Did your jar of L. Reuteri Superfood (or L. Gasseri Superfood) separate like the one in the picture?
Separation of L. Reuteri/L. Gasseri cultured dairy is quite common, and happens spontaneously.
It's the natural outcome of a long and active fermentation, and is a sign of activity and viability, not of inactivity/faultiness.
It’s usually not a sign that you did something wrong either.
For obvious reasons, we cannot assess your ferment from afar, but overall, cultured L. Reuteri/L. Gasseri should be pleasant to consume.
How to assess your ferment?
Before assessing your jar, scrape off the top layer and discard it. This is because the surface layer is more exposed to air and may have a stronger smell/taste, as well as a different texture than the rest of the jar.
If your ferment is pleasantly tart, with no bitter aftertaste and no spoiled smell (some faint sour dairy aroma is fine), then it is usually successfully fermented. Pleasant tartness is the hallmark of fermentation.
You can eat a separated batch; it’s rich and flavorful.
On the other hand, if your jar is unpleasantly pungent or slimy, you don't want to use it. This will be your call.
The jar in the picture came out delectable.
The curds (solids) came out like cottage cheese (not rubbery), with a nicely sour and rich flavor, akin to Feta or Labneh cheese. We spread them like soft-cheese on a slice of sourdough bread.
As for the whey (the translucent liquid), we just drank it. It is normal for the whey to taste tart, but it too should be pleasant to consume.
A jar of separated L. Reuteri/L. Gasseri contains the same quantity of beneficial bacteria as a non-separated jar. The beneficial bacteria are present in both the curds and the whey, and therefore both should be consumed. Whey is often dubbed ‘liquid gold’. It's highly nutritious.
You can use 2 tablespoons of a separated batch (1 tbsp. of whey and 1 tbsp. of curd, or 2 tbsp. of whey if the curd is too firm) to make your next batch, and this will be the ultimate test. If your new batch comes out thick and nicely tart, even if separated, then fermentation has been successful.
You can stir/whisk the solid and liquid back together just before consumption, but they will most likely separate again shortly thereafter.
Generally speaking, embracing this spontaneous separation is a good strategy.
If separation in recultured batches is very strong and happens repeatedly, it could also be a sign that it's time to start over with a starter from a sachet, rather than keep using the ferment itself as a starter.
How to extract the cheese from the separated jar?
- The easiest way is to simply scoop the curds out of the jar
- If you wish, you can then strain the curds through a cheesecloth (and keep the whey!)
The curds in the picture were scooped out of the jar without straining.