Tag Archives: fermenting

What My Cat’s Vet Taught Me Before the Probiotic Craze

Several years ago, our veterinarian recommended giving yogurt with live, active cultures to our cats with digestive issues.  He had read some research that said it helps with IBS.

I had no idea.  At that time, I wasn’t a big yogurt person.  All I knew was that I preferred Yoplait’s thick and creamy on the rare occasions I ate yogurt.  (Today I wouldn’t touch it due to the additives, plus it does NOT have live AND active cultures.)

A year or so after our vet suggested yogurt came the Activia commercials with Jamie Lee Curtis.  And then the probiotic pill commercials.  “Buy this to keep your digestion ‘regular,'” the commercials tell us.  Later, my partner’s gastroenterologist actually confirmed that probiotics are necessary.

So, our vet’s knowledge carries over to humans.  Who knew?

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are the live good bacteria that your gut needs to function properly.  Gastroenterologists will actually prescribe a probiotic if you have stomach issues and can’t find any other underlying cause.  Or if they find you do not have any of the necessary good bacteria in your stomach.  That’s what happened to my partner.  She had NO bacteria whatsoever.  While no bad bacteria is a good thing, having no good bacteria is bad.  That can still lead to digestive and other stomach issues.

There is also research that suggests there is a link to gut health and your brain.  While there isn’t a lot of concrete probiotic research yet, there is enough to show this is more than just commercial hype and a new health fad.

If you don’t have digestive issues, you may not need a pill, but eating probiotic rich foods is still a good thing.  Non alcoholic fermented foods (like yogurt) and beverages supply probiotics.  I’m experimenting with fermented foods myself, but for now I’ll focus on yogurt.

What yogurts are the best?

My yogurt
My yogurt

As I said, CHECK THE LABEL.  The probiotics are the live AND active cultures.   My personal preference is to have at least L. acidophilus and B. lactis on the culture listas these are two of the three probiotics in my partner’s doctor prescribed Florajen3.  There are many other cultures, as well, that may be just as beneficial since which probiotics are the best still seems to be a guessing game.  So, if you see live and active cultures, at this point you don’t need to stress over what they are.  Unless you really want to stress over it.

I also recommend that you know everything that’s in your yogurt.  I now make my own yogurt (including strawberry yoplait-style for my partner).  The best yogurt is too expensive, and I want control over what’s in my yogurt and how it tastes.  If you still want to buy your yogurt, just read the label.  There are yogurts (like Siggi’s, a thick Icelandic style yogurt) that use just milk and cultures for their plain yogurt.

And for the record, Dannon’s Activia has their own patented culture.  But I’m not aware of any independent research that actually says their probiotic is better than any others.  If you check their ingredient list, Activia only says it has active cultures, and also has one of the rare ingredients that I recommend you stay away from . . .

http://activia.us.com/probiotic-yogurt/products/activia-black-cherry
http://activia.us.com/probiotic-yogurt/products/activia-black-cherry

Carrageenan!  That’s a known cancer causing ingredient that’s used as a thickener in quite a few dairy (and non-dairy milk) products.  Research also indicates it can promote glucose intolerance than can lead to diabetes, and exacerbate the condition if you already have it.  The Food Babe and her followers have put pressure on organic companies to remove it, and several are now phasing out their use of carrageenan.  I don’t like to be a food alarmist, but this is one additive I will not knowingly ingest.

In a later post, I will share my yogurt making recipes and tips.  If you want to start now, feel free to do a google search.  There are tons of how-to pages.

Yogurt is super easy to make, so if you have any cooking skills at all, you can do it!

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How NOT To Brew Beer

My first brewing experience was a disaster learning experience.  The first bottle of beer I tried over the weekend was flat and had a hint of yeast, so it didn’t fully ferment.  I do have a second bottle in the fridge being “conditioned” that I put in a couple days later, so we’ll see if the extra fermentation/carbonation time helps at all.  Since I hate waste, I’ve been doctoring it up Michelada style so that I can tolerate it.  From what I’ve read, it’s not going to kill me, and I’ve downed one bottle with no adverse effects.

I did start with a clearanced Mr. Beer kit, too, with a beer style I don’t drink myself and with a best by date of a year ago (noticed that after I got home), so I didn’t start with the best of ingredients.  I did have the foresight at least to figure my first go would be a learning experience no matter what, and I didn’t want to shell out more than $50 for my first batch, and the Mr. Beer kit gave me a way I could do it for even less than $50.

IMG_20150713_122251
How do you get your Mr. Beer keg to look so funky?! Read on . . .

Now, I had the pre-fermentation process down pretty well, if I do say so myself, and sterilized everything as directed.  I had started making my own yogurt a few months ago, which is simply a different fermented food, and only had one mishap which I was able to correct by just re-doing the incubation process, so I started brewing with some fermenting experience under my belt.  I still have a perfect yogurt record, knock on wood.  Fermenting things that start with BEE are still taking work (I had a less than perfect fermented beet issue last week), but I’ll be posting on my various fermenting projects during the summer.  I still take issue that beer isn’t considered a healthful fermented product like yogurt, kombucha (fermented tea that can have alcoholic traces), and other fermented foods, but whatever.

Anyhow–here’s what I need to work on for a better beer:

  1. Be careful of your ingredients’ ages.  The mix was a year past the “best by” date.  The wort was probably OK to use, but yeast can get finicky.  For those of you that bake yeast breads, you know what I’m talking about.
  2. Be obsessively mindful of the temperature.  Even though I started the first week in June, the nightly temps here were not warm enough to keep our old farmhouse in the optimal 68-78 degree yeast fermentation stage, and I wasn’t diligent about checking the room temperature for the first few days, and even longer before I figure out where I could put it to regulate the temperature.  Even old yeast may still give it a go if the conditions are right.  After my yogurt mishap, I realized how to solve the “too cold at night” temp problem, but I’m sure my yeast was already dead by then (and when I finally did try my method, I didn’t quite do it right, which you’ll see in # 4).  Even though nights were cool, my elderly yeast did give a good try the first week–there was minimal bubbly yeast activity at least, but it never reached the level described.
  3. Try a type of beer you actually like.  You may actually know if your beer tastes like the real thing or not.  Granted, I got what was on clearance, and they were all American Light style.  I don’t drink big-name American beers, much less light/lite styles, so this really could be how the beer should taste, just with more carbonation.  I do have some MIlwaukee’s Best on hand for when we cook up brats (that’s bratwurst, folks, not bratty kids).  I may have to do a reluctant taste test for comparison.
  4. Never, EVER, turn on the oven with a Mr. Beer Keg IN IT.  The keg is plastic and doesn’t do heat well (plus, the brew should NOT get over 78 F anyway, regardless of what it’s in).  Even if you say “I’ll just turn in on for a few minutes and then turn it off when it’s at the right 70 degree temp.”  Only takes me a few minutes to get busy with something else and remember to check it AFTER I smell melting plastic.  My photo is the result.  The keg used to look like a smooth barrel and the lid used to fit.  Fortunately, my beer was already “done” with it’s keg time at that point, and the yeast was already dead prior to this debacle, so I was able to still bottle it.  I’ve heard of keeping the oven light on to keep a nice temp, so guess I should finally replace my oven light.

So, all in all, not a bad first attempt.  There are tons of things that can give beer an “off” flavor during brewing, so I’m satisfied with my end result considering it could have been worse.

Thanks to learning the hard way I’ll be OBSESSIVE with temperature control next time–and remember to NOT turn on the oven with a brew fermenting inside.

Anyone have any good beer or fermenting stories?  Please share!