I have been culturing foods for about ten years now, I started with yogurt after reading about the many benefits of yogurt and how easy and healthier it is to make myself, I bought a book and a yogurt maker and culture and started making my first fermented food. I had times when I wasn't making yogurt and times when I was and I noticed the differences in my health. When I was expecting my first child I started to think about nourishing my body, and his, better and I started studying nutrition and new food options to develop my ability to nourish my families bodies. First I started making our bread and then I began throwing out the household and personal care chemicals and changing my cleaning and personal habits. Then I started adding more nutritious foods to our diet. I started making yogurt again, but I also made sauerkraut, and then kombucha, and then milk kefir, and then sourdough, and then water kefir. I love how my life has transformed. Instead of pouring over magazines trying to figure out how to make myself more attractive and spending countless hours at the mall searching for the perfect fitting skirt, I read books and blogs about improving the way I treat my body and I look and feel better as a result. Over the counter cosmetics never made my skin so smooth and dewy after washing, and I may not wear the latest trend, but wearing classic styles suits my simple lifestyle. I struggle with what I call stress-exhaustion, some may call it adrenal fatigue, but I haven't been diagnosed so I'm making my own prognosis. I shake at times, like an old person with Parkinson's disease, and get so wound up about small things at times that I feel like I'm going to explode. (Sensory overload?) I was abused as a small child and again as a young adult and I have learned that it has taken its toll on my nerves. Because I didn't lash out or act out very much, my damage turned inward and I had to do a lot of damage control over the years. As a result, outside stressors have to be kept at a minimal until I can heal. This means silly things like not having the latest boots or bag must be forgotten to make room for toddler tantrums and student loan debt. I'm not gonna lie and tell anyone that three years living this way has completely healed my body, it hasnt, and part of that might be because my family hasnt completely embraced the changes I've made and we still go out to fast food when I've been over-stressed and can't face making dinner and having noses turned up at it again. I haven't lost weight either, I've actually continued to gain it, and I'm still trying to pin-point what is causing it (in other words-is it stress, hormone imbalance, not enough water, too little sleep, too little exercise, too much processed food, too much emotional baggage... Probably all of the above, and I'm working on all of it.) What has happened is, I have felt more energetic, I have felt more upbeat, I have healthier skin, hair and nails, I have stronger teeth and gums, I think more clearly and remember short term better. Most importantly, I am able to play longer and more creatively with my darling son, and give my husband a foot rub or shoulder massage when he comes home without feeling overextended myself. Being there for the people I love most is my top priority and fermented foods help make that possible, so they are pretty important to me.
Over time I have learned a few things that others who are just starting may find helpful, so I'd like to share them here:
When Culturing an heirloom variety of yogurt the important thing to remember is to keep your starter going. Mine has to be recultured every seven days to maintain its viability. You can make a much as you want to, as long as you are able to maintain a steading temperature throughout the milk. It also doesn't matter what heat source you use to incubate a yogurt culture as long as it is a reliable and steading source.
When life happens and you only have about a cup of milk when it's time to make yogurt, just make a cup of yogurt to maintain your starter. One can always make more after grocery shopping. Whole milk makes the best tasting yogurt in my opinion and I like that I can buy grass-fed milk and make my own yogurt, which I can drain whey from to ferment vegetables with and then use the thicker yogurt for sour cream in some recipes or as topping for burritos etc. I love that I don't have to buy a whole carton of yogurt along with milk and sour cream and then something is bound to go to waste.