Road Tested: Cultures for Health

Recently, the ladies over here at Scoot a Doot were approached by Cultures for Health, a real food company run by Julie and Eric Feickert. Their goal? To create a website where people making a food change in their own lives could find all the products and information they need to be successful. Part of that website provide folks with kits to make their own food. From yogurt, to cheese, to kefir, to sourdough, to kombucha – these starter kits provide the perfect opportunity to dip your toes into the world of sustainable, traditionally prepared foods. 

The lovely folks over there gave Meridith and Kyle the chance to try their hand at making some food… these are their stories.

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Kombucha.

Wait. What?

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Yes. You read that right. Kombucha. What is Kombucha? Well, according to the wisdom that is the internets (and Wikipedia, which, you know, ALWAYS has the right answer), kombucha is “a lightly effervescent fermented drink of sweetened black and/or green tea that is used as a functional food. It is produced by fermenting the tea using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, or ‘SCOBY’.”

That’s a fun way to say it’s a delicious drink with debatable health benefits. Whatever. I like kombucha, though I usually buy it pre-made, in a bottle, at Whole Foods. It’s bubbly, and fizzy, and has a fun little tang to it.

So obviously, when Mer and I were offered the chance to test out the Cultures for Health kits, I jumped at the opportunity to try and make my own kombucha.

Things I knew going in:

  • Kombucha is cultured (duh, hence the name).
  • Unlike some cultures, kombucha takes a looong time.
  • This might be a struggle because I’m terribly impatient.

When my kit arrived, I immediately busted it open because I wanted to know what this process was going to be like and what other things I might need to gather to be successful.

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Turns out that I needed to get a bigger mason jar, but given that I’m dumb and that I don’t plan ahead, by the time I needed to start the culture to have something ready for this post, I hadn’t picked one up. Solution? Use the leftover coconut oil jar (washed, of course) instead. It was a little small, so I had to half the recipe. I was a little concerned about how successful this would be. #badplanning

Anyways. The process itself was fairly simple. Essentially, I had to brew some tea (the kit included some black tea, which I enjoy), add some sugar (more than I thought, but… science, I guess?), some vinegar and the SCOBY, and then… wait.

And wait.

And wait.

The instructions say that the starter culture is supposed to take roughly 30 days to cure. So far, it’s sat for 11. It’s looking good!

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I tasted a little off the top – and while the culture still isn’t completely ready yet, it’s definitely doing something! It’s sweet and vinegary (a little). I’m excited to see how it turns out after a month.

The instructions in this kit were very clear as to how this process was supposed to go – and while the recipe is fairly simple, the process for making the starter culture vs. your own kombucha tea can get a little confusing. I appreciated that these steps were delineated clearly. I also liked that they gave instructions on how to continue using your culture to make multiple batches of tea. If this goes well, I definitely will!

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Cheers!

 

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Mozzarella and tomato slices, drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

Homemade pizza with delicious melt-y cheese.

Yes indeed, I had big dreams for the Cultures for Health kits.

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My best sous chefs were prepped (aka: my kids) and ready to go. Although I’d never made cheese before I was confident that I could follow the directions in the booklet.

After all, how hard could it be?

Famous last words.

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The kits came with most of the ingredients, we needed to supple one gallon of cow or goat milk and chlorine-free water.

Note: don’t do what I did at first and get organic milk. Organic milk is highly pasteurized and that doesn’t work well when making cheese.

After actually reading the directions I ran to the store to get regular cows milk. We wanted to make sure we had the highest chance of success possible, and that means following the directions. (We also now have a lot of milk in my house – the kids are thrilled because this means lots of chocolate milk!) It also says in the booklet under the section “Before You Start”: Read all the instructions. Okay, okay, I get it. Reading is fundamental.

The kiddos love helping with food prep and I kept them busy, pouring the milking and mixing ingredients. The little guy has high food selectivity (Autism/mouth-feel, you do it to me every time!) but I’ve found if he is involved with making food, he’s more apt to at least try new things.

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Once we moved things to the stove, the kids helped stir the milk while we got it up to the proper temperature.

At this point, I think we were about a half hour into the process. The directions suggest that it takes about 30 minutes to make, in total. Obviously, we are not artisanal cheese makers. Yet.

Checking to see if the curds had separated from the whey. (They hadn't fully so we let them sit a few more minutes.)

Checking to see if the curds had separated from the whey. (They hadn’t fully so we let them sit a few more minutes.)

There was much singing about the Little Miss Muffet and tuffets and whatnot. I wasn’t exactly sure what we were doing at this point but I was hoping that we had good stuff going and soon would be feasting on mozzarella yummyness.

However, things weren’t looking so great when it came to the stretching of the curds. I had grand visions of being very twirly, creative at this point. Instead, this is what I got.

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Not so stretchy. Not so twirly.

I continued on with this, wishing, hoping, praying that it would magically turn into a beautiful shiny ball of mozzarella. Instead, this is what we wound up with…

Cheese?

Cheese?

So what went wrong? Well, I think the processing of the milk could have been a factor. Even though it wasn’t ultra-pasteurized, I’m assuming that this is where the I had issues. The booklet has troubleshooting tips and I think that we could have increased the amount of citric acid to help balance this.

Thankfully, each kit makes quite a good amount of cheese; I’ll try again because I’m bound and determined to make it work. Additionally, the website is helpful in troubleshooting and they have an 800 number and email for customer support, which I will be taking full advantage of in my next venture.

Homemade cheese will happen! I will triumph!

 

Thanks to ztpr and Cultures for Health for giving us the opportunity to try the products mentioned. No further compensation was given and as always, our opinions are our own.

6 thoughts on “Road Tested: Cultures for Health

  1. So listen, Kombucha totally freaks me out. My sister loves it, but something about letting a blob sit on the windowsill gives me the willies. But I totally would have tried the cheesemaking!

    And now I’m pretty curious about the yogurt kits…

    • I personally have never tried Kombucha before so I can’t even say what I think of it. However a good friend of mine brews it on the regular and has offered me bottles so I might have to give it a go.

      The cheese WILL BE HAPPENING. Mark my words.

    • Kombucha is totally freaky – but its deeeeeeelish. So, I can deal. It’s currently living in the cupboard above my fridge. Doin’ it’s thaaaang.

      I want to make cheese, too. Because we all know how I feel about cheese.

  2. I have grown to love Kombucha. It is kind of creepy looking, but mine brews in a corner of my office, and it’s just fine there all hidden. And it’s delicious for sure. SO easy to make.

    I’ve been very tempted by cheesemaking kits, but have never tried it.

    • Does your Kombucha live in a cabinet? My friend has a cabinet in her kitchen dedicated to it and it sits in there, making it’s magic. She swears by it!

      The cheesemaking is definitely an art that I have yet to perfect but I’m looking forward to my next attempt. 🙂

    • High five for kombucha-making! I’m also just letting mine hide in the cupboard. It’s doing magic things in there…

You’ve heard my thoughts! Would love to hear yours here.