Archive for Probiotics and Friendly Bacteria

My Adventures in Making Yogurt

I have made yogurt about four times since my first attempt earlier this year. It’s definitely been a learning experience, and I’m happy to say I’m progressing each time I make it. Each successive batch has come a little closer in texture to what I consider to be the perfect yogurt. I just made another batch on Friday of last week and I think I’m almost there.

These are notes from my adventures of all the yogurt I’ve made thus far, and the results from each batch. All yogurt batches I have made were using certified organic raw milk from pasture-raised Jersey and Guernsey cows. My starter has been plain, organic, whole-milk yogurt from grass-fed cows (whatever store brand I was buying at the time – the first three batches were Nancy’s Yogurt, the last batch was Stonyfield Farm).

First batch

The first time I attempted to make yogurt, I found some random recipes on the Internet and sort of pieced the techniques together. I put my raw milk in a pan on the stove and added the yogurt before heating – don’t ask me why I did this. Most instructions I’ve seen for yogurt making instruct the preparer to add the starter after heating and achieve a certain temperature (which varies according to recipe).

Even though many recipes advised me to do so, I was never willing to heat my milk up to 180 degrees because doing so would destroy good bacteria. And in that defeats the purpose of making homemade yogurt in the first place. So I only allowed the milk to reach just above 100 degrees before adding the yogurt starter before turning it down and placing it in the jars to sit overnight.

The pouring process was difficult and I made a mess. I poured the milk from the pan into a funnel sitting on top of my jar. I disliked this part of  yogurt-making the most because I had a great deal of milk to clean up afterward.

This batch was left in a glass jar on the counter overnight. The results were adequate, and my son really like the taste (which is most important to my efforts), and my husband thought it was pretty good. But I had a hard time eating it because it seemed a little too watery to me. Unfortunately, even I am influenced to some extent by commercial yogurts and their perfectly uniform texture. The taste was just a bit too sour for me as well.

Second batch

I have definitely had some valuable learning experiences from yogurt-making, and one of them was learning how best to pour the milk from the pan into the jar. I made a big mess again, just like the first time because I tried pouring the milk from the pan into a funnel sitting on top of the jar. And even though it was in the sink, a lot of milk spilled anyway.

This time I decided to place the jars in a cooler and wrap it in a heating pad. I didn’t have much experience with the proper heat levels in making yogurt, but I knew it shouldn’t get too warm or it would destroy the bacteria. Well, that effort was a complete flop. When I checked it later, the yogurt had become hard and rubbery. So I had to throw it out and start again.

Third batch

The third time I used a yogurt-maker we had recently purchased (it was only about $50), because a friend had told me she used one and achieved perfect results. Of course, I didn’t take into account that there are many types of yogurt makers and I think that makes a difference in the way the yogurt turns out. My friend’s yogurt maker is one that makes the batch all at once in one big container.

The type I bought, a brand called Donvier, seemed very easy to use and comes with 8 little cups. But I found that when it came time to pour the milk into the cups, it was really difficult to keep the milk from spilling everywhere – even though I was using a soup ladle to pour it into the cups. And the amount of milk I had heated on the stove was more than I could fit in the cups, and I had to use additional jars anyway, which I placed in my oven this time and let sit with the oven light on for about 15 hours.

My results with the third batch were as follows:

The yogurt in jars in my oven turned out pretty good, better than my first two batches.  It was fairly thick and it definitely passed the family test. But the yogurt in the jars that were in the yogurt-maker, surprisingly enough, turned out very watery and was much too sour. Although my family thought it was okay, I really didn’t care for it and ended up throwing out half of it later. I should have saved the whey for something else like lacto-fermented vegetables or homemade condiments, but I was sort of running out of patience at that point and just wanted to start over again.

Here are my other thoughts about the yogurt maker: I didn’t like how little the amount of yogurt there was in each jar serving. I’d always have to get more from another jar to make it enough for one person. Also, the jar lids were exceedingly difficult to remove, and cleaning the jars and lids was not very easy. I had to thoroughly rinse out each individual jar and lid as the yogurt sticks to the containers quite stubbornly. My theory is that since the jars are plastic, this somehow affects the yogurt’s ability to stick to it even more than it would to glass.

Which leads me to yet another dislike of the jars – that they are plastic and are subjected to heat during the yogurt-making process. Although the heat is not high, it’s still heat, and plastic is not supposed to heated in the first place  due to leeching – especially when it contains food. I’m not sure if these cups are made with BPA or not, but it still concerns me. I’ve made a concerted effort to remove a lot of plastic from my home, so I was definitely not pleased when the yogurt maker arrived and I discovered the entire unit is made of plastic. So, overall, I’m giving this particular yogurt maker a grade of ‘F’.

