The condition of our gut determines every aspect of our mental and physical well-being. When our intestinal flora is out of whack, a multitude of health problems are quite sure to follow, from the obvious symptoms of sluggish and inefficient digestion to the potential for more serious problems, including auto-immune disorders, such as celiac sprue, and neurological imbalances, such as autism. By focusing on restoring the beneficial microflora in our guts, we have the ability to create an army of bacteria that is ready to neutralize the toxins we are exposed to in our daily lives.
One of the simplest ways to get a daily dose of “good” bacteria is through lactic acid cultured dairy. For example, you can use probiotic-rich buttermilk in a host of other foods, such as smoothies, marinades, dressings, and dips. You can also drink it straight from the bottle. Making buttermilk at home is fairly effortless and very cost-effective. And if you have access to raw milk, which is already teeming with beneficial bacteria, you will be getting a double-whammy by culturing it.
For this recipe, you will need to start the initial batch with a store-bought freeze-dried starter, but after that, you should be able to continue the culturing process on a regular basis, using a small amount of culture from your previous batch. I prefer the Heirloom Starter from http://www.culturesforhealth.com, which I have found to be reliable and very easy to work with. The instructions below are a summary of the instructions that accompany their Heirloom Starter.
*Please read the instructions carefully regarding raw milk. Because your mother culture has a harder time competing with the bacteria already present in raw milk, you will need to first pasteurize the milk you will use in your mother culture. From here on in, when you make the buttermilk from this starter, you will not be pasteurizing the milk. It will be a raw milk buttermilk.
1. Activating the mother culture: In a small glass jar, stir one packet (1 gram) of freeze-dried buttermilk starter into 1 cup of pasteurized milk. Mix thoroughly. Cover with a clean towel or a coffee filter and secure with a rubber band. Leave the mixture to culture, undisturbed, in a warm, draft-free location (about 70–77 degrees), for approximately 12–24 hours, until the culture is set (it should pull away from the side of the jar when tipped and not be runny (like the consistency of yogurt). Remove the coffee filter from the jar, cover with a lid, and refrigerate for 6 hours to halt the culturing process.
- To quick-pasteurize raw milk for your mother culture, bring milk to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 6 minutes, then allow to cool to room temperature before proceeding.
- If using raw milk, it is very important to always retain at least 1 tablespoon of pure mother culture in order to continue the process. I make a lot of raw buttermilk. Because of this, I immediately make a second batch of mother culture after I have made the initial 1 cup, using a ratio of 1 part culture to 4 parts milk. In other words, I take the first 1 cup of mother culture I have made and combine it with 4 cups of newly pasteurized milk to make 5 cups total culture. This way, I am sure to always have some culture on hand for when I need it. Don’t fret; if you forget to save some, you can always start from scratch, using the freeze-dried starter.
2. Making the buttermilk: In a glass jar, stir 1 tablespoon of mother culture into 1 cup of cold milk, which can be unpasteurized. Cover with a towel or coffee filter, and secure with a rubber band. Leave the mixture to culture, undisturbed, in a warm, draught-free location (about 70–77 degrees), for approximately 12–18 hours, until thickened. Remove coffee filter from jar, cover with a lid, and refrigerate for 6 hours to halt the culturing process.
3. Maintaining the culture: It is important to retain the integrity of your mother culture. If you’re using raw milk, you will need to make a new batch of pure mother culture every 7 days, by following step 1 above. If using pasteurized milk, you will need to make a new batch of buttermilk every 7 days by combining a small amount of buttermilk from your previous batch with fresh milk, at a ratio of 1:4 (1 tablespoon for every cup of milk) and leave the mixture to culture according to the instructions in step 2.
Any blue cheese you like may be used in this tasty, refreshing dressing. I really like Gorgonzola, as I find it very mild and creamy tasting. If you prefer a sharper taste, try a Roquefort or Maytag. This salad lends itself quite nicely to grilled meats, and it’s delicious served over a bed of arugula. Make a double batch of dressing to have on hand for dipping veggie sticks or homemade spicy chicken wings. Dressing will keep refrigerated for 7 to 10 days.
2 large heirloom tomatoes, thickly sliced, about 2 pounds
1/2 cup thinly sliced Vidalia onion
2 sprigs fresh basil, roughly torn
Chive blossoms, for garnish
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
1/4 cup mayonnaise (homemade or store-bought, preferably canola-free)
2 tablespoons fresh buttermilk
2 oz. crumbled blue cheese
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon chopped chives
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
Arrange tomatoes in a serving dish or platter. Top with thinly sliced Vidalia onion. Season lightly with salt and liberally with freshly cracked pepper. Garnish with torn basil and chive flowers. Drizzle with dressing, and serve.
To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:
·chemical- and hormone-free meat
·pastured-raised, organic eggs
·whole, unrefined grains
·virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
·whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
·pure, clean, spring water
·raw and/or cultured milk and cream products
For more on raw milk, check out The Untold Story of Milk