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HOW TO: Make Essential Food 2 - Fermented Dairy

This is the the second post on the Essential Foods series. I was going to write about Fermented Foods in general, but to be honest, I'm not sure that blogging a war and peace novel is all that attractive to all of you time-poor 21st century people. Fermented foods are SO important, and quite varied, and each type comes with it's own probiotic profile that deserves individual attention.

So I am going to talk first about fermented dairy products: Yoghurt and Sour Cream.

I'll start with these, because it is very handy to have had some practice making your own yoghurt, and dripping your own whey liquid out of it. This whey liquid can then be use to make a lacto-fermented sauerkraut, which is the next Essential Food!

Nothing goes to waste, because that is how we roll here at Good Mood Food.

From the GAPS website (

"Fermented foods are essential to introduce, as they provide probiotic microbes in the best possible form. Supplements of probiotics settle in the upper parts of the digestive system and generally do not make it all away down to the bowel, while fermented foods will carry probiotic microbes all away down to the end of the digestive system. Fermentation predigests the food, making it easy for our digestive systems to handle. Fermentation releases nutrients from the food, making them more bio-available for the body: for example sauerkraut contains 20 times more bio-available vitamin C than fresh cabbage.Fermented foods should always be introduced gradually: they are teaming with probiotic bacteria and live enzymes which may cause a “die-off reaction”."

{Explanation pause}: This is when the pathogenic bacteria in your gut release their stored toxins into your system as they die. It's a good sign: it shows you a) that you have too much pathogenic bacteria and you are doing the right thing, and b) it is a sign that the fermented food is working, and therefore helping to heal you. Everyone's die-off reaction are different. My daughter gets a rash under her chin, and her behaviour gets a it worse for a day or two. My son, however, gets cramps in his legs, which can only be settled by rubbing magnesium oil on the soles of his feet. This tells us that when he has die-off, his body uses up all his stores of minerals, especially magnesium. He has a hard time absorbing magnesium and other minerals because of the state of his GI tract.

"You’ll meet people who will tell you that they “cannot tolerate” fermented foods: the reason is that they suddenly had a sizeable helping of a fermented food and got a serious “die-off reaction”. Never start from more than 1 teaspoon of any probiotic food per day. Depending on the severity of the condition, different people can introduce fermented foods quicker or slower. Start with 1 teaspoon a day, and if there is a reaction, either settle at that amount or reduce it to half a teaspoon for a few days. Continue increasing the daily amount of the fermented food gradually keeping the “die-off reaction” under control. It is a good idea to introduce no more than 1 or 2 fermented foods at a time. I usually recommend to start from homemade yoghurt and juice from homemade sauerkraut, which in many cases can be introduced at the same time."

Homemade yoghurt and sour cream (and whey!):

Making my own yoghurt and sour cream makes me feel good inside. I don't just mean figuratively. I feel GOOOOOD in my belly. I really notice when I don't have it in my diet on a daily basis, which is one of the reasons that I feel that it is an essential food for all families.

Now, I am not talking about the yoghurt that you buy in the store. It just simple doesn't cut it for a number of reasons:

1) It is made from highly processed, pasteurised and homogonised milk. This process of heating our milk and then processing it so that you can't see the cream is one of the worst things we do to one of our best nutritional sources, in my humble opinion. You wonder why so many people are lactose intolerant? It's because of the damage that is done to all the wonderful bacterial and healing properties that exist in raw milk from organic, grass-fed cows. We have destroyed a valuable nutritional real food, and it sucks.

2) Commercial yoghurt is not fermented for long enough, which means there is still lactose and casein in the product, which is food for candida and other pathogenic bacteria, as well as being an allergenic/ intolerant trigger for many people. Also, there are simply not enough bacteria in the commercial varieties to make them an Essential Food.

You just have to suck it up and make your own. Luckily for you, it's a real buzz!

