My family doesn’t drink fresh milk. It’s not that I have strong opinions on this, but more that we just have never done it. My oldest child had a milk sensitivity when she was younger, and we got out of the habit of buying dairy milk. Since each child has gone through dairy sensitivities and never drank fresh milk, and I never was in the habit, we’ve continued to buy alternative milks.
However, I DO have strong feelings about the benefits of lactofermented foods, including yogurt and kefir. Can I just stop right here and say that it drives me a little bonkers that practically everyone pronounces it [KEE-fer]. I mean I feel like it’s obvious from the way it’s spelled that it should not be pronounced that way. But a quick google search will turn up how it is meant to be pronounced, namely [keh-FEAR]. Anywho, I digress.
Kefir is a fermented dairy product chock-full of beneficial bacteria and yeasts. The exact composition of beneficial organisms will depend on the batch, location, and other factors. However, you can see here a list of commonly found bacteria and yeasts in kefir cultures. This means that although kefir is tangy and creamy like yogurt, there is likely a larger number of number of beneficial little critters in it. Some studies have shown that the strains of bacteria in kefir help improve a number of ailments, and even help deter the growth of bad bacteria such as salmonella, e. coli, and h. pylori. And don’t let the pictures of the grains, scare you. The finished product is smooth and delicious.
I’ve tried my hand at fermented vegetables, kombucha, and sourdough. I plan to continue with the fermented veggies as soon as my kitchen is put back together (from our move) and I’ve got a fresh sourdough starter coming in the mail. I made my own kombucha for quite awhile, but found over time it was causing sensitivity in my teeth, due to the acidity. My teeth aren’t the strongest, so I decided to forgo regular consumption of kombucha.
So here is my account of making kefir for the first time. I had to go to a store with an abysmal selection of milk, and for some reason all the organic dairy products were ultra-pasteurized. You do not want to use ultra-pasteurized dairy for kefir; it may not ferment properly. So I had to get regular whole milk and half and half. Most people just use milk, but I wanted to try half and half since I read the resulting kefir is similar to sour cream. In the future, I plan to use raw goat milk from our own goats (maybe next year?)
Steps for making your own kefir (hint: it’s very easy)
- Obtain healthy kefir grains (culture) from a friend like I did, or a reputable source online. Gather a couple lidded jars, and non-metal strainers and stirring utensils.
- Strain out the kefir grains from the kefir that came with it. Most people just use a plastic strainer and non-metal spatula to strain it. I have a mesh bag I bought for making my own almond milk, so I used that.
- Add 1-2 teaspoons of kefir grains to a clean, glass container (best if you can see through it to monitor the changes as they take place). I had plenty of grains, so I added 1-2 teaspoons to each of two lidded jars.
- Again, I wanted to try one batch with whole milk and the other with half and half. You can add up to 4 cups of milk to the 1-2 teaspoons of grains. This is a great activity to do with the little ones. Maybe it will make them more excited to eat it! It’s important you don’t latch the lids down, the kefir needs air. I used some coffee filters to cover the opening and still let air in.
- Put the mixture on your counter in a warm place (I put mine next to the stove since we’re having chilly weather) for at least 24 hours.
- The next day, check to see if your kefir has fermented. It should be much thicker, and have a sour, but pleasant, smell.
- Strain the kefir out from the grains, place the kefir in the refrigerator for use, and place the grains back into the fermentation jar.
- Add another 2-4 cups of milk to the container to start all over again.
This method gives you a continuous stream of fresh kefir. Since we don’t drink milk, how am I going to use up all this kefir? Well we love smoothies around here, and kefir will be the base of our smoothies now instead of almond or coconut milk. I added some to my chili today for lunch instead of sour cream, and it was tasty. I am putting a small amount, like 1-2 teaspoons, into each bottle I make for my littlest one. Pour it over cereal, or anytime you would normally use yogurt. I know a lot of people use it in baking too.
There you have it. My first batches of kefir. If you think this looks complicated, I dare you to give it a try. Consume kefir regularly for a few weeks and see how you feel!