Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Portrait of a Mozzarella Maker

Keith Mazzarella

Keith Mazzarella makes Mozzarella for a living.  Really.  He thinks maybe his name led him to answer an ad for the job at Antonio Mozzarella Factory in Springfield, NJ.  He got the job and he loves it:

Right now we are making fresh handmade Mozzarella for various large supermarkets such as Shop-rite. I set up usually right near the deli or cheese department and make the fresh Mozzarella right in front of the customers. Most people have no idea how Mozzarella is made and the majority have never had the opportunity to taste it fresh.  

On average I make over 200 lbs. per day and most of the time it goes as fast as I can make it. Once I give them a taste of the fresh and still warm cheese they are hooked for life! 

We asked Keith to give us an idea of what he actually does at the store.  He used his cell phone to take the following great pictures, showing us exactly how he does it:

A block of curd ready to be sliced into small pieces using a curd cutter (also know as a mandolin or guitar because of the guitar type strings).

Hot tap water is added to warm the cool pieces of curd. We then drain the water and add very hot water usually between 170F - 180F. To prevent the loss of too much butterfat, we do not pour the water directly on the curd.

The pieces are starting to stick together because of this cooking process but they are not ready yet so we have to add another pot of the very hot water.

When the curd is finally cooked throughout all the little pieces just seem to come together and the Mozzarella has it's nice shiny appearance.

Now for the fun part. We stretch the Mozzarella to produce a creamy texture and to remove any rough spots. We do not knead the cheese like it is pizza dough because too much handling will result in a harder texture.

Now we are ready to form our Mozzarella balls. Mozzarella comes from the Italian word mozzare (meaning to cut or break off).

Looks like about a pound!

To give the Mozzarella a lightly salted taste we put the balls into our saturated brine.

Each box of curd weighs between 40 - 45 lbs.  It comes in two big blocks.  I make a block at a time (about 21 - 24 lbs).  Depending on a store's needs, sometimes I do 5 boxes of curd in one day which is about 225 lbs.  Each ball I make weighs about 1 to 1 1/4 pounds each.   Now, that's a lot of cheese!

If you live close enough to go to the store, Keith would love to see you!  (Tell him we said "Hi!")
Directions are on the website.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fresh White Cheese Recipe from Wendy Akin

Akin Farm

Akin Farm is an “pick yourself” organic vegetable farm in Terrell, TX (near Dallas). This year, they expect to plant a lot of vegetables: artichokes, basil, green beans, lima beans,wax beans, broccoli, cantaloupes and other melons, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, onions, peas, peppers, potatoes, squash of all types, sweet potatoes, tomatoes of all types and colors and watermelons.

Wendy Akin and her husband, Michie, run the farm, and once a week Wendy puts out a newsletter for anyone who signs up to receive it. It includes recipes, tips for cooking (such as the one below- "How to Cook an Artichoke"*), and news from her farm and other organic farms she keeps in contact with.  If you wish to receive the newsletter, e-mail her at akinfarmorganic@aol.com.

Wendy has access to organic raw milk, so she is able to make cheese. Most of the time she makes a fresh, white cheese (similar to Panir) and she sent us her recipe.  Along with the recipe, she sent this note:

Our dairyman doesn't really have time or much interest in making yogurt, so I usually get an extra gallon and make a few tubs using your yogurt culture.  I also share the little packets of your buttermilk culture with a group of friends and have recently started making a little fresh white cheese which doesn't require any rennet or culture.  Recipe follows.  I used to make mozzarella and plan to try that again; I stocked up on the rennet needed in my last order from you.
Thanks for being there to help us all with our dairy endeavors.


Here is the easiest cheese to make, requiring no culture beyond buttermilk and no special equipment.  Note the buttermilk is the kind you buy at the store, not what you have when you make butter at home.

(In a later e-mail, she wrote, "I just finished making a batch of the Fresh White Cheese and I will say that it makes much better using the buttermilk made with your culture than using store bought.  Everything I have bought and my friends have bought from you has been perfect."  Really-she said that!)

Equipment: a very heavy good saucepan at least 3 quart, opt:  flame-tamer, a clip-on thermometer, a colander, cheesecloth to double-line the colander (available in many groceries and in fabric stores as well as New England Cheesemaking), a large bowl and a small bowl.

