize it if desired, refrigerate and enjoy!

Cacao Kefir

Whisk 1/8- 1/4 cup cacao powder into 3/4 quart kefir and add favorite spices. I like to add a cinnamon stick (or 1 tsp cinnamon) and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Lid it, cover it with a dishtowel or stick it in a dark cupboard, shake it now and then and let ferment a few hours to desired taste. Add sweetener–honey is good in this one!

Tea-steeped Kefir

Two different variations on this one. To 2-3 cups kefir add a favorite tea bag or two. Chai tea is great with a cinnamon stick added and maybe some vanilla. Or, Teavana has a Lavender-Citrus tea that I really like with a sliver of lemon peel added. Lid it, cover it or place it in a dark place, shake it occasionally during the second ferment. Because you are “steeping” tea in a room temperature product, I like to let this second ferment for a minimum of 12 hours but often up to 24 hours. And I leave the tea bag(s) in the kefir when I refrigerate it. Before serving, sweeten with honey, stevia, or your personal favorite!

Cinnamon Vanilla Kefir

In a glass quart jar, whisk 1 teaspoon cinnamon into 3/4 quart kefir and add a vanilla bean or a tablespoon pure vanilla extract. You could also add a cinnamon stick and cut back your powdered cinnamon to 1/2 teaspoon. Add a sprinkle of nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice and lid it, cover it with a dishtowel, shake occasionally, and let ferment for 6-24 hours. Sweeten it with honey or stevia or your favorite sweetener and refrigerate. Shake before serving.

Now don’t forget to release any pressure build up if you shake your kefir up in a jar with a tight lid! Unscrew the lid after shaking and let that pressure off and then tighten the lid again. The longer you let it ferment, the more effervescent your kefir will become, especially if it had natural sugars like fruit steeping in it. I love it somewhat bubbly!

These are just a few that we’ve tried and enjoyed. Do you have any favorites to share in comments?

Raw Milk

Raw Milk Kefir Yogurt

Kefir yogurt is AMAZING! Thick and delicious and EASY to make. And best of all, no raw milk gold is harmed in the making of this nutrition rich gut-healing treat. Big thank you’s to my good friend and milk customer, Lalana, who brought me my first kefir yogurt to sample, told me how to make it, and got me hooked!

Kefir yogurt made with raw milk from my cows, sweetened with a little stevia and raspberries …

Raw milk in all its glory is full of living enzymes, probiotics, good bacteria. It’s fantastic for your immune system, and has powerful anti-microbial qualities that actually kill pathogens! Raw cream has an amazing quality called the Wulzen Factor which prevents and protects against arthritis! Sadly, pasteurizing raw milk, even heating it up to 118 degrees or higher, destroys so many of the benefits. Many yogurt recipes call for heating up your milk to temps above 118 before adding your yogurt cultures.

Now raw milk yogurt can be successfully made at low enough temps to preserve the nutrition and disease fighting qualities in raw milk, but getting a *thick* yogurt (as opposed to a runny, smoothie quality) consistency can sometimes be tricky. Unless you make kefir yogurt with your raw milk!

Wait! Are you not a fan of kefir?–You need to know that kefir yogurt is delicious! It’s thick and incredibly, there’s no kefir “tang” to it. At least not in my experience! My friends and I are so excited about how easy it is to make, how perfect it is consistency-wise, that I can’t wait to share the process here with you today!

If you are new to the kefir making process, check out this post about kefir here. Assuming you already have a half gallon jar of kefir fermenting in the dark of some kitchen cupboard, you are ready to go.

Blending the kefir before pouring it into colander makes a smoother yogurt…

First, strain out enough kefir grains to get your next jar of kefir going, set that aside to replenish with fresh milk ASAP, and get a large clean plastic colander out and line it with about five wet coffee filters. My colander is large and five filters is about right. I use unbleached filters from Walmart (a 50 pack is about $1), and getting them wet first helps with the draining process. Place however many filters you need around the edge of your colander to cover all the drain holes, and then add one to the very middle bottom for good measure. Remember, kefir doesn’t like metal, so always use plastic colanders and spoons when working with kefir. Cleanliness is important too! This filter lined colander will be home to your kefir yogurt for the next 48 hours, and it needs to fit over a bowl large enough to hold a quart or so of liquid whey that will be draining off of your yogurt. Got the colander ready? Okay!

