Fermentation as a Means of Food Preservation: Part III

Today we present another article in our non-fiction writing contest – by Bam Bam

Also Read – Fermentation as a Means of Food Preservation: Part One and Part Two.



Kefir is fermented milk that tastes like tangy yogurt. To make kefir you will need some kefir grains, which really aren’t grains. They are a starter culture. They look like a spoonful of cottage cheese. I bought my kefir grains on Ebay for $5.99. They arrived in the mail a few days later packaged in a sandwich-sized Ziplock bag. I was not at all impressed by the squished white stuff. But I followed the directions that arrived with the grains.

kombucha scoby

kombucha scoby

I filled a clean jar with half a cup of milk and added the mushy white stuff. (They did not look like grains at all.) The next day I poured the milk through a fine-mesh strainer and dumped the milk down the drain. I did this for three days while the “grains” grew and acclimated themselves to my kitchen. On day four I strained the liquid and reserved the grains, as I had the three previous days. But on this day I made my husband try the liquid. He said it tasted like buttermilk. It has been about two weeks now and my kefir grains have more than doubled in size. I am making a quart of kefir a day.

So here’s how you make kefir. Order some kefir grains and follow the instructions, just as I described above. After a few days, the grains will acclimate to your kitchen and you can begin making kefir in earnest. Pour 1 Tbs. kefir grains into a quart of milk. Kefir was traditionally made with goat milk. Raw cow milk can’t be sold in the state of Florida. So I use regular whole milk from the grocery store. Just add the kefir grains to a quart of milk and set aside for 12-24 hours.

You know the kefir is ready when the whey just begins to separate from the curds. (You will see little pockets of clear liquid begin to separate from the more substantial white curds.) At this point you want to strain the kefir and remove the kefir grains. Use the kefir grains to start another batch. You only have to purchase kefir grains once. You keep taking them from the finished batch and adding them to a new batch.

I like to do a second fermentation on the kefir once the grains are removed. To do this, add a handful of fruit to the kefir. I prefer to use a handful of squished blueberries. Shake the kefir and let sit on your kitchen counter for another 12-24 hours. Refrigerate.

Kefir Smoothie

One of my favorite uses of kefir is for smoothies. I take two quart-sized jars full of second fermented blueberry kefir and pour them into the blender with a couple of bananas, some blackberry yogurt and some homemade vanilla and blend. Viola. You have a smoothie. I keep a half gallon mason jar of smoothie in the frig almost all the time. The mixture will last about a week. If it sits in the frig longer it gets a vinegar taste.

Kefir Oatmeal

I like to make no-cook kefir oatmeal for breakfast. We eat this just about every morning. The night before, mix ¾ cup of oatmeal and 1 cup of kefir. Stir, cover, and then put in the refrigerator. The liquid will soften the oatmeal. In the morning, add a bit more kefir and some banana, blueberries, strawberries or fruit of your choice. No-cook oatmeal has a better texture, and you don’t need to add sugar or salt.

Kefir Ranch Dressing

If you want to make kefir ranch dressing, do the second ferment with the peel of a lemon. Mix about 1/3 cup of kefir, 1/3 cup of sour cream and 1/3 cup of mayo. Add 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. onion powder, 1 tsp. parsley, 1 Tbs. dill, and some salt and pepper. Mix well and put in frig for a couple of hours for favors to gel. This will make a pint of salad dressing. Once you try this you will never buy ranch dressing from the store again. This will last about a week in the frig.

Kefir Vanilla Ice Cream

To make homemade kefir ice cream mix 2 cups of kefir, 1 cup of heavy cream, ¾ cup sugar and 1 Tbs. real vanilla. Pour into ice cream maker. The result is a soft serve ice cream. If you want to make other flavors such as blueberry or peach ice cream, use blueberries or peaches in the second ferment of your kefir. Refrigerate. Once chilled, pour kefir in blender. You can add more blueberries or peaches, if you like. Then pour into your ice cream maker. Play around here. You can add chocolate syrup to make kefir-chocolate ice cream.

