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3.11.2011

Get Cultured! My impression so far...

I have completed the first two lessons of Jenny from The Nourished Kitchen's Get Cultured! How to Ferment Anything class and I am here to report.

A terrible (and old) picture of homemade yogurt... my camera is temporarily out of order.
So far I am very pleased with it.  Generally speaking, I haven't yet (yet) learned to do anything revolutionary... at least not anything I didn't already know how to do.  Making your own yogurt, though, is a bit revolutionary in a sense of the word.  By doing so you are revolting against commercial foods that are marketed as "healthy" but in truth loaded with sugars, additives, and hormones that actually undercut any benefits that the actual product may provide.  And you are putting your money where it belongs, especially if you buy local milk (raw or otherwise)- with those who responsibly produce whole foods.

The first two lessons cover how to make different types of yogurt using a variety of different starter cultures, methods, raw materials (raw or pasteurized milk or coconut milk).  The second delves deeper into cultured dairy products, covering sour cream, clabbered milk and cream, and cultured butter/buttermilk.

All of the lessons include both a video tutorial and an instruction sheet, as well as FAQ, troubleshooting, and various "reasons why/benefits of" sheets.  Accompanying the "how to" with the "why" is something that I am glad she didn't overlook.  Generally speaking, most people know that yogurt is healthy, but many don't know exactly why and what purpose probiotics serve in the gut.  Furthermore, people also don't realize that sour cream and buttermilk, at least in their purest forms (not the additive filled stuff you find in most supermarkets, and especially not the "non fat" version of sour cream), are also cultured products that can enhance both the taste and nutrition of our meals each day by giving us a tasty, creamy condiment or ingredient that provides more probiotics, as well as providing a great medium in which to soak our grains, nuts, and legumes.

But my favorite part so far has kind of surprised me.  I love the recipes that accompany each lesson.  When I was reading the elements of the class weeks ago that was one of the last things that jumped out at me.  But the recipes are so many and varied (including a separate 36 page pamphlet of recipes, in addition to the recipes included in each lesson).  Some are obvious and easy, but in a few of the cases I was like "I'm so glad she included that, I would have never thought to make that with _________."  Some are different versions of old classics that I already make- so far I haven't tried a 100% whole grain biscuit, so I'm definitely going to be making her recipe (from the buttermilk lesson, in case you were wondering at the link between biscuits and fermentation).  There's also a recipe for yogurt crackers that I want to try... I'm on a mini-quest right now to find some good homemade cracker recipe, and it isn't going so well.  I haven't made a single recipe that I would make a second time (and a few went into the trash).  And some of the recipes are long, slightly complicated (but only slightly) old fashioned recipes that use techniques that most people no long know of, like using sourdough to make a cake.

I only have a few criticisms of the class (and they are small ones). One- the new lessons post at 9pm Pacific time... which is 11pm here.  And it's Lent.  And part of my Lenten sacrifice is to go to bed at 11.  So I have to wait until the next day to see the lesson.  I hate waiting.  (I'll get over it, though).  Second, there are a lot of typos in the otherwise great looking PDF files so far.  But this is the first time she's holding this class, so I assume she's working on it.  And, other than one missing recipe, the typos haven't affected the content at all. 

Overall, I love the class so far, I can't wait to get into more of the stuff I don't know as much about (like corned beef and kvass!), and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to take a more proactive role in their health and the health of their family.  Tonight is the Kefir lesson, and the last installment of the dairy section.  And, of course, tomorrow is the long awaited conference call.  Even on cultured dairy, most of which I've been doing on and off for over a year, I have an entire page of questions ready for her.  Ah, adult contact!

Also, if you only want to know how to ferment one or two things you can buy individual lessons.  The lesson on yogurt may not be particularly beneficial because that information is available on the internet, but if you've looked into some of the ways to make yogurt at home and you're still unsure, maybe the tutorial would be helpful to you.  One great thing about the PDF's of this particular lesson is that it goes into detail about the differences between making yogurt from raw milk vs. pasteurized (the methods are slightly different), how and why to keep a pure seed starter (without making it sound too complicated), and the differences between thermophilic (warm-set) yogurt and mesophilic (room temp-set) yogurt.

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