Put your remaining strained kefir liquid into a blender and blend it well for about 30 seconds. We’re creaming it up. Carefully pour the blended kefir into the colander-nested-into-a-bowl setup, cover it with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge. After 24 hours, remove it from the fridge and pour off the whey that has collected in the bottom bowl–this will keep that bottom bowl from overflowing by day 2. Back to the fridge it goes; it will continue to thicken over the next 24 hours at which point you are ready to enjoy some yogurt!

Take a large glass or plastic bowl and carefully turn your colander full of kefir upside down over it. Tap the colander a bit until the kefir collapses into the bowl beneath. Now take a spatula and working with your clean fingers and the spatula, peel the wet filters away from the yogurt and discard. Discard the filters, NOT the yogurt!

Stir the yogurt briskly with a whisk or the spatula–I despise cleaning whisks but you really do get a more shiny, smooth yogurt when you go the whisking route–and your kefir yogurt is ready to doctor up to your delight. Pictured below are my preferred additions…a little liquid stevia to taste, and blueberries and raspberries. The quart jar pictured holds the whey–aka: liquid gold–which is a probiotic POWERHOUSE that you dare not waste. I will post more about whey another day, but one of my favorite things to do with it is to steep a bag of tea in it and leave it covered with a towel on the counter for 24 hours, then sweeten it with stevia and enjoy! The half gallon jar on the far right, is my next batch of kefir ready to go for more yogurt…

You can also sweeten your yogurt with sugar, fruit jams, honey, fresh diced strawberries. I am sugar-free so I stick with stevia or monks fruit extract. We are in love with this way to use up kefir, and raw milk from our wonderful Guernsey and Jersey cows.

Health Raw Milk

Milk Kefir FAQs

Gorgeous day today to take mineral around the twenty-four hundred acres that my cowboy husband looks after all summer. Youngest daughter and I tore across green pastures in the Polaris Ranger, seat belts on!, while hubby four-wheeled alongside in his ATV. Blue skies, frisky heifers, creek crossings, and 4,000 lbs of mineral parceled out amongst 8 locations. We left before lunch and got home just in time to milk the cows at 3 pm! Hungry? No problem. A glass of kefir was just the thing. Need another hungry mouth to feed? Let me introduce you to kefir.

What is Kefir exactly and what are its health benefits? Kefir is a yogurt-like product, a fermented milk drink that is thick, creamy, and has a bit of a tang. It is made with milk and Kefir grains, which are a collection of live beneficial bacteria and yeast. Kefir is a probiotic. It actually colonizes the digestive tract with good bacteria, whereas the good bacteria in yogurt simply feed the good bacteria which are already in your gut. Kefir is rich in protein, and packed with nutrition containing good amounts of vitamins A, B2, B12, D, K, magnesium, phosphorous, and an abundance of the essential amino acid Tryptophan which has a calming effect on nerves. And how many people do you know that have to take a digestive enzyme before they eat certain proteins? Kefir has an amazing quality of replenishing your body’s enzyme stores which aids the body in digesting various foods. Kefir is a drinkable supplement for good overall health and immunity. Remember good health begins in the gut!

What’s the difference between the bacteria contained in yogurt and those found in kefir? Kefir has several major strains of bacteria not contained in yogurt. Kefir contains what’s called “right-turning bacteria” and yogurt contains “left-turning bacteria”. The 30-50 friendly bacteria in Kefir can colonize/repopulate your gut, they stick around and work for you building your immune system and killing pathogens. The 7-ish friendly bacteria in yogurt are transient, keeping the digestive tract clean and providing food for the good bacteria that live there, but these bacteria move on through and need replaced. Both kefir and yogurt are good at restoring the body’s ecosystem after consuming antibiotics or experiencing food poisoning.

