Prolonging Shelf Life of Many Varieties of Fresh Food Through a Natural Culture Process
A GENERAL RUN DOWN
The recipe and process explained here, can be implemented as a natural preservation for a variety of fresh food. This is due to the powerful antioxidant of kefir which is also produced when fermenting other foods with the organisms of kefir grains. Such foods include Tofu [soy bean curd], Bocconcini or fresh mozzarella, Tempeh [mold fermented soybeans], Ricotta, cottage cheese fresh Pecorino [sheep's milk cheese] and others. In fact, fresh or cooked cereal grains, fresh or cooked legumes, fresh vegetables, meat and fish all can enjoy an extended shelf-life.
This is achieved by storing the food-product in Kefir Preserving Brine [KPB], stored in a sealed container in the fridge. To further increase the preservative potential of the food product of choice, all one needs to do is renew, or refresh the KPB each week or fortnightly with fresh ingredients. This will ensure that the kefir is active, inhibiting unwanted organisms from contaminating the food product, which will normally spoil in little time without KPB.
Each time the brine is renewed, the keeping time is extended by a minimum of another two weeks. I find in most cases one can keep doing this indefinitely until a point is reached where the product ripens or matures, due to secondary fermentation. This give you a new end product, which should me more alkalising and much more easier to digest compared to the original food.
NOTE After 2 weeks, the process will change the end food product regarding taste and texture including bio-availabilty of the food's nutritional components. This is due to ripening under controlled conditions much like ripening cheese. The process renders the finished product as a variation of the original food. In one case at least, this rendition may not be desirable. This is mainly due to certain properties of the final product being lost or gained regarding texture and taste including other qualities, such as protein structure. As an example, with Tofu, after about 1 month of cold storage under KPB, the texture of the tofu is not as light as fresh tofu, when the ripened tofu is deep fat fried, compared to deep fat fried fresh tofu. The latter renders fat-fried tofu with a delicate spongy texture. This may be desirable for a specific dish.
This is because the protein of tofu is altered due to being broken down by enzymes. Also, the pH of the bean curd is lowered [becomes acidic], which will effect the texture when cooking the product. This is also true for any cheese intended to be preserved in this fashion. Although with cheese, it may acquire a kefir-like or acidic flavour, which I personally enjoy, it will be more alkaline forming than the original product, through the process of digestion This is true for any food type preserved with KPB.
With tempeh however, the product remains much the same regarding taste, but with long term ripening, the texture of tempeh will be softened. Again, this is due to tenderising the protein, or pre-digested. Cooked legumes initially become a little sweeter, then a little sourer due to the production of acetic and lactic acid, until a point is reached where the pre-cooked legumes become slightly naturally carbonated, due to bacteria and yeasts digesting the starches and sugars, producing carbon dioxide. This may take about 2 weeks to occur. However, under normal storage conditions, by this time cooked or raw legumes would spoil or go off. The storage of legumes however, will eliminate compounds that give the consumer of beans flatulence, because the unwanted compounds that produce wind are broken down through the process of fermentation. This is also true for other unwanted compounds, such as oxalates and phytates found in seeds, nuts and cereal grains. Yes, whole uncooked cereal grains may be stored in KPB for a week before cooked, to eliminate unwanted nutrient locking agents such as phytates found in the bran of most cereal grains. Starches are also reduced during the storage process, which is favourable for low carbohydrate devotees, including diabetics.
PET DOG FOOD IDEAS
For those with a pet dog like us, mixing kefir with diced fresh raw meat can certainly benefit the dog, and the owner, too. In fact, mixing kefir with fresh meat is taking the diet of a pet dog closer to the habit of the wild dog, where leftovers of a fresh kill, the remaining carcase is buried underground. Little does the dog know that not only is it protecting it's next meal from other nosey predictors and scavengers, the soil organisms begin to work on the buried meat, producing proteolytic enzymes, which breakdown the protein of raw meat, making it more digestible, and increasing some vitamin content.
In the case with kefir, we find that fresh meat with the addition of kefir, keeps in the fridge for quite some time. It improves over time. A general guide is to add say 1 cup kefir to each 500gm [1 pound] fresh raw meat, 1 raw egg, 1/2 cup desiccated coconut, 1/2 cup rice bran or oat bran, 1/4 cup wheat germ, 1 Tbs each of ground bone meal and ground eggshell, 1/4 cup chopped parsley leaf, dandelion leaf or other fresh greens, 1 medium finely grated carrot or other root vegetable. The ingredients are mixed well and then stored in a sealed container in the fridge.
