Skip to content

Processes that are strong and predictable

It’s an easy and relatively quick addition to all the other fermentation processes going on at Les Pierres: making yogurt. It took some tweaking to cultivate our own local yogurt culture; really happy with the flavour now.

To make yogurt, one has to have yoghurt. Or to be more precise: a living culture to ferment milk into yogurt. Milk is first heated for a period of time to concentrate it, change some of the proteins and reduce the oxygen to promote the right kind of fermentation to take place. It’s most common to use a bit of yogurt from an earlier batch as a starter for a new batch or a bit of store bought yogurt, as long as it contains the live culture.

But there’s also plenty of freeze-dried yogurt cultures that you can buy either online or in the supermarket. However, because these freeze-dried cultures have been created in sterile laboratories, they are easily subject to contamination and deterioration, so they won’t stay active.

As with our cheeses, at Les Pierres we make yogurt with kefir. It’s biodiverse, very easy to care for and almost impossible to contaminate. David Asher (an organic farmer/farmstead cheese maker/cheese educator from British Colombia, a huge inspirator) writes in his book ‘The Art of Natural Cheesemaking‘:

Kefir does not degrade as a culture. If regularly fed milk, the culture could theoretically last forever. Kefir grains are many thousands of years old and have been kept in less-than-sterile conditions for millennia. Despite exposure to many foreign bacteria and fungi, the diversity of cultures in raw milk, and even unclean conditions, kefir perseveres; it does not require the coddling that freeze-dried cultures need to survive.’

In the same book, David Asher explains how he makes yogurt using kefir as a starter. Our method is derived from that, except we added some steps and use kefir to create a yogurt-like culture. It does take a couple of rounds of fermenting milk following the principle described above and the downside is that the first two or three rounds produce an inedible product. But by taking a small amount of that substance as a starter for a new batch, we can fine-tune the culture to eventually produce the flavour that we personally prefer. And once we’re there, we use parts of the yogurt it produces to make new batches that mimic the taste of the original creation.

Since the start of our confinement due to the corona crisis, it has not been possible to obtain fresh raw milk for our cheeses and yogurt. Obviously that has impacted the cheesemaking process worse than the yogurt, because for yogurt the milk is heated anyway, so it already loses some of it’s fresh and raw qualities. As a temporary solution we started working with the only source we had easier access to: UHT milk (milk treated with ultra high temperature to give it a longer shelf life) from the supermarket, biological, mind you.

Although I hope we can go back to raw milk eventually (and in time perhaps even our own goats) it has turned out not so bad as it sounds. Kefir can establish raw-milk-like biodiversity even in pasteurized milk and it creates fermentation processes that are strong and predictable.

David Asher:
‘Its microbiological biodiversity provides a broad range of cultures that are helpful for starting and aging many different styles of cheese. And its indigenous fungal cultures can help establish healthy populations of yeasts and fungi on the rinds of many types of aged cheeses.’

Trying to make ones life sustainable is more than a personal choice and almost automatically leads to a multitude of decisions you have never even thought of before. On this website we share what works for us, or woefully no longer works, obviously without claiming the same for you.

We hope that our journey towards a supplementary comprehensive celebration of nature’s beauty might just clear a pathway forward for you too, perhaps challenges a revealing reconsideration, or simply provides for an equally indispensable diversion.