Can I have Kefir if I’m lactose intolerant? Generally, people who are lactose intolerant can handle kefir since much of the lactose (milk sugar) is consumed by beneficial bacteria and yeasts during the fermentation process.

What kind of milk should you use? You can make kefir with raw goat or cow’s milk, as well as whole milk, or lightly pasteurized milk. I am a huge believer in the health benefits of raw milk from a clean source of pasture fed cows/goats, but you can make kefir from store-bought pasteurized milk. Just go with the lightly pasteurized, non-homogenized variety and know that it doesn’t perform as well with low-fat milk.

What kills Kefir? The only thing that will damage or kill your kefir is neglect or heat. Kefir needs fed fresh milk to stay alive. So if you forget about it, it will starve and die. Heating it up will also kill it.

What if I need a break from making kefir? Easy. Going on vacation, or just want a week off? After straining your kefir grains and covering them with fresh milk, place the jar in your fridge where the colder temps will slow down the fermenting process allowing the kefir to slowly feed on the milk sugars. Going to be gone for 2 weeks or more? Use a bigger jar and more milk for 2 weeks. Or find a kefir babysitter. Need a longer break? Kefir grains also freeze well. Simply place them in a freezer baggie with some fresh milk and freeze. When you are ready to thaw, place them in a jar of fresh milk on your counter and just give them an extra day or two to get back in business. They may seem sluggish and you may think they are dead but jut keep the faith, Sistah (or Brother!). If you need to, drain off the two day old milk and place the grains in fresh milk again. They will revive. Kefir is amazingly resilient.

What is the difference between store-bought kefir and homemade? Store bought kefir usually contains high fructose corn syrup or sugar, which defeat the purpose of consuming kefir for health purposes. Sugar feeds yeast and homemade kefir helps rid your body of yeast. Some say that store-bought kefir is made from artificial kefir starters which don’t contain the multitude of goodies that traditional kefir starters do.

How long does kefir need to culture? Allow it to culture for 18-36 hours. The length of time depends on personal preference, the temperature in your home and if it is in direct sunlight or not. Kefir likes darkness and warmth. Longer culture time results in a more sour flavor. We like to culture ours for 24 hours, and then double ferment it for another 12-20 hours.

What is double fermented Kefir? It’s recommended to substantially increase the good bacteria in kefir, and to further decrease the lactose content. It also improves flavor. The second ferment uses the strained kefir, ie: what’s left after you remove the kefir grains. The kefir is left on the counter for an additional 12-24 hours, usually with something fun added for flavoring, like a strip of orange peel and a vanilla bean. Yum!

Homemade kefir is simple to make. Here is how you do it!

Kefir doesn’t react well to metals so you will need to use glass or plastic utensils and containers. It also thrives in darkness and a warmer environment (72-86 degrees F), so I don’t have much success with it in winter unless it’s kept near our wood stove. Here’s what you need to have on hand:

  • a glass quart or half gallon jar (depending on how much you want to make)
  • a plastic lid for the jar OR a coffee filter and a rubber band to attach it to the jar’s neck
  • a plastic colander for straining your kefir grains
  • a plastic spatula or spoon
  • kefir grains–can be purchased online, or from a fellow kefir “connoisseur”. Check eBay or your local chapter of buy, sell, trade. Kefir multiplies like bunnies so you are sure to find someone with extra on hand who will sell them to you for the price of shipping
  • milk
  • a towel to drape over the kefir during the 24 hour fermenting period, or a dark cupboard

So you’ve received your kefir grains and you are ready to roll. Put them into your glass quart jar and fill with milk to within 2-4 inches of the neck of the jar. A good ratio of kefir grains to milk is 1-2 TB kefir grains to 2-3 cups milk. It’s not an exact science. Once you’ve been doing it a while, and have cups and heaps of kefir grains, you will be using way more grains than you need to and might even decide to ferment a gallon of kefir every other day because you like it so much! Now you need to cap your jar and shake it . You will do this every so often in the 24 hour fermenting process. It’s okay if you forget, I forget all.the.time. and it still does its magic. After shaking, loosen the lid–kefir builds pressure as it ferments and you don’t want your jar to explode! Place jar in a dark cupboard or drape a towel over it and check it after 24 hours. You can let it ferment for 48 hours if you want it extra tangy, it’s up to personal preference, but after 24-48 hours it’s time to feed those grains so they don’t starve to death.