We purchase enough fresh meat for our 2 dogs, a small Jack Rascal cross and an American Staffordshire, to last a week, working with the above ratio of all ingredients. All the dogs I've owned, have had so much vigour and energy, that at times I wished I had them on a junk food diet, just to slow them down, so I could keep up with them :) [just kidding].
As an end note, it is of great importance that pet dogs including pet cats fast one day per week, leaving the animal with plenty of water to drink as they want. I have practiced 2 day per week where all the dogs I've owned, fast on water one day per week, and the following day the dog has a vegetable broth twice that day. For the other 5 days, the dog get two meals a day, one morning meal consists of cooked veggies with bone broth, and the evening meal consists of kefir fermented raw meat as per above. In winter months our dog [and or cats] get cod liver oil added to the morning meal, say 1 Tsp for a small dog, and 1 Tbs for a large dog.
In the case of infection that any of our pets may suffer, we resort to kefir given with large doses of Cod Liver Oil as explained at my Cod Liver Oil web page.
KPB is prepared as a solution of kefir or kefir-whey mixed with water, or pure kefiraride. You can also add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, or, one tablespoon of naturally brewed unpasteurized soy sauce as an option, which adds extra flavour and gives the product a better keeping quality with better protein breaking down property [only is using non pasteurised soy sauce].
The brine should completely cover the food-product that you want to preserve. Store in a sealed container and refrigerate This will naturally preserve the food for about one to two weeks or longer, depending on amount of kefir to water ratio used for preparing the KPB.
Extending Keeping Time
To extend the keeping time of the product/s for longer than one or two weeks, for best results, renew the KPB solution on a weekly or fortnightly basis. You can keep doing this every week or two for as long as needed, doing so, renewing the keeping time, time after time. This is the marvellous property of kefir in that, at low temperatures, KPB acts to naturally inhibits spoilage. This is due to the complex microflora of kefir including the powerful antioxidant it contains, which remains active at low temperatures. The low pH value of KPB also contributes by inhibiting weed microorganisms, which normally causes food to spoil.
TIPS and Variations
Try preserving fresh or cooked fruits, including fresh avocado and banana in KBP. In the case with sweet fruits, it is best to omit salt or soy sauce as part ingredients. Although a little soy sauce for preserving Avocado with KPB does give better flavour.
Try including seed spices such as caraway, dill, fennel and anise seed, in powder form. About 1/2 tsp of each or any combination is good. Fresh cloves of crushed garlic and a piece of fresh ginger or 1 tbs of dry ginger powder is also good. Fresh herbs such as oregano, coriander [cilantro], thyme and mint etc. can be included. A 1/4 cup of red or white wine or rice wine is also a possibility.
Benefits and other Options
Research has shown that nitrites, nitrates including oxalates and other unfavourable compounds such as phytates are reduced or eliminated when soaking the food containing these compounds in kefir for some period of time. Also, since sugars are reduced through secondary fermentation [over time], Diabetics can enjoy many varieties of foods such as sweet fresh or dry fruits, which are normally problematic when consumed fresh or in a dry state. Dry fruits such as raisins, sultanas, and sun Muscat, dry fig and apricots and dates etc., which are normally restricted for Type 2 Diabetes, may be soaked in KPB for a few days before consumed without a problem for the consumer in most cases.
To reduce sugar content in such fruits, prepare the above KPB recipe, but omit salt. Try 1 Tbs each of fresh chopped mint leaves and cinnamon powder, for the latter has shown to be beneficial for Type 2 Diabetes. Soak fresh or dry fruit in KPB for 24 to 48 hours at room temperature in a jar with a lid fitted loosely to keep out dust and insects. The same recipe can be used for any fresh fruit. The longer it stands the greater sugar reduction. It is wise to soak for no longer than 2 days at room temperature, and then store in the fridge. Note that the produce will continue to brew in the fridge, further reducing sugar content. As a word of caution, a small amount of alcohol will be produced with any sweet fruit, depending on sugar content and storage period and conditions e.g. room temperature will produce more alcohol than fridge storage.
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