You will need:

2 quarts whole milk as fresh as possible.  Raw milk is best of course, but do not use long-date ultra pasteurized.
2 cups very fresh cultured buttermilk
2 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice - probably 2 medium lemons
sea salt
extra cream if desired

Measure the milk into the saucepan.  Stir the lemon juice into the buttermilk thoroughly, then stir that into the milk.
Set the pan over very low heat with the flame tamer. (You can also double the grid on a gas stove) Clip on the thermometer and begin to heat the milk.

You want to heat the milk very slowly to 175 degrees.  Using a pancake turner or similar wide, flat tool, stir the milk very slowly once or twice after it begins to thicken, just 2 or 3 strokes.  Watch the temp carefully.

Once it reaches 175, take the pot off the burner and let the milk stand for 10 minutes undisturbed.  There will be masses of white curd suspended in yellowish liquid (the whey).

Line the colander with 2 layers of the cheese cloth and set it over a large bowl.  Carefully ladle the curds and whey gently into the colander and let the curds drain until the drip slows, a few minutes.  Tie the ends of the cheesecloth together to make a loose bag and hang it over a cupboard knob so it hangs above the bowl.  Let the cheese drain for up to an hour or until it is as firm as you like.
It can be frozen until you need it.

For a soft, light cheese to serve as is, perhaps with fruit or preserves for dessert, turn the cheese into a bowl, stir in a pinch of sea salt and/or a little cream if you wish.  Cover the cheese and refrigerate; it will keep fresh several days.  If you’d like it smoother, you can beat it briefly with some added cream with an electric mixer.
You can wash the cheesecloth thoroughly in hot soapy water to use next time.


Spread a small puddle of local organic honey on a dessert plate. Center a small scoop of fresh cheese then garnish with either an edible flower or a couple of berries or fruit slices. Serve with a flourish!



Fresh white cheese made from 2 quarts of milk
½ teaspoon sea salt - or more to taste
2 medium cloves fresh garlic
4 tablespoons Herbs de Provence (or Italian Seasoning herbs)
2 to 4 small dried hot red peppers or a couple shakes of red pepper flakes to taste
12 to 15 black peppercorns, slightly crushed
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Approximately 1½ cups olive oil  (If you have oil left over from marinating either olives or dried tomatoes, you can use this for extra flavor.  And then the oil from the cheese can be used again for salad or to do more cheese.  Don’t waste all this flavor.)

Make your cheese as in the recipe above, mixing in about ½ teaspoon of sea salt.  Let the cheese drain hanging from the cupboard for about 3 hours so it’s quite firm.  Put the cheese on a plate and form it into an oval patty.  Wrap it with the cheesecloth, then put another plate on top.  Weight the top with 1 pound - a can of food, whatever, but 1 pound.  Put it in the fridge and leave overnight.

Unwrap the pressed cheese and cut it into 1 inch cubes; with the fingers, form them into balls.  Don’t fuss, it’s better if they look a bit rustic.  As you form them, place the cheese balls into a wide-mouth quart jar.  Drop in the spices and garlic and then pour in enough olive oil to cover the cheeses completely, then the wine vinegar on top.  Cover the jar tightly and invert it gently a couple times to distribute the seasonings. 

Marinate the cheese at cool room temperature for at least 2 days before serving them.  After 2 or 3 days, you may refrigerate and they will keep for at least a month.  Let the jar come to room temp so you can gently shake it before serving.

These little cheese balls keep for several weeks in their bath of olive oil and herbs, gradually becoming a little stronger in flavor.  They make a nice addition to a cheese plate, garnishing a green salad or served with fresh or toasted French bread as an appetizer with an olive or two.

Akin Farm
9820 County Road 353, Terrell, TX 75161
Phone: 972-551-1189

E-mail: akinfarmorganic@aol.com  

Directions: They are off FM 429M 4 miles north of US 80 on County Road 353, 2 miles. 
Call for directions and availability.
Crops are usually available March through November. Open: 7 days a week, dawn till dark.
 Hot weather hours are daily except Tuesday from 7:00 AM to NOON . 
They follow organic methods, but are not yet certified. Payment: Cash or Check.  They also have local honey, free range eggs and handcrafted soaps.