So after 24-48 hours, get your plastic colander out and spoon out the kefir grains. Many times mine are on the top of the jar, but sometimes they are down on the bottom. You can gently pour the kefir jar contents into the colander, removing the larger, clumpy almost cauliflower-like kefir grains to a clean canning jar so you can begin the process of adding milk and making your next batch of kefir. Your kefir will have gelatin like globs in it, that’s fine, and sometimes my kefir grains are tiny (see kefir grain pics above) but they are powerful and keep on keeping me in kefir! Now you have kefir–the strained liquid, and you may choose to do a second ferment with flavors added, or refrigerate it and use it for all kinds of yummy healthy boosting treats!

More to come on kefir!

Desserts Gluten Free

Favorite Gluten Free Brownie Dessert

We have been prepping my 21 year old’s new house (yep, she’s a homeowner as of 2 days ago! Woot! Woot!) for paint–inside and out. Ripping out wallpaper, spackling, sanding, scraping, taping–bringing back memories of *my* 21 year old self, in our first home, doing the exact same things. Only difference being, I was married and expecting my firstborn–yep same firstborn that’s 21 and playing at fixer upper! Ahh the good ole days…

So I came home tonight and indulged in one of our favorite desserts. This delicious brownie recipe happens to be the. best. recipe. ever. Whether you make it gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free or with real sugar, flour and dairy, it’s all good. Even my picky ones love it made “healthy style”. I hope you will too.

Favorite Brownie Dessert with strawberries and coconut cream, the way my firstborn daughter serves it up!

  • 2/3 cup Lilly’s brand dark chocolate stevia sweetened chocolate chips (available at HyVee, Natural Grocer’s) OR Trim Healthy Mama’s dark chocolate stevia sweetened chocolate chips
  • 5 TB coconut oil or avacado oil
  • 2/3 cup Gentle Sweet (a Trim Healthy Mama stevia blend that is unsurpassable!) (You can also use Pyure brand from Walmart, but it’s not the same…still, in a pinch…)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup almond flour (even if you aren’t gluten intolerant, I’d make these with almond flour–they are so flaky and melt- in-your-mouth!)
  • 2 TB unsweetened cocoa powder (or cacao powder)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • At the end you will mix in an additional 2/3 cup chocolate chips
  • Optional–sprinkle coarse salt on top

Preheat your oven to 350F. Line an 8×8″ baking pan with parchment paper. Melt the oil and chocolate chips together and mix until smooth, set aside while you separately whisk together the eggs and stevia blend of choice (or sugar if you aren’t sugar free). Mix dry ingredients and then combine all and lastly add the additional 2/3 cup chocolate chips. Spread batter into prepared 8×8″ pan and bake at 350F for 20-24 minutes till edges are set and brownies are still slightly soft in the middle.

Dress it up into individual servings with fresh, sliced strawberries and a dollop of coconut cream. Savor every healthy decadent bite!

Gluten Free

Low Carb Gluten Free English muffin & Bread Recipes

Gluten free recipes became much sought after friends when my amazing 83 year old mother committed to a strict Candida cleanse diet. For a year, our nutritionist recommended mom eat a low carb sugar-free diet while taking a rigorous herbal protocol to clean up her body from the devastating effects of this rapidly multiplying and debilitating yeast overgrowth. As mom had grown mostly immobile, with my dad, sisters and I sharing in her caregiving, I put my apron on and went to work in the kitchen.

