A Simple Way to Eat Cultured… on the Road


Note from Shannon: I am pleased to bring the voices of our lovely contributors to this space every Tuesday. Please welcome Julie, Founder of Cultures for Health and Cultured Kitchen-Keeper.

This year our travel schedule has picked up substantially. We’ve exhibited at more shows already this year than any previous year. While we enjoy traveling to shows and meeting our customers, we have come to realize travel is not without serious challenges. We have three kids 6 and under, all of whom have very restrictive diets.

We quickly learned that flying and hotels were convenient but miserable due to the constant stress of where to find clean food. We also live in a city with a very small airport. Short security lines are traded-off for the reality that one delayed flight through a connecting city can cause a travel delay of 24 hours or more. It’s no fun to suddenly be stuck in a strange city you didn’t plan for.

A few months ago we settled on a new solution. We would travel with a camping trailer and camp our way to and from our destinations. This has proven to be a great deal of fun! It allows us flexibility in our schedule, we are getting to see the United States up close, we get to visit family and friends along the way, and our children enjoy the adventure of staying at a new campground with a new playground almost every night.

I will admit I was perhaps most excited about having our own small kitchen traveling with us complete with my own cooking utensils and our own food! But there was one element I didn’t fully consider—culturing on the road.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-camper-daylight-image25940910 More precisely, I didn’t consider that everything in my trailer kitchen has to be able to bounce while we drive. I suppose I just assumed I would take all normal food with us including our ongoing ferments such as kombucha and water kefir (two of our favorites!). That works well when we are only going to be gone a few days but is problematic when we are gone for weeks. As it turns out, there’s no good way to secure sloshing water kefir grains. There’s just too much potential for a huge mess.

It was time for a new solution! While we can easily pack some finished foods such as a jar of sauerkraut, cultured applesauce, and even bottled kombucha, my kids are quite accustomed to having fresh water kefir every day and so I need to make it on the road.

We are normally only camped for 16 hours or so each day so I need a faster solution to my beloved water kefir grains which generally take 24-48 hours to culture. Instead, I’ve turned to using a direct-set kefir starter. This powdered starter cultures in 12-18 hours, can be added directly to juice or coconut water, and can be recultured several times.

kefir starter capture

This is not a product I normally use, simply because water kefir grains contain more strains of probiotics and are more cost effective since they can be cultured repeatedly for years. But I find the convenience of the powder to be ideal when culturing kefir grains themselves just isn’t feasible or I really don’t want to clean sloshed water kefir off every surface.

As soon as we stop for the day, I add the powder to juice or coconut water, let it sit overnight, and pop it in the fridge the next morning. The powdered culture also works great for the occasional flight and hotel stay too! It can be packed in a suitcase, added to bottled juice or coconut water and allowed to sit overnight.

Traveling is stressful to everyone’s system, regardless of how much fun you are having. It’s not the time to be skipping your probiotic foods! With ingredients like the powdered kefir starter, there’s no reason to go without! I’d also love to hear from all you camping veterans—how do you ensure a steady supply of cultured foods while camping?

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert started Cultures for Health in late 2008. She is the mother to three young children and enjoys cooking and reading. Her favorite cultured foods include water kefir and kombucha. Julie lives with her family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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  1. Jennifer says

    This is fantastic! I really thought that particular kefir starter could only be used with milk. (I often have a hard time thinking outside the box). Thanks for this idea.

  2. Virginia says

    I’m going to be flying out, and then driving home a week later, in a couple of weeks. I’m grateful to learn about kefir powder working with different liquids!
    Is there a good way you’ve found to pack fermented veggies for a flight? I’d love to take some with me. Packing a cooler is no problem, once I’m on the ground…

  3. Rosalyn says

    The way I’ve packed ferments for a flight is to freeze them in zipper-style bags, then when it’s time to fly, put the frozen bags inside a larger airtight bag (to prevent leaking all over my clothes!) in the suitcase.

    This assumes, of course, that you don’t mind freezing the ferments. I store mine frozen anyway, so it’s not a huge leap. :-)

  4. Karen says

    Hi Julie,

    For the direct set kefir, do you use just regular coconut water, or young cw? Also, do you follow the same ratio of liquid to starter ss you do with milk please?

    Thank you in advance! :-)

  5. Julie Feickert says

    I just use the typical amount of starter and commercially available coconut water (avoiding additives as much as possible). Young coconuts are amazing but since we travel through fairly isolated portions of the country, they are not as easy to obtain.

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