WASH the artichokes by holding right side up under running cold water, gently spreading the outer leaves a bit so the water can run down in. You can leave them to soak in the cooking pot for 15 minutes or so if you wish.

TRIM the artichokes: cut off the stem even with the bottom. I like to toss this in the pot, sometimes peeled, sometimes not. Pull off any small bottom leaves that look withered. Then you can trim as you like. Most often, I lay the artichoke on its side on a cutting board and simply slice off the tip to remove the sharp points. You’ll want a sharp knife for this. If you like, you can then use scissors to clip the points one by one from the lower leaves. Don’t cut away the delicious, tender parts! Put the artichokes upright in a pot. Try for a pot that will hold all that you are cooking firmly enough that they won’t float or tip over and deep enough so you can use a tight fitting cover.

COOK: fill the pot about halfway with cold water and sprinkle on a teaspoon of sea salt. If the artichokes must wait awhile before cooking, squeeze a lemon into the water. Cover the pot and bring to a full boil. Turn down the heat to a low boil and cook for about 30 to 40 minutes depending on the size of the ‘chokes. They are done when a large leaf pulls loose easily.

EAT an artichoke leaf by leaf. You pull a leaf, starting at the bottom and working around, turn the leaf upside down and scrape off the succulent flesh with your teeth. When you get to the small white leaves, these are usually pulled loose all together. Thus the choke is revealed. With a tableknife, pull the choke loose, scraping just a little. Don’t waste! But don’t leave any choke. The solid bottom is called the HEART and this is the piece de resistance. Most connoisseurs cut this morsel into even wedges to savor.

BUTTER LOVING HEDONISTS will have a small ramekin of melted butter, this anointed with a judicious grinding of pepper. Each leaf is lightly touched to the butter and then the heart is put into the ramekin of butter to be cut and eaten.

CAUTIOUS AND FRUGAL diners might eat the leaves tonight and save the hearts for another meal tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Happy Cow Creamery- A Special Place

Tom Trantham
When was the last time you had the opportunity to see how milk is produced, from beginning to end? 

At the Happy Cow Creamery in Pelzer, SC, you can do that every weekday in the summer if you get a small group together (20 or more) and arrange a tour.

Why is it unique?  There are so many interesting aspects of this operation, that we hardly know where to begin.  Let's start with the info about their tours, then proceed to the reasons why you might want to travel quite a long distance to buy their milk for making your cheese:


We at the Trantham 12 Aprils Dairy are proud to announce that we’re now offering a full tour of the farm and creamery. The farm has been operating since 1979 and people often have requested to be able to come and see what it takes to run a dairy.  Since we bottle our own milk, we are able to offer more to see than on most typical dairies.

We are the only bottling plant in the world located in a Harvestore silo. Your group can actually see the “Got Milk” process from beginning to end.  Our tours are sure to be educational with a touch of good ol’ farm fun!

While touring, your group will take a trolley ride to see our lush grazing paddocks.  You’ll also see our milking parlor where our “girls” work.  And of course a sampling of the milk is a must.

We’re excited about what’s going on at Trantham 12 Aprils Dairy. We hope you will come and let us share what we feel will be a field trip your group will remember for years to come.

Tours are available in April - May and September -November, Tuesday - Friday. Occasionally, Saturday tours are scheduled and open to the public.

Tom Trantham - Cow Whisperer

So, let's begin with how we found this farm:  We have a Good Milk List and several of our customers wrote to us about how good their milk is for making cheese.  We then asked one of our customers to do an interview for this blog, and she again mentioned their milk.

We looked up their website: www.happycowcreamery.com, and noticed that they have a Facebook account.  We went there and discovered that they have over 4000 fans!  The comments went beyond "supportive" into a range from "effusive to gushing."  Apparently, this is very good milk!!!