God truly prepared me to be in a good spot to not feel entirely overwhelmed. My family has no food allergies. However, I had discovered the Trim Healthy Mama diet a few months before in October of 2017 and loved the sister authors’ balanced approach to health and weight loss/maintenance. While the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) diet isn’t exclusively gluten-free (they do have recipes for sprouted grain bread with gluten) if you must go gluten free, you really will find the two THM cookbooks to be a goldmine. I highly recommend getting them ASAP. Follow the link above to their site and check out their featured recipes such as the Nuke Queen’s Awesome Bread (It’s delicious, and no worries, if you are averse to microwaves there is a baked version there as well which is what I’ve made!). I remain mostly gluten free to this day, because of how much better I feel, and without feeling deprived of delicious alternatives.

Today I want to share two recipes with you. Neither of these are THM recipes, but those will come in another post! While developing meals and treats for my mom, I learned that googling “Paleo” and “Keto diet” recipes would also net some very nice dividends.

Paleo-style English Muffins are up first. Have you discovered cassava flour in your gluten-free journey? In addition to being a wonderful substitute for flour in GF recipes, it is a fabulous thickener for soups and gravies. I’ve linked to Anthony’s Goods which is where I purchase mine. For this recipe, premeasure your dry ingredients into snack sized bags for quick grab and fix breakfasts all week, then simply mix in your egg (right into the baggie if you’d like!) and squeeze the batter into your buttered ramekin and bake in the microwave for 90 seconds. These can also be baked in the oven at 400F for 12-15 minutes, or till middle is done. But it’s not done till you slice it in half and toast it! Toast it open face down in a skillet, or in the toaster, melt butter or cream cheese on it, and add jam…mmm! Now these are a different size and texture than regular English muffins, but we were pleased with the result.

Gluten Free English Muffins (single serve)
3 TB almond flour
1/2 TB cassava flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 TB butter
1 egg
pinch of salt

Melt butter in a 4 oz ramekin/souffle dish and swirl around to coat dish. Add other ingredients and whisk with a fork until light and fluffy. Cook on high in microwave for 90 seconds. Carefully remove dish (it will be HOT!) and loosen edges. Gently flip upside down and shake out muffin. Cut muffin in half lengthwise and toast to desired doneness.

Cassava Blender Bread. Here is another gluten-free bread featuring cassava flour:

Cassava Blender Bread
7 eggs
1/2 cup almond milk
4 tsp apple cider vinegar
3 cups almond flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
7 TB cassava flour (can substitute coconut flour)

Put all ingredients into blender EXCEPT cassava flour. Blend on low for 30 seconds, then on medium for 30 seconds. Add cassava flour and blend 1 minute on medium.

Line loaf pan with parchment paper. Pour batter into pan and smooth evenly in pan. Bake at 325F for 60-80 minutes depending on your oven.

We hope these recipes help make your gluten free journey a bit less difficult!

Farm Life

Spring flooding

What do country farmgirls do when it floods and the fields become swimming holes? They make a big splash!

We are in day #2 of being flooded in. It’s kind of a spring tradition but one we skipped last year and got a drought instead. Our home and animals are safely uphill so there’s no inherent danger from rising water for us, but the roads in and out of the valley below our home place are impassable when the river and creeks get out. Pictured above left is my youngest daughter, choosing adventure over common sense and safety. No snakes, snapping turtles, deep currents, etc were encountered on this particular escapade. And no, she’s not on her knees in the water. In all fairness, the girls and I always went puddle stomping after the rain…too many years ago now to count. The second picture is the road home that my eldest daughter chose to wade after parking her car on the other side. Her dad was on his way to escort her home in our ATV, but she walked it knee deep in her Nikes and loved every second.

I got caught up in the adventure myself, and forgot to do all the preventative things a farm gal is supposed to automatically *do* when this happens. Like fill up a ton of buckets and pans and water pitchers for drinking, washing hands and flushing. Oops. And so the brown water coming out of our faucets today smacked me in the forehead. I knew better! On the bright side, by some miracle, dishes and laundry are done, and chili is in the crockpot for supper. Most importantly the teakettle is half full of clean water and I have some water bottles stashed in the basement if we have to resort to drastic measures. Don’t you agree that having the capacity to brew a cuppa tea is a necessity when disaster strikes?

One thing bothers me. I am perilously low on sugar-free chocolate.

Anyone else flooded in today? Isaiah 43:2, ” When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”