It may take you a little time to get your head around using raw milk. Raw milk has been demonised as being full of dangerous bacteria that can kill you. That's a distortion of the truth that has become an accepted fact, as so many things do these days, and it always makes me a bit angry. When cows are raised to poor health standards, including being fed grains when their digestive system have been proved to struggle with anything other than grass, undigested food can get trapped in one of their four stomachs, and become a target for bad bacteria, which makes its way into the milk: such as listeria or e.coli. For my family, we have decided that the health benefits of using raw dairy products far outweigh the risks, so we have leapt in with both feet. I grew up drinking raw milk on my best friends farm, so it is very familiar to me, and it also suits my firm belief that when food is raw and clean and real, it is better for our human health. Also, because we are on the GAPS diet, we aren't yet drinking raw milk, but we are fermenting it, which drastically reduces the risk of listeriosis. The more the dairy is fermented, the healthier it becomes, apparently!

I met a Vet the other day, and she told me that she recommends NEVER serving unpasteurised dairy to animals because it is so detrimental to their health. I was stunned. It's funny (but not ha ha funny) how we would never feed processed, packaged, sugary foods to our animals, because it would make them sick...ha ha hmmmm.

Fermented dairy is an intimidating thing to make, because you really have to keep an eye on it, especially if you are heating it. About heating: you can ABSOLUTELY make yoghurt from raw milk by simply stirring in the yoghurt starter, and putting your jars in your selected warm spot for 24hours. The GAPS book says: "Only pasteurised milk needs heating, as pasteurisation makes milk vulnerable to contamination by pathogenic microbes. Raw milk is usually well protected by its own probiotic bacteria and other factors."

About heating the milk:

If you are making raw yoghurt, the texture is not as consistent as home pasteurised yoghurt. if you don't heat the milk, then you have all the naturally occurring bacteria in the raw milk, and your yoghurt starter has to fight with it in order to eat the lactose and create the yoghurt. With this method, you will often get a bit more whey, sometimes you will get 'chunky' yoghurt. It is very very good for you, but my kids rejected it in the beginning while they still had textural issues.So when we began GAPS, I heated up my raw milk to make sure I got a consistent texture. It is almost sacrilege, but it IS so much less damaging to the milk than commercial pasteurisation.

Once my kids healed from textural processing issues, we started making raw yoghurt. It is SO MUCH quicker, which can be very important when you are cooking everything from scratch.

90% of the time it works out perfectly. Once every 6 months or so, it will break your heart.

Sour cream is a different story: because of the fat content, there is no need to heat it. It turns out beautifully every time!

Here is the unpasteurised recipe, with instructions on the home pasteurising process at the very end....

RECIPE: 24 hour fermented Whey, Yoghurt and Sour Cream: (unpasteurised).

Ingredients: - 2L raw Organic grass-fed full cream milk - 1L raw Organic grass-fed Cream - A good quality yoghurt starter (refrigerated with lots of probiotic strains: a good health food store will sell this),

OR one cup of your previous batch of yoghurt

OR a cup of organic commercial yoghurt/sour cream, whichever is easier.

I use a yoghurt starter that I bought is called GI ProStart from Tools:

3 x 1L good quality glass jars (I use Ball mason jars, because they are free of lead)

A warm place to ferment your yoghurt. Choose one of the following:

  • a dehydrator,

  • a yoghurt maker with a 24-hour timer,

  • an oven with a low temp of 40C or an oven light,

  • or an Esky that you can ferment the yoghurt in.


  1. Sit the milk and cream on your counter top for a couple of hours or until it reaches room temperature.

  2. Pour the milk into the glass jars, and separately pour the cream into its glass jar.

  3. Add the yoghurt starter that you have chosen. If you are using a powder, let the powder sit on the surface for 5 minutes so that it absorbs without getting lumpy when stirred. If you are using a commercial yoghurt or sour cream, or a previous batch to start your new batch, then just stir it in straight away.

  4. Put the lids on the jars and put the jars in your chosen fermentation vestibule.

  • Dehydrator/ yoghurt maker: put the jars in, set the timer for 24 hours, and follow any additional instructions your machine might have.

