Archive for November, 2008

Henrietta Hamburger. . . An Update From the Cow Paddock

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

Henrietta Hamburger (aka “Sucky”) is looking very plump and tasty, and the time has come to put her into the freezer. I have arranged for the home kill to take place on the 11th of December so that we will have plenty of meat for the holiday season. Henrietta Hamburger has no idea that her days are numbered, and is happily eating spring grass with Rosie and Coco. Meanwhile I am making arrangements with the butcher and gathering ingredients for sausage and black pudding.


Kevin, Owen, and I went for an evening walk in the cow paddock to admire the livestock. Owen loves the cows, and crows with excitement when he sees them. He loves to make mooing sounds like a cow! The other day, he managed to pet Rosie through the fence while I was hanging up the laundry nearby. We wish we could get a photo of Owen touching Rosie or Coco, but it’s proving quite difficult to have the camera ready at just the right moment! Kevin and I love to see Owen enjoying the animals on the Farmlet.

Becky and Owen

We are keeping a close eye on Coco, since her calf should be born any day now. Kevin has checked that plenty of salt is available, and has added a little apple cider vinegar to the water trough for her. What about Rosie’s calf? Well, it became apparent a while back that Rosie’s not in calf. (It’s really hard to tell when and whether Rosie’s in heat, and since we only had the bull here for a couple of weeks we knew it was possible she’d missed getting in calf.) Since we don’t milk Rosie, this is not the end of the world, but we certainly wish we were getting another calf to raise for the freezer. If a spare bull is in the area, we might try getting her in calf as soon as possible. Otherwise, we’ll probably just wait and let her and Coco both go to the Red Devon bull again when he comes to see our neighbours’ cows.

Cheese Making Workshop

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

On the 19th of October, Owen and I attended a cheese making workshop at Huapai (near Hellensville). It was a fabulous experience, and I can’t believe that it has taken me nearly a whole month to write about it! The course was held at the home of Alison, who runs the Auckland chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Alison’s daughter, Natalie, makes wonderful cheeses and was generous enough to share her expertise by running this workshop.

It was an action-packed day, during which learnt to make cheddar, feta, ricotta, and soft curd cheese. Natalie also discussed how to make yoghurt and kefir. The workshop was set up so that all the participants could get hands-on experience at cheese making. We took turns stirring, checking the temperature, and cutting and handling the curds. Each participant went home with a folder full of clearly explained recipes, tips, and information. Now, I feel so much better prepared to start making cheese at home.

Highlights of the day included the delicious lunch prepared for us by Alison and Natalie, and a chance to sample some of Natalie’s delicious cheeses. The workshop was a neat opportunity to meet some other people with a common interest in good food. . . including a couple of people who I’d already been in touch with through this website.

Natalie was very kind and accommodating about letting me bring Owen to the cheese workshop. All things considered, this arrangement worked out pretty well. Everyone was very kind to Owen, and I don’t think he was too disruptive to the workshop. Still, a lively eleven-month-old does demand quite a lot of attention! In truth, my attention was probably only focused on the cheese making about 50% of the time, and I didn’t manage to meet and chat with the other course participants as much as I’d have liked, either. Owen was happy to stay in the back or front pack for some of the time, but at other times he was very busy trying to kiss the dogs, launch himself off the verandah, or get himself made into a big lump of cheddar cheese. Actually, it was a pretty neat day for Owen in the end. I’m not sure he’s an expert cheese maker yet, but he enjoyed learning all about dogs.

Coco is VERY in-calf

I’m not going to write about the details of making cheese in this post. Rather, I’m going to save that part for when I actually start trying out my new skills at home. Once Coco’s calf is born and Kevin is milking her again, we will finally have lots of lovely fresh raw milk for some exciting cheese projects. We can’t wait! Coco’s udder is springing already, and she looks very big and fat. I am watching her with great anticipation, even though she’s still not actually due to calve for about another week or so. Owen’s favourite foods (aside from breast milk and cod liver oil) are raw milk yoghurt and kefir, so our supply of raw Jersey milk can’t start soon enough!

