Sunday, April 15, 2012

How To Make Kefir

What is kefir and why should I make it?

Thanks for asking! :) I started making kefir a few months ago without really knowing much about it.  My mother-in-law had used kefir to make some amazingly light and fluffy waffles while we were visiting them in 2010, and so I put kefir grains on my "to-aquire" list.  

Probiotic.org says, "Kefir is a milk-based beverage that is made by fermenting milk (goat, cow, sheep) with kefir grains and is rich in both enzymes and beneficial bacteria. This beverage is made with the kefir culture, and this culture is more commonly referred to as a “grain.” Kefir “grains” are comprised of lactic acid bacteria, yeasts, and polysaccharides. The live bacteria and yeast found in kefir grains are friendly microorganisms that not only aid the digestive system but also help strengthen the intestines and resist the growth or harmful bacteria or pathogens.  Kefir has a uniform creamy consistency, a slightly sour taste somewhere between buttermilk and sour cream, and a mild yeasty aroma." 

The claimed health benefits are numerous; in addition to replenishing your intestinal flora and aiding in digestion, kefir supposedly prolongs life, lowers cholesterol, slows the growth of certain cancers, improves the functioning of the liver, gall bladder, circulation, and metabolism, and has even been said to reduce acne and eczema.  How much of that is true?  I'm not sure.  But it's so easy to make, I figure if there's any truth to those claims at all, I want in on it!  If you want to read more about how kefir differs from yogurt and why you might consider adding it to your diet, you can do so here.

Kefir grains are weird looking, sort of spongey little things.  They look a bit like cheese curds.  See?


I was lucky enough to have someone give me my milk kefir grains (hers had reproduced and she had extra), but if you want your own, I'd order from Cultures For Health.  You can also sign up for their newsletter and get a free e-book of kefir recipes including several for smoothies, desserts, and dairy-product substitutes, like sour cream.

To make kefir, you need a clean, glass quart jar.  


Fill it about 4/5 of the way with milk (when you add the grains, the jar should be full with a little headroom).  The grains are generally happiest in high fat cow's milk, but you can also make coconut, soy, or goat milk kefir.  Water kefir grains are also available at Cultures for Health (I'm not connected to them in any way, I've just read good things about them on several other blogs).


Drop in your grains (about 2 tablespoons of them).


Set a clean canning lid on top, not fully covering so the kefir can breath.  A material like cheesecloth would also work.  That's it!  Let the milk ferment at room temperature for 24-48 hours, and bam!  You've got kefir.  We like it best somewhere between 24-36 hours.  After it's done fermenting, you can cap it tightly and refrigerate it.  Use a plastic, bamboo, or nylon colander to strain out the grains when you're ready to use the kefir, as metal is reactive and could harm the grains.

Grains keep quite well in the fridge in a little fresh milk between uses (I've let them sit a few weeks at a time), or can be frozen in some water if you don't want to make kefir for a few months.


Some of our favorite uses?

Blended up with apple juice, frozen berries, banana, a few tablespoons of sugar and a dash of vanilla extract for a mighty fine smoothie.  Baked in delicious naan (use instead of the Greek yogurt) to accompany an Indian meal.  Kefir also makes a fantastic substitute in most recipes calling for buttermilk.  It makes absolutely wonderful, light and fluffy pancakes and waffles. 


P.S. - Yogurt more your style?  Yogurt is also pretty easy to make.  We've been using this little yogurt maker for about 7 years now, but we bought it when the maker was in regular production and it only cost us about $20!  Amazon does have some other options, but thankfully I've now heard from several friends that yogurt can be easily and successfully made in a slow cooker, which many households already own.  I found some step by step directions here, but Google will yield many, many more, for regular and Greek yogurt


No comments: