Many of us know the health benefits of eating cultured and fermented foods, but buying pre-made yogurt, kefir, sourdough breads, kombucha and the like can cost a pretty penny.
Did you know that these health-boosting cultured foods can be easily and cheaply prepared at home using starter cultures?
I cringe when I go to buy a $3.99 or $4.99 tub of organic, whole milk yogurt, a mere 750 ml (or about 3 cups). Not even enough for one breakfast in our home. Yet I can buy a gallon of certified raw milk for $8-$10 and make my own yogurt, a whopping 5x that amount (15 cups /4 quarts worth or the equivalent of 5 large yogurt containers). Less than half the price, for higher quality yogurt in which I know every single ingredient (no additives, no sugar, no thickener, no dried milk powder, etc.).
Same goes for kombucha, a fermented drink full of beneficial bacteria and helpful for detoxifying. During my recent cleanse, I wanted to drink a few cups each day but was without a starter culture at that point. I had to fork out almost $4 per bottle at my health food store! Now that I've got a starter culture again, I've brewed up a batch that is the equivalent of about 4 bottles ($15 worth) for a total cost of less than $1.
The beauty of make-it-yourself cultured foods
Not only are cultured and fermented foods extremely nourishing and excellent for the digestive system, but when you learn to do it yourself, they can be among the cheapest of the truly healthful foods that you eat.
Additionally, when you buy these foods it is much harder to know the quality that you are getting. For example, finding pickles or sauerkraut that are truly raw and fermented is extremely challenging, but why would I buy an organic, pasteurized version from the health food store when for us the main purpose is getting those lacto-fermented foods into our diet? Some things simply can't be bought, but should be homemade with care.
Easier than you think
I used to be daunted by the thought of preparing my own cultured foods. Happily, it's a far simpler process to make most foods than you might think!
The first thing I conquered was yogurt making, something that I think really anybody can learn to do. Next was brewing kombucha, which takes a little bit of patience but not a whole lot of skill. Kefir was about as easy as it gets. Sourdough had a slightly bigger learning curve, but with a bit of practice it just became part of my routine. Then on to lacto-fermented veggies and condiments, creme fraiche, water kefir and more...
Can you pour some milk into a jar? Strain it out, put it back in the jar and stick it in the fridge? Then you can make kefir. And even some varieties of yogurt!
Where do I get my starter cultures?
The absolutely cheapest way to get your starter cultures is from a friend, a neighbor, a family member or some kindly real foodie off of Craigslist or Facebook who lives in your area. If you know someone else who does this, ask if they wouldn't mind sharing. Chances are, they'll say yes.
Sometimes you can also buy then inexpensively from local people that you might learn about through your local Weston Price chapter, through Craigslist, a health food store or the like.
Why I love Cultures for Health
For those who don't know anyone who will share their starter wealth or can't find a place to buy them locally, allow me to introduce you to Cultures for Health.
This online shop carries almost any starter you can think of... kefir (milk and water), yogurt (multiple varieties), sourdough (again, multiple varieties including gluten-free), kombucha, buttermilk, sour cream, cultured veggie starter, coconut kefir starter (as per the Body Ecology Diet), as well as cheese making supplies and starters. I personally use or have used their sourdough, brown rice sourdough, dairy and water kefir, kombucha and Villi yogurt starters.
Their prices are reasonable and they have a lot of different culture varieties to choose from that are just wonderful. Shipping is only $3.99, which might even be less than the cost of gas to go get a starter, depending how far you have to go.
Another reason to consider buying from a site like Cultures for Health rather than getting them from someone you don't really know is the quality of the starters. Cultures are simple to use, and yet they can be a bit finicky at the same time. If someone hasn't cared for their culture well, or has used it with less-than-ideal ingredients, or with the wrong utensils (metal spoons instead of wooden or plastic, etc.), it may not work as well for you.
These issues may not make or break the efficacy of a starter, but over time they can weaken it. Knowing how your starter was cared for helps to ensure more predictable results for you. Plus, the instruction and support that you receive when you buy your cultures is just so helpful, especially if you're unsure of what you're doing!
Would you like to win a starter pack to get going? Cultures for Health has generously offered one winner their choice of 3 different prize packages.
Option 1- Yogurt Making Package
Euro Cuisine Yogurt Maker, Cotton Bag for Making Yogurt Cheese and two varieties of Yogurt Starter (winner's choice) (retail value: $68+ including shipping)
Option 2- Cheese Making Package
30 Minute Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit, Hard Cheese Kit and Home Cheese Making Book (retail value: $76 including shipping)
Option 3- Sourdough Package
Sourdough Starter (winner's choice), Wild Bread Sourdough Book, Wood Handled Dough Scraper, Pastry Brush, Bread Keeper Bag, Basic Thermometer, Digital Scale (retail value: $78 including shipping)
Note- you can't enter by leaving a comment (although you are still welcome to comment for any other reason, including to say which package you think you'd most want to win!)
Giveaway has now ended.
Disclaimer: I received starter cultures for the purpose of review from Cultures for Health. All opinions stated in this post are mine, and I have happily purchased and used their cultures in my own kitchen. I am also a proud affiliate for Cultures for Health, and I earn a small kickback when you make a purchase through my links. You aren't obligated to use these links in any way, but when you do so, it helps to support this site, so thank you!