  • Esky/Cooler box: To keep the yoghurt warm, you need to add 2 or 3 open jars of hot water into the Esky, to sit next to the sealed yoghurt jars. These will need to be changed every 5 to 8 hours, depending on the outside temp, and on how tight your Esky lid is. I wrap a blanket around my Esky to keep the heat in for longer.

  • Oven: I set the oven to just under 50C on grill (it's lowest temp), and put the pots on a tray into the oven. I then leave them in there to ferment for at least 24hrs. It's pretty tricky to go without your oven for that long, as well as being expensive to leave it on for that long, so you have to plan ahead.

Once the 24 hours plus has passed, you can remove the fermented dairy and put it in the fridge, where is will be probiotic for 2 weeks.

PASTEURISING your own milk and cream:


A big pot and a candy thermometer

A big ladle and funnel

Glass jars to ferment the yoghurt in


As above

Heat the milk or the cream (do not mix the two together) in a big pan to about 83C, do NOT let it boil. Use your thermometer to confirm the temperature.

While its heating, half fill the sink with cold water.

Once your milk/cream reaches a temp of 83C, move the pan into the sink. This will help the milk/cream to cool down to 45C quicker (Don't let any water get into the pan!). You can add ice blocks into the water to speed this process up.

Once it cools down to 45C (Use your thermometer to confirm the temperature), pour the milk/ cream into the glass jars.

Then go to step 2 in the instructions section and carry on.

To summarise on the fermenting:

The oven will keep a more consistent temp, the cooler box will save you a lot of money. Your choice!

The yoghurt will end up set in the pot, it will be sour and have a lot of whey. The whey is just as powerful as the yoghurt, PACKED with probiotics, so I would recommend you drip some whey and add it to your juices and smoothies, or have it on your cereal with honey. The left over yoghurt can be blended with garlic and chives to make a cream cheese dip.


Dripping is easy: scoop a cup of yoghurt into a clean cheesecloth/ muslin/ dishtowel. Tie a knot in the cloth, and push a wooden spoon through the knot. You can then put this into a tall bottle, so that the bag of yoghurt is suspended by the wooden spoon, and the whey drips into the bottle. Leave it overnight on the counter.

The sour cream should go straight into the fridge, where it will set to a lovely thick texture. It is just about the yummiest thing ever. Have it with scrambled eggs, add it to frozen bananas and raspberries to make sugar-free ice cream, or mix with some cocoa powder and honey for a sweet after dinner treat. I also use it to make the most heavenly guacomole.

The Kefir will have less whey than the youghurt, it is creamier and not as tart. I LOVE it, but I must caution: it is a powerful healer, and as a result, it can cause pretty hectic "die-off". We have been on GAPS for 5 months and we only introduced kefir 3 weeks ago. We are up to a teaspoon a day. We started on a DROP of kefir whey, and immediately noticed a difference. I got a swollen belly, but excellent and immediately healing results: a clearing of this permanent 'brain-fog' that I have as a result of years of chronic fatigue and depression. I also feel energetic for the first time in about 6 years. From a teaspoon of kefir. Needless to say, I think it is the most important food I have ever introduced...This is what the GAPS people say:"

Remember, that kefir contains more potent probiotic microbes than yoghurt, as a result kefir will produce a more pronounced “die-off reaction”. That is why I recommend to introduce yoghurt first, then start introducing kefir. Both should be introduced slowly and gradually controlling the “die-off”. Kefir, apart from probiotic bacteria, contains beneficial yeasts. That is why it is essential to introduce for people with yeast overgrowth. A healthy human gut contains plenty of beneficial yeasts, as well as beneficial bacteria and other microbes. In order to get rid of the “bad” yeast, we need to replace it with the “good” yeast."

So get your yoghurt-making shoes on, and Happy fermenting!

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Simple, Wholesome, Real Party food recipes for Grain-free/Refined sugar-free kids and adults. PALEO/ GAPS/ SCD

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