From their website and a discussion with the owner, Tom Trantham, (who calls himself a cow whisperer) we learned several interesting things about this farm and dairy:

1)  His Grazing System

There's a story here:  Despite being the top producer in the state, Farmer Tom was about to go bankrupt in 1986, farming the traditional way with chemicals and fertilizers.  One day, his cows got out of their pen and grazed in a nearby field.  Later that day, they produced significantly more milk than usual.  He let them graze for the next few days and he noticed that the cows were eating only the top part of the plants and moving on.  He had the plants tested and discovered that most of the nutrients were in the top part of the plants.

He developed a system whereby his cows eat just the tops, then move on.  Every day, they move until they are rotated back to the original area.  Thus, they are always eating the best part of the plants.  (Most farms mow the grain down to the bottom and this is fed to the cows.)

Farmer Tom stopped using chemicals and fertilizers (other than his own organic mix) and called his system "12 Aprils Grazing."  Since then, he has taught this system to farmers around the world, and it is now being used in a USDA educational video at agricultural colleges around the country.

He keeps his herd below 90 cows because that is what his fields can support.

2)  His Bottling Plant

After finally becoming profitable with this system, Tom converted a silo to a bottling plant and it is the only one of its kind in the world.  The beauty of it is that the milk is  pumped once and that's for only 48 feet.   The rest of the movement from one area to another is gravity-fed.  (In larger plants, milk is pumped 3 or 4 miles, up to 20 times.  This is what Tom calls "bruised milk.") 

3)  His Highly Nutritious Milk

The milk is low temp pasteurized (145F) and never homogenized.  It has no additives.  Yet, the nutritional value far exceeds that of "normal" milk.  In fact, this milk has 1 1/2 times the amount of CLA in raw Organic Pastures milk.  (CLA is the subject of new research which indicates that it may actually help to reduce body fat.  It is already proven to be an anticarcinogen and to prevent atherosclerosis.)  Happy Cow milk is so nutritious that 11 doctors travel 126 miles to buy this milk.

4)  His Creamery

The Tranthans have been in the creamery business for 7 years, and every month has been better than the last.  They have 11 employees, and, as Tom says, a good life and good food to eat.  In the store, they sell  their own whole milk, chocolate milk, and buttermilk,  Wisconsin butter and cheese, Vermont maple syrup, raw unfiltered local honey, jams and jellies, fresh whole hog sausage and free range chickens and eggs, organically grown.  They even sell a children's book which explains how the farm works.

Tom said they are thinking about making cheese soon.  It breaks his heart when he has to sell some of his milk to the big corporate dairies instead of his own customers.  If he was making cheese, there would be none of that.  So, we're looking forward to helping him with that and all we can say is,  "Look out, Wisconsin!  There's some competition coming!"

New Cheese Maker#3 - Amanda Erickson

Amanda Erickson

You would be hard pressed to find a more enthusiastic cheese maker than Amanda Erickson, an architech in Portland, OR.  She loves cheese.  In fact, she can seldom find the time to make it because she loves going to cheese festivals, meeting cheese makers and tasting their cheeses so much.  

How did you get started making cheese?

It all started in 2007, when a friend of mine got a Mozzarella Kit for Christmas. Four of us girls got together and made the cheese.  We had so much fun that we decided to start a cheese blog- FU Cheese (fresh, unpasteurized cheese, of course).  The name is a little edgy, but then my husband and his friends do a blog called BS Brewing.

Note:  Their accounts of their cheesemaking experiences are well documented in their very cute blog.  Amanda wrote this in January, 2009:

Nicole hosted the first cheesemaking day for us and our friends (a truly amazing and diverse group of women) and we made mozzarella and it was pretty darn good. We drank wine and noshed on various goodies and ate the whole thing. We also talked about starting a blog to keep a record of our cheesemaking adventures and misadventures.

I hosted the next event which was dubbed the Weekend of Whey. We did five batches of mozzarella and made ricotta from the whey and also whey bread and whey drinks which, I still contend, are fine and delicious! I recommend a tablespoon of simple syrup, crushed mint, served over ice.

We went out and visited a goat farm and got our first gallons of goat milk. With the two gallons of goat milk we made chevre (I can’t wait to make it again),goat fromage blanc, “french style” goat cheese (little pucks of chevre), goat milk gelato and Sarah took the last pint of it and used it in a chevre ice-cream recipe from “The Perfect Scoop,” David Lebovitz’ inventive ice-cream recipe book. To sum up: you can make a lot of wonderful things with two gallons of goat milk!

