I was born in a time when the miracle of all miracles had been invented. Alexander Fleming is credited with discovering what is called penicillin, a drug derived from the Penicillium fungi; health from mold. What a concept.
Had this drug been available earlier, things like the Black Plague may never have made it into the history books, and consequently left us devoid of plague monuments throughout Europe. STD’s like syphillis and gonorrhea would have become diagnoses, not death sentences, and leprosy, the scourge from the beginnings of recorded history, would have deprived Jesus of walking among the physically outcast from society.
Even as I was an infant, the wonders of the drug were only beginning to be appreciated. Doctors prescribed it freely. Ah-chooo – have some penicillin. Ooh, a rash, that calls for penicillin. Acne? You guessed it, penicillin. I was dosed for my childhood maladies with apparent regularity, and by the time I was 2 years old had developed what the doctors mistakenly called celiac disease, as other than the swelling and red rashes, the symptoms can be similar. The savvy amongst you will recognized celiac disease as the inability to digest gluten. What I actually had developed was a penicillin allergy, which by extension, had wiped out all my gut bacteria. For an entire year I was fed, on the advice of my pediatrician, nothing but bananas and cottage cheese. It was felt those two items were the only digestible foods for my condition. To this day, I have to do a mental overcome to eat something banana. For the record, another lovely drug with the less than appealing name of Flagyl suppresses the bad bacteria, allowing the good bacteria a chance to grow again. It could have saved me a year of mooshy ickiness.
Fast forward many years and my sister got me started on raw milk. It was to rebuild and reinforce my gut bacteria, but aside from that I re-discovered I liked milk. We could insert a whole discussion here on the regulation of a dairy product and the lengths you have to go to in order to purchase it, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that local houses act as depots for the dairies willing to brave the long arm of the FDA.
When the woman whose house I picked up milk from sold her house, the awful choice came between stepping up to the plate or losing my moo. I became the depot.
So weekly I have 40-50 people come by and get Sequim’s finest. That’s pronounced “Skwim,” for you non-Washingtonians.
The depot users are an interesting lot, most motivated by locally sourced, organic, unprocessed food. They like to write to me, talk to me and interest me in their healthy life d’jour. Each and every one of them is convinced their latest foray is the end all of health; they’ve done a lot of research and read it on the Internet. The funny thing is, of these 40 people, at any given time there are 15 different “absolutely the most important way to stay healthy,” philosophies and over time, those people will evolve their thinking about the latest and greatest fad. The largest factor in the rate of attrition of depot users is those moving off dairy, whether for the paleo diet, the GAPS diet, the Snozzberry diet, etc.
I say fad because what is absolutely gospel in 10 years will not in any way resemble what is being pontificated today, just as the word of the health gods today is different from a decade ago. Having cleverly used all the religious words in the last sentence, I’ll give you my personal health philosophy, which by the way will be the same in 10 years!
Eat what is allowed by your divinity,
in moderate portions and
only when you’re hungry.
If you are Jewish, you are limited to the buffet bar in the Torah.
Christians, here’s your list of foods: Everything allowed in the Old Testament, plus the add-ons described in Acts 11:4-10.
Muslims, Hindi, Buddist – you know how to navigate your shopping cart and what foods can and cannot go in it.
Personally, if I had to decide what religion was “true,” I’d go with Christian, on the basis they’re allowed bacon. Everything’s better with bacon!
Back to raw milk. When I met with the previous depot woman to transfer all the logistics, one of the things she offered me was kefir grains. The what the who the huh?? You can instantly tell I’m not in line for a walk on role in Portlandia, right? Kefir are little fuzzy animals which grow in milk. They are trendy now because probiotics are the new cash cow for supplement manufacturers. You can find kefir beverages in the dairy department of even your local big-chain supermarket right next to the yogurt shakes. Kefir milk has been fermented by these little party hardy guys and is slightly effervescent and full of probiotics.
Except I don’t like the taste. Small setback, but I as had set out to see if I couldn’t do even more gut repopulating, I tried adding kefir to fruit smoothies. That was OK as long as you drank it straight away, otherwise the little grains put their party hats on and pretty soon you had solid kefir sludge. They’re a lively lot!
One day I decided to try some as a substitute for buttermilk in a bread recipe. I very seldom have buttermilk on hand, and go with the old standby of putting a tsp of lemon in the milk and letting it sour for 10 minutes. On that fateful day, 2 T of kefir milk went into the dough and after baking, I’m pretty sure I heard the angels sing.
Sure enough, those party animals break down obstreporous grains (you’d never know there were rolled oats in my bread), soften the gluten and in general make the most moist, fragrant and easily sliceable bread I have ever made. I now add a tablespoon or two to every batch I make. My kids have even stopped asking me to buy the junk bread (soft, squishy, doesn’t taste like anything but holds the sandwich ingredients in place) and proudly announce to their friends that, “my mom makes all her own bread – you should try it!” Yeah, I’ll take it where I can get it [pats self on back].
OK, you say, I’m in. How do I get this kefir stuff? You can order it on the Internet or better yet, hang around a natural food store and say loudly, “Does anyone have spare kefir grains?” You’ll become a magnet for people who really hate throwing excess grains away.
Put the grains on the counter in a glass jar. Fill the jar part way with milk, preferably raw. Let it sit for 24 hours. You’ll find a jar divided — lots of kefir who have not only eaten too much, but who woke up next to another white grain and can’t remember her name but 2 hours later they’re a family of more grains, with the rest being white fermented kefir milk. After it’s created its magic, take a few grains from the old batch, put it in a new jar and begin again. Dispose of the rest of the grains (cringe) and use the lovely white kefir in whatever your heart desires.
If you are not needing to make more immediately, simply place the jar in the refrigerator. Never cover your kefir because they are alive and require air.
Caveat – Although your artisan breads will be incredible, if you have a bread machine which panders to artisan doughs, don’t let it go the full 4 rises – you’ll end up with a puddle of goo, also known as darned fine ciabatta dough, when the kefir has overdosed.
Last, try this out for yourself to verify its voracity because really, you read it on the Internet, and we know how reliable that can be!