I recently made a surprise visit to my family in another state. When planning for it, it would require four planes, as well as wheelchair assistance and having to deal with crutches for one of my two children. But, what about the other children, the cultures in my kitchen? My kombucha, water kefir, and milk kefir couldn’t come along, so what to do with them? Leaving them in my husband’s care was not an option! The kombucha was easy. We do 7 day brews, so I made sure to make up new sugar tea and start the brewing right before we left so that it would still need a day or two after we got home before I had to attend to it. With the water kefir, I was a bit more nervous. It can go in the fridge for short periods of time, but the more often you store them, the weaker they might become. They had been in cold storage a few times in the last 6 months, so if grains don’t multiply, you are wary of more time in the fridge than what’s necessary. We were only to be gone a few days, so it made no sense to dehydrate them. The fridge was my only choice, as I didn’t want to ask anyone to care for them in their regular environment. Fingers crossed! I newly rehydrated milk kefir grains two weeks ago, so taking a break was a huge concern. Never refrigerate newly rehydrated grains! It’s too stressful for them, and likely they will not work well. I didn’t want the risk, but luckily, a friend came to my rescue. She was familiar with milk kefir, said she’d be happy to help “us” out, and would do her best to keep them alive. So I carefully jarred them up in fresh milk, and tucked them in a box stuffed with towels around the milk kefir, gallon of milk, and my strainer. When I checked in on them, she said they were culturing fast, and she was certain they had survived.
The kombucha was happily still brewing when I got home. I was able to start making water kefir again a few days later, with no ill-effects from the storage. The milk kefir was picked up the day after we got home, and continued to work beautifully. What a relief! Thank goodness for refrigerators, luck, and good friends. To what lengths have you gone to ensure your cultures can survive while you are away?