(Note: If you do a lot of baking it is a good idea to make your own vanilla extract. Order some vanilla beans on Ebay. When vanilla beans arrive, slice them open lengthwise and then cut into one-inch pieces. Put several pieces in a pint jar and cover with 100 proof vodka. Get the cheapest vodka you can find. Let mixture gel for at least six weeks. Remember to shake the mixture every few days. Homemade vanilla extract makes excellent Christmas gifts.)

kefir grains

kefir grains

Kefir Soft Cheese/Sour Cream

Okay, I couldn’t help but mention kefir cheese, as I just finished making some. This is the easiest recipe ever. Do the second ferment with a lemon peel. After 12-24 hours remove the lemon peel. Place a coffee filter inside a medium-sized colander, and use to filter the kefir. After 12-24 hours the whey has drained through the coffee filter and you are left with kefir cheese, a soft serve cheese. You can roll the cheese in nuts or herbs to make a cheese ball and serve with crackers or veggies. Kefir cheese makes a good substitute for sour cream.


Fermented beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) have been used by just about every culture throughout history and pre-history. Fermentation is the transformation of sugar into ethyl alcohol. The first documented fermented beverage comes from the Sumerians in the year 3200 BC. Historical records indicate that the Sumerians enjoyed beer. No doubt, man has been fermenting beverages much longer than historical record indicates. The most plausible explanation for the long and virtually universal use of fermented beverages is that fermentation was necessary for survival. Clean water would have been difficult to find. Fermentation kills the bad bacteria, thus rendering the liquid safe.

Note that the fermented beverages discussed below all contain a minute amount of alcohol.


Like Kefir, you will need a starter to make kombucha called a “scoby”. This stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts. I ordered mine on Ebay. Kombucha is fermented sweet tea. Like kefir, it’s easy to make. Brew up a half of a gallon of black tea. (This is the ordinary, every day Lipton tea you see in every grocery store.) Add a cup of sugar. When mixture has cooled, pour into a half-gallon canning jar. Add the scoby and some kombucha. (When you purchase the scoby, make sure some kombucha is included. Ideally, you will add 2 cups of starter and the scoby. I started with just a ½ cup of kombucha.)  Note that you will only need to order the scoby once. After that, it keeps growing and growing and growing.

Allow to kombucha to ferment for one week. You can either refrigerate the kombucha or do a second ferment. I like to do a second ferment to add some flavoring. My favorite so far has been homemade peach syrup or maybe the ginger bug (see below). (Note: My new favorite is now crangrape kombucha—just put half a cup of crangrape juice in for the second ferment.) If you do a second ferment, add some flavoring and allow mixture to ferment for another two days. Refrigerate for several hours before opening. Note that the contents will carbonated. So open the jar over the sink.

Every book I’ve read on making kombucha issues a warning about the possibility of the pressure building up enough to cause the kombucha to explode. I suspect such warnings were inserted by publishers who were weary of being sued. I have no fear of exploding kombucha jars. If these canning jars can go through my pressure canner, they can handle kombucha. (Note: I have left the second ferment kombucha on the counter for a week without any adverse consequences.)

Ginger Bug

Making a ginger bug is the first step in making old-fashioned ginger ale and old-fashioned root beer. And it is so easy. Add 2 cups of filtered water to a quart jar. Mix in 1 cup of sugar and 2 Tbs. freshly grated ginger. Shake jar to mix. Every day for the next five days, add 1 Tbs. of sugar and 1 Tbs. freshly grated ginger. Shake jar to mix. After the first day you will see the mixture begin to bubble.

Ginger Ale

Old-fashioned ginger ale takes some planning. You’ve got to start with your ginger bug. Once that is ready, making ginger ale is a piece of cake. In a saucepan, simmer 2 cups of filtered water with 3 Tbs. grated ginger for five minutes, then strain out the ginger pieces. (This mixture is called a wort.) Add ½ cup of sugar and 1 Tbs. molasses. Stir well. Allow mixture to cool. Pour into a half-gallon canning jar. Add ½ cup of ginger bug and ¼ cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Fill the rest of the jar with filtered water. Shake well. Allow mixture to ferment for 3-4 days. Refrigerate for several hours before opening. (Note: The ginger ale will be carbonated, so make sure you open the canning jar over the sink.)

Root beer

Put half of a gallon of filtered water, ½ cup of sassafras bark, ½ tsp. wintergreen leaf and a cinnamon stick in a pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain and return liquid to pot. Add 1 cup of sugar and 2 Tbs. molasses. Stir well. Allow mixture to cool. Add 2 tsp. real vanilla extract and 1 cup of ginger bug. Pour into a half-gallon canning jar. Allow mixture to ferment for 3-4 days. Refrigerate for several hours before opening. (Note: The ginger ale will be carbonated, so make sure you open the canning jar over the sink.)