Water Kefir

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

Update: Order water kefir grains and all of Becky’s other cultures at

Here’s some information about keeping and using water kefir grains. I feel that I’m still learning about how best to care for this culture, so this information is a work in progress. Still, after four months, our grains are continuing to increase by well over 100% every two days, so I suppose I must be doing something right. I’d be really interested to hear about the experiences and ideas of others who are keeping water kefir.

Basic Water Kefir Recipe:

6 Tablespoons water kefir grains
4 Tablespoons sugar
3 Cups water
½ lemon or a piece of lemon (if you can’t find an organic lemon, then take the skin off first)
A dried fig, or a tablespoon of raisins
(Optional: add 2-4 teaspoons of fresh ginger root juice to make a refreshing ginger beer kefir. To make the ginger root juice, pound or chop finely about 60g fresh ginger root and blend it to a mash with half a cup of water. Strain through a cloth, squeezing out the juice. You can also use dried ginger powder. Boil 1-2 tablespoons of ginger powder with 1 cup of water and then strain through a fine cloth. Cool this liquid before adding it to your brew. When brewing with ginger, you can leave out the raisins. The grains do really well when cultured with ginger!)

Water kefir

I make this quantity of kefir in a 1 quart (1 litre) glass preserving jar. Whatever jar you use, please make sure you leave an inch or so at the top to accommodate the carbon dioxide gas produced by the fermentation process and avoid explosions! As your kefir grains reproduce themselves, you will need to adjust the ratios of ingredients for a bigger batch, or make more batches.


*Strain and rinse the grains under clean running water.

*Put them in the jar with the other ingredients, and stir until the sugar dissolves.

*Close the jar with a good firm lid, and leave it at room temperature to ferment. Stir after 24 hours, and as often as you like.

*Brew until the raisins float to the surface and the liquid is a bit fizzy. This might take about 48 hours, but could be a good deal faster when the weather is warm.

*Scoop the lemons and raisins off the top of the liquid.

*Now use a strainer to separate the water kefir grains from the liquid. Rinse the kefir grains thoroughly under cold water.

*Squeeze the lemon into the liquid and put it into tightly sealed bottles or jars. You can chill and drink the beverage now, if you wish. Or, to make it more fizzy, you can leave it to ferment (secondary fermentation) for another day or so at room temperature, before moving it to the fridge to chill for drinking. (Further fermentation will increase the alcohol content of the drink, depending on the amount of sugar in the liquid. In any case, water kefir drinks seem to be only very mildly alcoholic – like home-made ginger beer.)

Other Tips:

*Once you have made your first batch of water kefir, you can rinse the grains and start the next batch immediately.

*If you don’t want to make another batch immediately, you can store the grains in the fridge in a sugar water solution (1Tablespoon of sugar to 1 Cup water) for up to 7 days. You can also freeze strained, rinsed water kefir grains in plastic ziploc bags for up to 2-3 months.

*Sugar: Apparently the grains do best on less-refined, more mineral-rich sugars, though any kind of cane sugar will do (refined white sugar, golden sugar, muscovado, rapadura).

*Water: The grains do best in hard, highly mineralised water. If you are using soft or distilled water, add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda per 6 cups of water to keep the grains healthy. You can also add a piece of limestone, some boiled egg shell or a tiny pinch of calcium carbonate powder to the brewing water.

*Fermentation time: One of the main reasons why water kefir grains become sick and stop propagating is over-fermentation. In general, they should be brewed no longer than 2 days, though they may need 3 days in colder conditions. During the summer, daily brews might be needed to prevent over-fermentation. A brew is ready for straining when the raisins are floating to the top, and the liquid has become slightly fizzy and a little sour.

*Most of the information I’ve seen says to keep the kefir in glass containers.

*Wash water kefir containers and implements by hand using mild detergent, and rinse thoroughly.

*Always keep a batch of water kefir grains brewing with the basic recipe (or the ginger beer recipe) above. Please use only your extra grains for other recipes, since some ingredients (honey and herbs, for example) may cause the grains to lose their vigour and stop growing.

*Healthy fast-growing water kefir grains produce a brew with less alcohol and more health-giving probiotic properties than sluggish, sick grains.

*Use spare water kefir grains to make experimental brews using honey, herbs, or fruit juices. You can also try adding these other ingredients to the brew for the secondary fermentation.