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Fermentation brings on new challenges while traveling

My obsession with fermentation really only began about a year ago. And it hadn't even occurred to me that leaving home on vacation while fermenting would create such new and interesting dilemmas.

I had been keeping a sourdough starter alive for a few years so I was aware that one could store their prized bread culture in the fridge for weeks and even months on end, and coax it back to life with fine results when ready to bake again. I was, however, not familiar with how long one could store milk and water kefir or kombucha which I am actively making daily and weekly.

I knew the vinegars, and veggie ferments would be fine as we were only to be away for one week. Should I take my milk kefir with me in a cooler, buy milk along the way, and leave kefir gifts to friendly strangers? Could I take kefir with me so that we could continue to consume our daily ration?

After researching I learned that kefir could be stored in a good amount of milk, in a sealed container in the fridge for about a week, which I did. I also made a nice batch of kefir cheese (recipe follows) before we left for the road.

Alison on road trip, head hanging out of car window

I brought along 2 bottles of kombucha which I put in the trunk of the car. After we had been on the road for a few hours I heard a kind of popping explosion coming from the right rear end of the car. After thinking about it for a minute, I realized it could have been the kombucha as the tires seemed fine. When we arrived at our hotel, I discovered this to be true and asked the valet to dispose of the vinegary smelling broken glass bottle. He agreeably disposed of the sticky mess and of course a conversation about the benefits of kombucha ensued.

A list of new tasks have had to be added to the usual coming home from being away. Discard the milk that the kefir grains were attempting to culture and bring the grains back to life with fresh milk, oh yes, and buy organic Strauss milk; drain the kombucha brew and begin the second fermentation with the over ripe fruit left in the fridge (that my son was supposed to eat); start a new batch of kombucha; check the airlock on the kraut and check the vinegar to see how it fared in my absence.

As you can see, no empty nest syndrome going on in my house!

So here’s a recipe for using up kefir if you happen to find yourself with more than you can consume.


Kefir cheese surrounded by vegetables and crackers

Kefir Cheese

To make “cheese” from your kefir, you may strain out the liquids using a bowl lined with butter muslin or a jelly strainer. This results in a “cheese-like” kefir.

  1. If using cheese muslin, lay a 12” by 12” square in a bowl.

  2. Pour the kefir into the bowl.

  3. Pull up the corners of the cheese muslin and tie into a knot on top.

  4. Hang the knot on a wooden spoon placed over the bowl, or on a cabinet knob over the bowl. The kefir should not be in contact with the whey. Drain at room temperature for 2 to 12 hours depending on desired consistency.

  5. For a dense, cream cheese-like consistency, hang for the full 12 hours and then open up, thoroughly mix in a teaspoon of salt, tie it back up and press between two plates with a weight on top. Drain 2 – 4 more hours. Then refrigerate up to 2 weeks.

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