Fourth batch

In our area, most cows are not producing a lot of milk this time of year until early spring because the weather is usually cold and most grass-fed cows are now either on alfalfa exclusively, or only graze on grass weather permitting. So we made arrangements with  Saint John’s Organic Farm in Emmett, Idaho where we get our milk to pick up a larger amount of milk to freeze for over the winter.

We had just received one of our pouches of raw milk (the third week of December). The first pouch we froze, and then thawed out. It tasted really sweet and my son didn’t like it. My husband and I weren’t crazy about the globules in the milk from the cream which froze, but still wanted to use the milk anyway. We talked to the farm about it, and the only thing Susan (the owner) could come up with was that since the cows were now eating alfalfa exclusively due to poor weather conditions, perhaps this had some effect on the taste.

I also believe the freezing process had some effect as well. But I’m still perplexed because before we started buying milk from Saint John’s Organic Farm, we were getting Organic Pastures milk shipped to us about every six weeks for over a year. We always froze it because we’d buy about 6 half gallons at a time.  Although we never had any taste issues from freezing their milk, there were the globules present from the cream.

At any rate, I figured it was time to make yogurt again, so we used most of our thawed out  2.5 gallon pouch for yogurt.

This time, we filled our big stockpot with milk to make yogurt and a smaller sauce pan with milk for kefir. I used the basic recipe for kefir-making from The Nourished Life’s kefir recipe. Besides the fact that I had a lot of milk sitting around that my son wouldn’t drink due to its over-sweetness, it was this post that motivated me to make kefir for the first time and make yogurt once again.

Here are the steps I used for my yogurt:

  1. I heated the milk up to approximately 100 degrees – I just tested it with my finger and it felt warm but not too hot. As Elizabeth from The Nourished Life says, some people may not think it’s sanitary, but I agree that it seemed to work.
  2. After the milk was warm enough, I added about 3 tablespoons of the Stonyfield plain, organic, whole milk yogurt to the milk and stirred it gently until mixed in.
  3. Then I ladled the milk-yogurt mixture into three different sized jars from my cupboard for the yogurt, and the milk-kefir grain mixture into one quart-sized container from Traderspoint Creamery yogurt (I just LOVE their jars, and their yogurt is out-of-this world!). Two of my jars were wide-mouthed, and this helped a great deal with keeping the mess to a minimum. One of the jars is small-mouthed, and that made a bit of a spill on the counter, but overall, I am much happier with the results of using a ladle for this process rather than a funnel.
  4. I placed the jars in my oven with no heat and just the oven light turned on. It’s quite amazing how much heat you can get just from the oven light, and it’s not hot, but it’s just enough for the yogurt to receive what it needs to culture.

Kefir

  1. I used kefir grains from Donna Gates’ Body Ecology web site. The directions say to stir it in, but my jar has a really narrow neck so, I gently shook the jar until it appeared to be mixed in.
  2. Next, I placed the kefir jar on top of my refrigerator to sit overnight. The longer you leave kefir or yogurt, the more cultures it produces. It depends on whether you want less casein and lactose, which is broken down by friendly bacteria during the culturing process. Then I placed all three of my yogurt jars in my oven and just turned the light on.
  3. I checked all jars periodically, but left the yogurt jars in the oven for at least 10 hours before opening it up to see how things were going. The yogurt needed to be in the oven longer, as it appeared to be still too liquidy for good yogurt texture. I took care not to jostle the jars, but very carefully examined the quality of the liquid by turning it very slowly around to look for liquid movement inside.

At the time I checked the yogurt, it was about just before midnight and I had placed the jars in the oven around nine a.m. that same day. I was unsure about leaving it in the oven overnight, but didn’t really want to have to get up just to check it again, especially if it still wasn’t ready. But I was too tired to worry too much, so I just figured the next time I woke up I’d see how things were progressing.

Final results

I woke up around 5:20 a.m. and went into the kitchen to peer at the yogurt. I gently turned one of the jars, and it seemed like it was doing well and solidifying nicely. So I removed all three jars from the oven and placed them in the refrigerator. About 7 hours later I checked one of the jars by opening it and tasting the yogurt. It was delicious!

I gave some to my son with some sliced bananas, and he absolutely loved it. The type of yogurt starter I used made a definite difference in the taste from the previous times. This time I used the Stonyfield Farms yogurt (which is delectable), and my yogurt turned out very similar in taste and texture to this brand.

