In our exploration of real food (check out the Intro to Real Food, here), I thought we could start with dairy. Before we get into the nitty-gritty (that would be raw milk), lets talk about something easy you can do to improve your health!
Most people eat yogurt because they like it. It’s an easy snack, it’s full of sugar, there are tons of fun flavors to choose from… oh yeah, and they heard somewhere that it’s “healthy”. That used to be me. I was even really proud of myself for getting the “light” version (shiver!). I have learned so much! Curious about what I have discovered? Well….
There’s More Than Just Yogurt!
I’m sure many of you are rolling your eyes, but I just never really thought about it at the time. I knew yogurt had probiotics and I knew that was a good thing, although I wasn’t really sure why. Since then I have discovered that there is a whole wide world of cultured dairy!
- Yogurt (check out my easy recipe!)
- Sour Cream (recipe here!)
- Creme Fraiche
- Cultured Butter
- Fresh cheeses
Maybe there are even more than I know of, but just imagine what you can do with those seven products! Yogurt and kefir for smoothies, buttermilk for baking, sour cream and creme fraiche for dips and toppings, cultured butter for your fresh baked bread, cheese for everything… YUM!
What is “Culturing”?
To “culture” is simply to allow a beneficial bacteria (in the case of kefir, it’s beneficial bacteria and yeast) to grow. In most cases, that means adding a concentrated dose of the good bacteria to dairy, such as adding the culture to yogurt, then providing an ideal environment for the bacteria to grow. Different bacteria grow best at different temperatures, so one yogurt might need to be at 105 degrees while buttermilk can just sit on the counter at 70 degrees. If the temperature is too high for that bacteria, it will die. If it’s too low, it won’t grow. Most bacteria needs 12 to 36 hours to do it’s thing, then the finished product is put in the fridge to slow/stop the bacterial growth.
Bacteria Is A Good Thing!
Don’t let the word “bacteria” scare you off. It’s actually a really good thing. There are tons of kinds of beneficial bacteria that your body actually needs in order to function well. It’s the pathogenic bacteria that makes you sick. People are often put off from making cultured dairy products because they have been so conditioned to fear “sour” milk. The truth is, if there is plenty of good bacteria in it, it won’t go “bad”. We’ll talk about this more when we get to the raw milk post. For now, just trust that starter culture to grow good bacteria and prevent bad bacteria. Any cultured product should have a slightly sour smell. If it’s overwhelming or doesn’t smell similar to the way real cultured buttermilk from the store smells, something is wrong. I have made all of the dairy products listed above and have never had a “bad” batch that would have made us sick. I have had failed batches (kefir that I forgot about too long and let get way too strong to drink and yogurt that didn’t “make” because the yogurt maker didn’t hold the right temperature). Those incidences were obviously failures and there was no way we would have consumed the failed products.
What’s In It For Me?
How is cultured dairy different from uncultured?
First, there’s tons of beneficial bacteria! That good bacteria does some very important things for our bodies.
- It helps prevent pathogenic bacteria from taking over.
- It helps control the growth of bad yeast.
Second, it has enzymes that make digestion much easier! This helps us in two ways:
- food is more easily broken down, resulting in less (or no) digestive problems, such as gas, constipation and diarrhea.
- The more efficient breaking down of food means that our bodies can then absorb more of the nutrients from the food.
Third, culturing actually increases vitamins!
- There are more B vitamins in cultured dairy than in uncultured.
- There is more vitamin C in cultured dairy.
Be sure to follow along as we learn how to make many of the cultured dairy products listed above. Even the most difficult ones aren’t very hard once you’re familiar with the process, and many of them are ridiculously easy!
Where To Get Starter Cultures:
I buy every single one of my starter cultures from *Cultures For Health. The selection and quality are fantastic and I have had nothing but good experiences with customer service.
They carry starters for:
Are there cultured dairy products you’ve been wanting to try making? How do you hope to include more cultured dairy in your diet?
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