We also paired a few goat cheeses with different beers for a tasting which I think went over very well and I’m eager to do that again. If you haven’t figured it out we’re very closely associated with the guys who run and write for the BS Brewing Blog which is over there on the sidebar always so I think we’ll be seeing some more collaboration with them in the future. Does anyone want to start GD Wines and be our friend?

Our last big project was doing a farmhouse cheddar, our first hard cheese. We made a cheese press and got all the necessary ingredients together and aged it for a month. It was quite a production but unfortunately it just didn’t turn out right. That was a little bit of a bummer but we learned so much from the process.

What actually happened with the Farmhouse Cheddar?

Well, a lot of things went wrong.  It got moldy under the wax and when we opened it, the taste wasn’t good- it was bland and there was no aftertaste.  So, we took a class at Kookoolan Farms and learned some reasons why it might have turned out so badly.  As you can see in the picture, we left ridges in the cheese when we waxed it, so that left air pockets under the wax.  Also, we let it sit too long at the wrong temperature before waxing it.  We probably also heated the curds too long when we were making the cheese.  We weren’t very careful . . . I wasn’t surprised when it didn't come out right.

What will you make next?

I was very inspired by the Oregon Cheese Festival at Rogue Creamery last weekend.  I am determined to make more goat cheese and Feta (with both cow and goat milk).  I have so much respect for the people who make cheese- the time and care they put into their craft, and, yet, the product is still so cheap.

What do you like best about making cheese?

It is so much fun to do with friends!  It’s like the best home science experiment!

Amanda is now writing another blog with her husband- Beer Plus Cheese.  She calls her first posting, “Beer + Cheese=Happy.”  (We’ll have to do an article soon about that subject.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Cheese Making Workshops in Philo, Ohio

Blue Rock Station

If you want to read about a very interesting farm, check out the website for Blue Rock Station in Philo, Ohio.

Jay and Annie Warmke have created a center for green living, where they give tours, hold workshops, and model green technology by living in a house made out of trash (their "earthship") with a greenhouse made out of plastic bottles.

The PBS video at the end of this article tells the story of how it came to be.

It's a fascinating place, but the point of this particular article is to inform you about their cheese making workshops.  Annie sent us this description:

Goat Keeping and Cheesemaking: From Milking to Eating
April 14, 2012

Goat keeping is an amazing process that brings the keeper and the goats into a partnership. At Blue Rock Station our milk goats and their offspring add vitality and often humor to life on the farm.

The basics of being a goat keeper, and what to do with the kids and milk are the heart of what we’ll learn about in the afternoon workshop. AND, we won’t forget to talk about milk from healthy, pasture-raised animals as a vibrant, life-giving food that not only bolsters the immune system but fends off countless degenerative diseases that were virtually unheard of just a century ago.

What you’ll learn:
  * How to keep goats healthy naturally
  * How to milk a goat
  * How to process the milk
  * The basics of cheese making for the farmstead
  * A variety of recipes for different ways to preserve cheese

You’ll have a pleasant time in the countryside at Blue Rock Station, meet some interesting people and enjoy high tea at the end of the time together.

Reservations are a must to avoid disappointment. Be sure to wear sensible shoes that can survive mud, and sun glasses, if it is a sunny day.

Registration for this event is only $35 and includes a tour of Blue Rock Station, the presentation, cheese sampling as well as a proper cup of British tea.

To register for this event, e-mail Annie at annie@bluerockstation.com or give her a call at (740) 674-4300.  You can even sign up with a credit card at their website - click here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cheese Making Classes in Duxbury, MA

Paula Harris, a longtime friend, sent us a link to an article about her cheesemaking classes in Duxbury, MA and Jody Feinberg was kind enough to let us print it here.  Paula said she loves to take every opportunity to plug our company, and we definitely appreciate it!  (That's Paula on the right in the picture below.)


Make mozzarella quickly and easily in your own kitchen

The Patriot Ledger
Posted Mar 17, 2010 @ 10:52 AM

Heat milk, add a few ingredients, drain, heat and knead. Can such simple steps produce a delicious cheese in 30 minutes? After tasting the mozzarella she made, Pam Smith seemed surprised by the answer.