My kefir turned out great too. I just opened it today and made fruit smoothies out of it for myself and my son, and it was tasty and tangy. I also used Bio Chem Greens and Whey protein powder – it has certified organic greens like chlorella, barley grass, alfalfa juice leaf powder, spirulina, broccoli sprout, kamut, coconut oil, and whey protein (99% undenatured).

www.mypicshares.com

Want more information about probiotics and friendly bacteria? Here’s a detailed article about those topics.

What are your experiences making yogurt and kefir? I’d love to hear from everyone about their experiences, both good and bad, and what worked and what didn’t.

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All Probiotics are NOT Created Equal

There are many important components to maintaining good health. If there was just one thing you could do to alter your overall state of health for the better, stay out of the doctor’s office, and avoid catching each and every virus or bacteria that make you sick enough to call up your boss and say, “I’m not coming in today”, it would be to eat foods naturally rich in probiotics like raw dairy such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and kefir, or to find a good daily probiotic supplement to take. Why?

Of course, eating a healthy diet and getting adequate rest are also really important. But your immune system, located in the intestinal tract, is the epicenter of health. It controls how the body deals with illnesses, bacteria, viruses, and disease. The most integral component of the immune system is healthy bacteria, or probiotics.

This may be a new word to you, but it is so essential to health, learning its meaning and importance to your body’s ability to function properly is more important than most people realize. If you fail to receive appropriate amounts of healthy bacteria along with proper diet and rest, problems will occur. The ratio of “good” to “bad” bacteria in your intestinal tract is ideally about 85/15%. We have trillions of bacteria in our digestive system, so this balance is very challenging to maintain – especially with the average Western or American diet.

Probiotics are the opposite of antibiotics. These living bacterial microorganisms are essential in assisting the body’s naturally occuring flora to repopulate themselves. We have become so accustomed to doctors prescribing antibiotics for illness, we seldom stop to think what those medications are actually doing to the human body. While these drugs may have immediate short-term effects we consider convenient because they allow us to return to our normal everyday activities, antibiotics effectively kill all bacteria in the body. The result is a weakened immune system that is rendered defenseless to other invaders which may come in the future. This includes any viruses as well as unfriendly bacteria that may have mutated into some other strain.

Probiotics prevent and offer protection against a wide-range of health problems. Studies also show that these friendly organisms can actually be responsible for helping to ward off serious diseases such as cancer, Diabetes, and heart disease.

The best way to obtain probiotics from good, healthy sources is to eat or drink raw dairy products such as milk, cream, cheese, butter, and traditionally-fermented foods like home-made yogurt from organic raw milk, kombucha, sauerkraut, and kefir (not usually the store-bought variety – check labels as there are some brands that sell truly healthy, fermented products such as Zukay).

There are also a wonderful variety of lacto-fermented vegetables that are not only rich in nutrients but also provide a wealth of flavor to the diet as well. The process of making these foods produces a by-product called whey (the protein source in dairy) which is used to develop beneficial bacteria in foods that are already nutritious. For some information on preparing vegetables this way, read Getting the Most out of Your Vegetables. Read more about the lacto-fermenetation process on the Weston A. Price Foundation site.

Some practitioners or health consultants may say that probiotics are only necessary to those with gastrointestinal problems, patients who take antibiotics, people who are susceptible to chronic yeast infections, or those who are under a lot of stress. The truth is that most people in developed countries fall into at least one of these catagories and therefore, everyone can benefit from a good quality, daily dose of probiotics. Keep in mind that all probiotics are not the same, and care must be used when choosing the appropriate type for your body. The best way to go about selecting such an important supplement for your health is to visit a healthcare practitioner that uses muscle testing or other effective method, to determine which probiotic will effectively maintain immune system performance at its optimal function. In today’s market, probiotics can be found nearly everywhere from grocery stores to gas stations to health food stores. Choosing the correct type can be overwhelming and confusing.

Where to Find Effective Probiotics

If you choose not to seek guidance from a healthcare practitioner, here is a list of superior probiotic products that will improve your health even without testing:

Complete Probiotics from Mercola.com.

Doctors Formula ultra high potency probiotics – 100 million strains per capsule. Recommended as dietary support for autism and related medical conditions .

Bio-Kult – manufactured in Somerset, U.K., this powerful, effective product contains 14 strains and 2 billion per 2 capsules of friendly bacteria.

Prescript-Assist from SaferMedical. I have taken this product and experienced outstanding results.

Nature’s Life Green Apple Pro-96 Acidophilus Probiotic (also widely available in health food stores around the country). This product is great because its liquid state allows for greater absorp-ability. I have taken this product and experienced outstanding results.

Advanced Naturals – containing 50 billion cultures per capsule, recommended by colon hydrotherapists.

Biotics Research Corporation is an outstanding leader in health supplements. Biotics Research sells various superior quality probiotic supplements. To learn more about Biotics Research and determine which of these is right for you, have a look at their web site and consult a professional practitioner. I have personally taken them for over two years with fantastic results.

A Word About Yogurt

Many people popularly believe the misconception that eating grocery store yogurt is a good way to keep your digestive system working properly. Unfortunately, this practice does not do the job everyone thinks it does. The reality is, even the “organic” labeled products have flaws that prevent our digestive system from reaping the benefits of the important probiotics supposedly contained within the package. One major problem is that 99% of yogurts on the market contain some type of sugar (even so-called “benign” sugars such as maple syrup, evaporated cane juice, or fructose). Sugar is the number one, arch enemy to populating your digestive tract with friendly bacteria. So instead of adding to the good bacteria, the sugar content is simply causing your digestive system more duress by growing more bad bacteria. The second reason yogurt is inferior for promoting good bacteria is that the dairy product itself has been processed and most notably, pasteurized. The process of pasteurization kills most good bacteria, thus rendering the yogurt useless to your digestive tract.

When people ask why I don’t eat most store-bought yogurt anymore, I explain for the reasons above, I don’t want to consume something that is not useful to my health. Although homemade yogurt does take a bit of effort, the health results are worth it. Here is a recipe for making homemade yogurt that leaves good bacteria intact.It’s really much easier than many people would imagine, can turn out exceptionally delicious, and the health benefits it confers are fantastic!

If you are hesitant to embark upon making your own, here are some good brands which sell organic yogurt from grass-fed cows that do provide some nutritional benefit:

Trader’s Point Creamery

Brown Cow

Stonyfield Farm

Beware of products on the mainstream market such as Activia by Dannon and YoPlus by Yoplait. Contrary to product labeling and marketing, these products are not whole foods by any imagination-stretch and do not provide nutrition. They contain ingredients such as corn syrup, sugar, fructose, modified corn starch, and pasteurized dairy that is skim or non-fat (altered and not whole or raw). All of these ingredients spell trouble for the digestive system because they do not guarantee live delivery of necessary bacteria into the intestinal tract and add more toxins to your body. Even though these companies add fruit like strawberries to their product so you will better enjoy the flavor, fruit is an unnecessary additive and may actually inhibit the delivery of friendly bacteria into your gut.

Remember that while all these companies are in business to make money, those listed that produce probiotic supplements are reliable companies working to improve people’s health and have used studies and research to back up their claims, while the others are not presenting the whole truth to their consumers about the effectiveness of their products – nor the manner in which they are produced – and use marketing lingo to sell products. A simple comparison of the net nutritional value of those listed above should clearly reveal the quality of ingredients and efficacy of their use.

Resolution for Allergies

Along with a healthy lifestyle and eating habits, the use of probiotics can also greatly reduce the body’s reaction to allergies of many kinds. A great deal of practitioners and patients alike agree that this type of supplement, when taken properly, is highly effective to greatly reducing and eliminating allergies.

Many people hold the belief that that allergies are triggered by so-called “allergens”, but this is a common misconception. Although the allergen may indeed be the culprit of allergenic symptoms, the underlying cause of allergies is almost always a weakened immune system. A key factor to avoiding allergies in foods is variety and avoidance of foods that cause symptoms. Repeated exposure to the same elements can cause allergies to develop over time. To learn more about how allergies are affected by probiotic use, read this medical journal article from Cambridge University and the Nutrition Society.

What are Prebiotics?

A significant amount of prebiotic foods are also necessary to help maintain this delicate balance of healthy immunity within the body. Prebiotics are a indigestible dietary fiber which trigger the growth of favorable bacteria and subsequently have positive effect on the intestinal flora found in your gut. Together, prebiotics and probiotics help your body in a symbiotic relationship. Prebiotics can be found in foods with sugar. But since sugar itself is an enemy to the body, we must select the correct types of sugar for this need. Here are some foods with good prebiotic content:

  • raw dairy products
  • inulin, found in 36,000 plants, such as:

fruits – apples and bananas

sweet vegetables such as asparagus, garlic, onions, Jerusalem artichokes and leeks

raw apple cider vinegar – mix with water, juice, or over salads with healthy oils such as olive and grapeseed oil

herbs – dandelion, burdock, and chicory root

For more information on probiotics and prebiotics, visit the following sites:

Body Ecology

Mercola.com

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