I want to learn everything I can about ancient methods of food preservation. I would like to learn how people in Mediterranean prepared sun-dried tomatoes and brined olives. I would like to know how pre-Columbian cultures in Peru and Bolivia freeze-dried potatoes and how ancient Japanese and Koreans freeze-dried fish and other meats. I would also like to know how native peoples of the Americas preserved meat with pemmican.

Knowing how to preserve food is an important skill and in a post collapse, grid down society, it will be essential. Modern methods of food preservation—canning, mechanical refrigeration and freezing, and irradiation have only been around for a hundred or so years—and may not be available in the future.

Please share your thoughts below.

Prizes for this round (ends October 11 2015 ) in our non fiction writing contest include…

  1. First place winner will receive –  Two Just In Case… Essential Assortment Buckets courtesy of LPC Survival a $147 value, a  Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Grain Mill courtesy of FoodPrepper.com a $219 value, and a gift certificate for $150 off of  Rifle Ammunition courtesy of LuckyGunner Ammo… Total first place prize value over $516 dollars.
  2. Second Place Winner will receive – A case of Sopakco Sure-Pak MRE – 12 Meals and a Lifestraw Family Unit courtesy of Camping Survival.com, and a One Month Food Pack courtesy of Augason Farms.com
  3. Third place winner will receive –  $50 cash.


  1. Thanks for the posting. Although there doesn’t sound like too many fermented items I would currently like, I’m always looking for options.

  2. Howdy MD, article on fermentation was useful and a reminder that I want to get my Kombucha tea started again.
    However, missed my chance to comment on Ezekiels fix for the mini 14. What I, and I’m sure others would appreciate, is some pics or drawings of just what he did to make the mini more accurate. It would help those of us who can’t visualize and is a fun topic. I can’t believe how popular these little Rugers have become. Prices are through the roof.
    Anyway, Thanks,

    • Hey Butch,

      I will see if I can get some photos this weekend and I will send them to MD for you. My proto-type I sold but I have done this to a few of them and one is relatively close by where I live so I will see if they can get a few photos for me.

  3. I ferment old fashioned pickles, pepperoncini peppers, Moroccan Preserved Lemons, kimchi, beets, garlic cloves and dilly beans etc. Seems like there is something for everyone in the fermenting world. Purple cabbage looks beautiful fermented. I put some on my tossed salad or on a hot dog or pulled pork Sammy. Yummy!

  4. Hummingbird says:

    Thanks Bam Bam. Great series. I’m ready to take the leap and do some fermenting.

    • Hummingbird,

      Be careful, fermenting is addictive. My favorite ferment is kefir–there’s just so much you can do with it.

  5. Thank you Bam Bam for all your hard work. I plan to print out a copy of your article for myself and several extra for my family and friends.

  6. Craig Mouldey says:

    While I did enjoy reading your article I’m disturbed with one element of it: I thought the entire point was to learn to preserve food as was done before modern society AND refrigeration. Yet you keep saying to refrigerate or this will keep about a week in the refrigerator? They didn’t have refrigerators 1500 years ago.

    • Craig,

      If there is no access to refrigeration, we will have to do like the Koreans did with their kimchi–bury the pots in the earth to keep them cool. In a very cool climate vegetable ferments will keep all winter. For the rest of the year we will be eating fresh produce.

  7. bam bam,

    u. of california branches used to put out lovely ag booklets.

    somewhere i had the olive preserving booklet but cannot find it.

    check them for other info, too. i’d forgotten about them.

    just a thought . the smithsonian might have info on pemmican, et cetera as they have am. indian info by the boatload.

  8. Craig, 1500 years ago they didn’t have electricity or Internet. Use and enjoy our wonderful modern commodities.
    A long time ago people used a spring house, root cellar, cold creek, Zeer pots, wet leather, cloth or straw etc, to cool food & drinks. Maybe they did without in the hottest weather. Like I do with sourdough. None in summer, if I put it in the frig I forget and starve it. Maybe they dehydrated excess and used like we do dried yeast. I know I can dehydrate sour dough starter and reconstitute it.

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