Marinated Kefir Cheese

Marinated kefir cheese balls

Serve them in a bowl or on toothpicks with olives or tomatoes

While my lifestyle for the past year + (work, work, work) has not allowed for it much, I LOVE entertaining. Having friends over for quiet dinner parties with great conversation and wine, or for ragers that span from brunch til dawn and include sourdough waffle bars and lots of dancing is a pleasure that I sorely miss.

Whatever the event, I love to serve small bites to whet the appetite and, of course, they frequently include a wide variety of ferments. One of my favorite is a a take on the traditional mini-skewers of mozzarella balls, grape tomatoes and a basil leaf. Although I do enjoy making cultured mozzarella, there’s an easier cheese out there, and it requires no special cheese cultures.

I make little kefir cheese balls, (bocconcini-style) and I marinate them. It’s seriously easy and very customizable with herbs and spices.

Straining kefir cheese

If you’re seeing a cracked texture rather than smooth, crumbles are a better option than marinated kefir balls.

The key to this recipe is to time the kefir draining so that the consistency is dry enough to hold together, but not so dry that it starts to crumble. This can take anywhere from 8 to 24 hours. The quickest way is to let the strained kefir sit on the counter in a covered container until the whey separates. Make a hole and pour off the whey before starting your strain. If this is difficult or too time-consuming at the start, just pour the whole thing into your cheesecloth-lined fine-mesh strainer and give it time to lose its liquid.

Click to see how to make probiotic kefir bocconcini

5 Colorful, Spring Recipes For a Festive Easter Table

 

Fermented Pickled Eggs for EasterA few pretty plates of pickles on a holiday table can be a great way to initiate family members into the cult of fermentation love. I recommend setting out a small but colorful array and I really recommend not forcing them on anyone! If they’re appealing enough, folks will taste and if they like the taste, they’ll be new converts, batting for team fermentation. Here are a few of my favorites to set out in a colorful array.

Asparagus Pickles – These simple pickles are a cheeseboard favorite in my house and they’re one great way to preserve the fleeting season. Asparagus pickles beautifully, but what I like best for display is the color. The tender stems fade to a perfect, mossy green that evokes spring rain in the forest.

Asparagus pickles in front of a cheese board

Asparagus season means asparagus pickles!

Rhubarb Pickles – Tart, tangy and quintessentially spring, these probiotic pickles will surprise and delight your guests. If pie isn’t your thing, or if you’re just looking for a different way to use rhubarb, this is it!

Rhubarb pickles are the epitome of spring.

Rhubarb pickles are the epitome of spring.

Carrot Ginger Pickles – You can always feed any (unlikely) extras to the easter bunny!

Ginger Carrot fermented Pickles

Classic carrot pickles will please your inner rabbit.

Chioggia Beet Kvass – No need for the inhabitants of the kids’ table to feel left out, and with a glass of super tasty hot pink liquid, they won’t!

Chioggia beets for fermentation in kvass

The final kvass is a gorgeous hot pink!

Decorative Pickled Eggs – These will wow. Results will vary based on how cracked your shells are, which ferments you use for coloring and the time you let them soak in the goodies, but there aren’t many bad choices. Kids and adults alike will love these as an edible treat or a centerpiece.

I hope you’re as excited as I am about the dawn of spring!

Celery Radish Pickles

Spring celery pickles for st patricks dayIt’s been a long, long while since I’ve done a veg ferment here, but whether or not the calendar agrees, spring has sprung and I’m in the mood to pickle spring things. Furthermore, I’ve been Irish-American by marriage for 5.5 years now, and this pickle is a lovely, light shade of spring green. Perhaps it’s not the shade of a St. Patrick’s Day parade, but I still consider it a respectful nod to St. Patrick’s Day.

