My grandma told me that riddle while we were pressing apples in the orchard when i was 13. We had just filled a 50 gallon wooden barrel with the cider we pressed, and covered it in place in the root cellar to let it ferment. We wanted the vinegar. It never occurred to me that the riddle might have more than one answer.
After fermenting water kefir for several months, I noticed a faint translucent mother had arrived on the surface of the finished ferment. It looked just like the young mother on vinegar or kombucha: thin and gelatinous. I fished it out with a scowl and discarded it after 4 or 5 harvests. The next time I went to harvest the kefir, there she was again. This time I saved her in a separate jar. As i replenished the sugar water over the kefir grains, I withheld a little of the solution for the young mother, covered both jars over and put them on the shelf to ferment. Ten days later, both had new mothers floating on top: small and thin (compared to kombucha or vinegar) but very much present.
For the past year and a half, I’ve repeated this process when i harvest the original elixer: skim off the mother from the jar with the kefir grains, and add it to the jar now full of mothers. I now treat both jars (1-gallon size) the same, and I can’t tell any difference in the resulting beverage. I feed each batch one-half Meyer lemon and one-half dried fig each time I make a new batch. This flavor combination is really over the top.
The jar with the kefir grains continues to form only a thin mother each time, where the jar full of mothers now forms a thick white mat, not unlike white wine vinegar mother.