“Wow! It tastes like cheese,” said Smith, who made the cheese in a Duxbury continuing education class. “I’m looking forward to making this again.”

Mozzarella is the quick-and-easy cheese, the one home cooks can whip up to complement favorites such as homegrown tomatoes, homemade pizza, eggplant dishes and wine.

“More and more people who love cheese are making their own,” instructor Paula Harris told her class of 10 women. “It tastes great, and people like to know where their food comes from.”

Harris runs WH Cornerstone Investments of Duxbury, but the financial planner developed her passion for cheesemaking after her volunteer efforts to permanently protect and preserve a 145-acre working dairy farm in Duxbury, Historic O’Neil Farm. To learn to turn milk into cheese, she took a daylong workshop at New England Cheese Making Supply Co. in central Massachusetts.

Mozzarella, one of seven cheeses Harris learned to make in the class, is best suited for a short class because it is the quickest to make. A playful cheese that can be stretched like taffy and shaped into balls, it combines old-fashioned kneading with the modern heat of a microwave.

In Italian, mozzarella means “to cut,” which refers to the kneading motion.

“This is a simple, forgiving recipe, so don’t overthink it,” Harris said. “But there are some things you need to be careful about.”

The basic principles are to use heat to create curds – coagulated solids in milk – and to separate the curds from the whey – the remaining fluid. To aid the coagulation, citric acid and an animal- or plant-based enzyme called rennet are added.

Many people order rennet and citric acid through online sites, such as the New England Cheesemaking Supply Co. site, because they are not readily available retail. The company sells these individually and as part of start-to-finish cheesemaking kits.

While mozzarella can be made with milk of any fat content, whole milk makes the most flavorful and moist cheese. Ultra-pasteurized milk will not work because the process kills the required living organisms.

It’s also important to avoid contamination by bacteria or other elements, so equipment and counters should be thoroughly cleaned.

As the women heated their milk on stoves at Duxbury Middle School, they watched as the surfaces grew mottled.

“You want to see it pull away from the sides and see a greenish, yellow tinge to the liquid,” Harris advised.

After the curds formed, the women scored the surface and then used a slotted spoon to transfer portions into a colander. They repeatedly gently pressed the curds, until the whey drained, and then heated the curds in a microwave.

Donning rubber gloves, they kneaded the hot curds with a motion similar to bread kneading, reheating them several times.

“You’re trying to create a solid mass, so you don’t want to squish the curds,” Harris said. “You want to fold it and work quickly while it’s hot, but you don’t want to overhandle it because it can get tough.”

Experienced in bread making, Heather Sapia was one of the first to turn out a lovely smooth, shiny white mound.

“This is how it’s supposed to look,” said Harris to the other women.

Sapia plans to use the cheese to make pizza from scratch in her new pizza oven.

“I’d always heard it was easy to do, and it is,” she said. “It tastes a little different. It’s got a nice flavor and is smoother on the palette.”

Packing her cheese mound into a plastic container, Laura Doherty looked forward to serving it at a family gathering.

“My daughters are great cooks, but they haven’t had homemade mozzarella cheese,” she said. “This is going to impress them.” 

Reach Jody Feinberg at jfeinberg@ledger.com


Fresh cubed mozzarella
Cherry tomatoes
Fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
Kosher salt
Ground pepper


Wrap a basil leaf around a cube of cheese. Skewer on toothpick, then add a cherry tomato.

Make the vinaigrette by combining the vinegar, mustard, and lemon juice. Add the oil in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Makes about 3/4  of a cup).

Place skewers on a serving platter and drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette or a favorite salad dressing.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Probiotics in Yogurt

How much is enough?

Let’s face it- we’re not all scientists. Probiotics is all about strains of bacteria.  There is a lot of information about bacteria out there, but some of us have to visualize it to understand it.
Fortunately, there are many videos on UTube about probiotics. In particular, one called "Forever Living Probiotic Products" (picture at right) shows the good bacteria dramatically rescuing Boweltown from the bad bacteria. It’s very cute!