Celery may be a surprising vegetable to ferment (or maybe not, you tell me). It ferments very nicely, especially when done with another vegetable in the mix, and the flavors are super fun. It generally remains quite crispy, unless the stalk are very thin (garden- or farm stand-style) or very old and reedy. Although I’m a fan of fermenting vegetables that are a touch past their prime, I don’t recommend fermenting those older celery stalks. The aforementioned reediness gets in the way of my enjoyment, and they don’t tend to crisp up as well as some back of the crisper vegetables do (see photos of the radish I used for this ferment).

green meat radish and celery for St Patricks day

Choice of vegetables is always important. While a radish that’s a little aged will ferment wonderfully, I don’t personally like using older celery for fermentation.

Celery Radish Pickles Recipe

Yield: 1 quart

If you don’t have access to heirloom radishes or daikons, you can absolutely substitute whatever radishes you have on hand. Just be aware that the color will be impacted. Green meat radishes (pictured) are pretty spicy, but spicy radishes aren’t a requirement for this recipes. If you’re new to fermented pickling, check out the Pickle Basics Guide before you get going.

  • 4 large stalks celery
  • 1/2 pound (225 g) radish, preferably green meat or daikon, but any radish will do
  • ~2 cups (470 ml) brine (1 tablespoon (19 g) of kosher salt + 2 cups ( 470 ml) filtered water)
  1. Rinse and trim celery stalks and radish. remove any soft or unappealing spots on the vegetables, but leave the peels otherwise in tact.
  2. If using a cylindrical radish (such as daikon or green meat) slice into 1-inch thick rounds and quarter each round. If using small cherry bell radishes, halve. If using larger, heirloom radishes, cut into 3/4-inch cubes. Cut celery stalks crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces.
  3. Place half of the celery pieces into a quart jar. Place the radish quarters on top, then add the remaining celery. This is particularly nice looking with daikon or bright colored radishes (black radishes are great) but your brine will be murkier with anything but white or green and you won’t necessarily get the pale green colored pickles that make me sing spring.
  4. When all the vegetables are in the jar, there should be roughly 1 1/2 inches of space left at the top of the jar. Pour brine into the jar until the vegetables are just covered. Apply your weight, cover your jar and leave at room temperature for 5 days to 2 weeks.
  5. If you’re new to fermented pickling, taste at 7 days. If they taste sour enough, they’re done. If you think they could use a bit more oomph, put the weight back on, cover and let sit for several more days. I prefer these at 2 weeks.
  6. Once they’ve reached your desired acidity, remove the weight, close the jar lid tightly and store in the fridge.
Green meat radish and celery pickles

A thick round of green meat radish pairs great with celery when quartered.

Chocolate Cream Water Kefir

Chocolate Cream Water Kefir probiotic soda

Regular readers will know that I love decadent versions of healthful, fermented drinks. I made quite a few delightfully decadent drinks for my water kefir class last week, which was a blessing and a curse. I had to cancel the class at the last minute, which left me with 10 water kefir kits, partially assembled, a gallon of water kefir grains, and 3 gallons of water kefir of various flavors. There were plenty of well-tested recipes, but also a few things I threw in, just for fun. This is the “just for fun” recipe that turned out way better than expected. It is now on the repeat request list (I’m 10 batches in two weeks after I first made it) and I have a feeling I”ll be making a batch at least weekly until death does part my husband and I.

Cocoa nibs for flavoring water kefir or tibicos

It’s easy to make, too. I was initially concerned that the addition of alcohol (in the form of vanilla extract) might make the oh-so-desirable water kefir fizz fizzle out. As it turns out, not at all. This little bit of vanilla didn’t seem to change a whole lot other than making the flavor rich and creamy, like a cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows.

Speaking of creamy, ever wonder where the “cream” in “cream soda” comes from? It’s vanilla! From my past working with some serious vanilla folks, I know firsthand that there are many, many variations in vanilla flavor, some creamier than others. If you’re making your own vanilla extract, I recommend a blend of beans from Madagascar and Uganda for uniquely wonderful flavors. My preferred version of this is made with vanilla extract I made with rum, but any vanilla extract, including store-bought, will do just fine.

Chocolate Cream Water Kefir from Phickle

The nibs float at the start but mostly sink after a few hours.

New to Water Kefir? Check out the basics of water kefir here first.

Ready for the Recipe? Click here.