I’m headed off to Alaska for what I’m predicting will be a wonderful vacation. My beloved parents will be married 45 years this week (Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!) and so we’re spending 2 WEEKS with them to celebrate. My last no-work vacation was in 2012, so needless to say, I am extraordinarily excited to be leaving my kitchen, my lovely, new office and my laptop behind.
You know who’s not that excited? My microbes. They’re a little irritated, I’m sensing, that they’re going to be thoroughly neglected, but they’ll survive and be ready and waiting for a hearty meal when I return. There’s more than one way to do this, but elaborate freezing and drying schemes aren’t for me, especially when I’m prepping to be away from my business for two weeks (I’ve got enough to do!). I’ve had other cultures to worry about in the past, but the busy-ness of book-writing shaved my collection down to the stuff my husband and I eat very regularly.
Kombucha SCOBYs: I feed before leaving and do not give a second thought. SCOBYs tolerate the high acid medium they create very well. I’ve left mine for months at room temperature, and ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAPPENED, and that was an inferior SCOBY to the great one I have now. If you’re going for months, make sure to leave your SCOBY in a large container with a lot of brew. The only reason for that is that they’ll eat all the liquid and become enormous and can, theoretically, dry out. I’ve heard stories of this drying out, but I’ve never witnessed it or seen photos, so I take it all with a grain of salt.
Basically what I’m saying is kombucha SCOBYs are extremely resilient and don’t need any fussing. Just let it sit there while you enjoy your sand and sun.
Matsoni Heirloom, Mesophilic Yogurt Culture: This cultured overnight last night and then was moved to the fridge. I know from experience that this very excellent culture will survive just fine for two weeks, but I’ve had other yogurt cultures lose their ability to reculture during the same time period. If you haven’t tested the strength of your culture, it’s best to have someone feed it at 10 days, but most heirloom cultures can survive, in my experience, so don’t stress too much about it.
Bulgarian Thermophilic Heirloom Yogurt Culture (from Cultures for Health): I cultured this today (leaving tomorrow) and I’m crossing my fingers. I haven’t tested this one, but I’m already asking my house-sitters to water my roof garden, I’m not asking them to make yogurt, too. I have high hopes! Dehydrating is an option for all the yogurt cultures I’ve kept, but that’s not something I have time to do before this particular trip.
Milk Kefir Grains: Most milk kefir instructions say to store in the fridge and feed at least once a week. I cultured these today, and I’ll be storing them in the fridge for 2 weeks. They’ll be just fine. In fact, they’ll be better than fine; in my experience, milk kefir grains enjoy a little bit of a resting period in the fridge. They tend to multiply more readily after a rest.
I’m also taking a small amount of grains in my 3 oz “liquid” bag, and an empty pint jar, chopstick and fine mesh strainer in my luggage. I have the embarrassing distinction of being unable to swallow pills without a thick liquid (I always use kefir), so I need a bit with me to help me get my supplements down. Yes, yes, judge all you will. It’s completely mental, but whatevs, kefir does the trick for me.
Water Kefir Grains: This is where I’m glad I spent a bit more to get a bit more. I’ve had previous water kefir cultures die with just 10 days in the fridge without a feeding. My Yemoos grains (not sponsored in any way) are approximately 1,000,000 times more resilient to neglect than grains I had previously. While writing my book, I forgot about them/could literally not find 3 minutes to feed them for 2 months and, to my great surprise, they bounced back beautifully after just two feedings. They did smell a bit like beer when I first pulled them out, but honestly, the brew tastes just the same now, with lovely fizz, and healthy, plump grains.
To store these grains for 2 weeks, I feed them normally two days before leaving and let them culture. Once they’re fermented to my liking, I drain the finished water kefir and rinse my grains in filtered, room temperature water. I then put them in a clean jar, and fill it with filtered water. I secure the lid and store them in the fridge during my absence.
Sourdough starter: My sourdough starter got a final feeding and then moved to the fridge. It will undoubtedly accrue an unsightly blackish liquid in my absence, but once I pour that off and feed it, it will be as good as new when I return. Ready to pump out some truly excellent breads.
Ginger bug: I don’t use my bug that often, so it normally stays in the fridge for 2 weeks at a time between feedings. If you’re doing this length of fridge storage, make sure you have an active bug before you put it in the cool zone. I have had ginger bugs get a little vinegar-y in the fridge. If that happens, unfortunately it’s time to make a new ginger bug, which is pretty easy to do.
My vegetable ferments, booze and and other longer-term ferments are fine, continuing to culture while I’m away. I actually like to start a few batches of pickles or kraut right before I leave town, so that I have a tasty, healthful surprise waiting when I return. How do you care for your culture creatures while you’re out of town?
*PS – If you are a weird robber who somehow knows where I live, please note that there are two very protective dogs, one a pit bull, staying at my house with a couple (probably) tough humans. Robbery attempts may be met with chewed off limbs.
PPS-As you probably figured out, I’m not here! I have posts scheduled for the next two weeks, so definitely stop by for your dose of ferments. I’ll approve and reply to any comments when I’m back from Alaska!