Most of the information in this article came from a more restrained UTube video called "Why we should be taking probiotics." Dr. Gerald Lewis from New Zealand gave us permission to use much of the content in this article.

We are tackling this controversial subject because one of our customers, Heidi Elbert, wrote us the following note:

I have made the Y5 Yogurt many times and absolutely love it!  Friends and family that I share it with usually agree it is the best textured/flavored yogurt they have ever had.  So glad to have found you all through "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle!"  

My question is, I would like to have some kind of approximation of the probiotic levels in the Y5 yogurt.  If I'm not getting enough probiotics through my homemade yogurt then I may start taking a supplement (which I don't really want to do.)  Would you have any information on probiotic count or a source that I could contact?  I have looked on the website and could not find anything.
We contacted our culture supplier, and they sent us the chart above, showing how the probiotic content of yogurt deteriorates over time. The first 2 weeks are stable, but it plunges down after that. This was interesting, but it didn’t really answer the question.

Finally, our answer came from the company that manufactures our cultures:

In an 8 oz (1 cup) serving of our Y5 yogurt, you could expect the following numbers:

L.acidophilus = 3-4 billion per serving

Bifidobacterium = 1-2 billion per serving

So, now, what does this mean? There is no minimum daily requirement of probiotics because this is bacteria that proliferates rapidly and replaces itself in our systems.

When you buy supplements, they range from a total of 5 billion to more than twice that amount.

There are hundreds of species of bacteria in our digestive tracts. We have no idea which ones we need or how often we need to replenish them. So, what do we know? Let’s start at the beginning:

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are naturally occurring beneficial bacteria located in the intestines. Their job it is to help prevent  harmful bacteria from wreaking havoc.

What do the good bacteria do for us?

Keep the bowel clean
Break down food
Help make B and K vitamins
Suppress bad bacteria

What are harmful bacteria?

Examples are E. Coli, Salmonella and Clostridia

What do the bad bacteria do?

Damage our stomach walls leading to immune diseases
Cause Infections-yeast, urinary and vaginal
Cause Putrefaction, flatulence, bad breath, bloating
Cause Inflammation, depression, brain fog
Stop absorption

What is the ideal balance?

Ideally, our digestive tract maintains a balance of 85% good bacteria and 15% bad.

What causes the balance to be disrupted?

Antibiotics strip our intestines of good and bad bacteria. Afterwards, the bad bacteria usually become more prevalent than they were before.

What if I haven’t taken antibiotics?

We all consume antibiotics in:
Pills for any infection
Our food- meat, eggs, milk, fish, chicken
Chemicals and sprays-anything that kills bacteria

What species are most of the bacteria in our stomachs?

Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium

Where can I get that bacteria?

1. Yogurt, unpasteurized milk, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, tempeh, umeboshi plum, some juices and soy beverages.

2. Dietary supplements

Note: Pre-biotics are foods with a lot of soluble fiber that support the growth of probiotics in our systems. They should always be taken with probiotics. Foods that are especially helpful are those with Fructo-oligo-saccharides (FOS), like bananas, onions, garlic, artichokes, barley and tomatoes.

How do I know if I might need probiotics?

If you have symptoms of intestinal distress: diarrhea, bloating, flatulence.
When you have been ill or under stress.
During and after a course of antibiotics.
After an overseas trip-or while travelling.
After bowel surgery.
If you have urinary and vaginal infections.
If you have food allergies.
If you have Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease or other immune diseases.
When you have Eczema-especially in children.
If you are old or have a weakened immune system.

What should I do?

Dr. Lewis recommends:

Ask your doctor if you may take a course of top quality probiotics. If so, take a course of it every few months.
Regularly eat yogurt, kefir, miso, etc.
Reduce the amount of high sugar and highly processes foods in your diet.
Regularly eat pre-biotics (soluble fiber).

What should I look for in a probiotic supplement?

There should be something in them to enable them to survive the acids in your stomach so they can reach your lower intestine. The capsules may be enteric coated, for example.

Our answer to Heidi’s question:

It is probably a good idea to take a one or two week course of probiotics every few months, with your doctor’s permission.
Our Y5 yogurt, eaten regularly, will provide more than enough of the two main probiotics to keep your system healthy.