Some may have noticed a few references to kefir in a few of the recipes – so I thought I would do a post on ‘my’ method of fermenting milk/water with kefir grains and what I use them for. I highly recommend it to everyone who will listen (!)
First – what is kefir? There are a lot of websites out there, but I really like Wikipedia’s entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kefir
My good friend, L, got me started on kefir a few years ago – she gave me a small glass jar with a starter batch of water kefir grains. I mostly drank the water kefir straight, or mixed it in smoothies – my favorite type is made with dried blueberries. Last summer when L came to visit before we switched coasts, I stole (heh) some milk kefir grains and stashed them in the cooler for the trip across the country.
I know make kefir 2-3x per week; we drink the water type straight, usually about 4-6 oz per day and the milk kefir I use in green smoothies (post on that coming soon!), baking (replaces most milk, buttermilk & yogurt in recipes – with better results!), my sourdough starter, the sourdough English muffins that my mother (and co-blogger) posted. It also makes an excellent base for homemade ranch dressing (even if it is just the homemade from the powder – hey, we all take shortcuts, right?).
Making kefir is ridiculously easy and there are several websites out there with the various methods on feeding the grains, but I thought I would show everyone how *I* do it. All you need for milk kefir is milk (any type, any %). I have only attempted to kefir animal milks – goat and cow specifically – but you can also kefir soy, coconut milk, nut milks (I think?). Note that the higher the sugar content in the milk (which for animal milks would mean the lower the fat %), the longer it will take for the grains to eat the sugar and leave you with the tangy, thick kefir product that is expected. To get the full health benefits, most websites will tell you to only kefir raw whole milk – I don’t have access to raw milk right now, so I use organic whole milk (I buy whole milk anyway to use to make ice cream). I also kefir goat’s milk occasionally to vary up my milk proteins. The goat’s milk available at the store is lower in fat then whole cows milk, so I let it sit for an extra day.
What you will need: Glass jars (or other glass containers)
Fine mesh strainer
Funnel (optional, but saves the mess)
Milk (cow, goat, soy, coconut, ect)
The picture above is the finished kefir – notice the separation at the bottom.
When it looks like that, it is ready to be separate from the grains.
This picture is fairly self explanatory – take the fermented kefir and strain out the grains into a clean glass jar.
I use the tap method to separate the grains from the kefir – you can also use a spoon (I find a spoon gets sticky, the tap method works pretty well).
here it is – ready for the fridge!
I had some milk I wanted to use up so I used the grains to make another batch right away – but if you don’t want to, you can store the grains in enough milk to cover them in the fridge, and then drain when you are ready to use them. Don’t rinse!! The grains have beneficial bacteria that keeps them healthy, so no need to rinse them. ever. 🙂
here are the grains – ready for milk.
The ratio of grains to milk medium is more of an art then a science, I have discovered. For my climate, I liked 10 to 1 – 10 parts milk to 1 part kefir grains. I use a kitchen scale to measure the grains, just because its easy.
Depending on the temperature in the kitchen, let the mixture sit from 24-48 hours in a cool, dark place (I leave it on the counter out of direct sunlight so I don’t forget about it!)
and that’s it! If you can get your hands on some grains (there are some online trading sites, or ask a friend, like I did) – give it a try. I will do a post on water kefir at some point in the future.