So, on somewhat of a whim, I posted a request for kefir grains to my local Freecycle group. I was especially hoping for water kefir grains so that I could compare the process with making ginger beer. My only response, however, was for milk kefir grains. I went for it!
Making kefir is incredibly easy! I can vouch for milk kefir, but the instructions for making water kefir aren’t too different. There is an abundance of information on the web and a variety of how-to guides. Not to mention, much debate on open vs. closed fermentation (also referred to as aerobic vs. anaerobic). But, don’t let this deter you from trying your hand at making kefir. I suspect that “originally” making kefir was done one way or the other. Even so, the process seems highly customizable. So, I recommend trying it out a few different ways, and then go with what you like best!
For a primer, I suggest visiting Cultures for Health. And, if you are interested in the debate, check these out:
- I recommend starting here from Ferment-a-Cap.
- Then, read this, a series on 52-weeks of fermenting.
- or, read what Devine Health has to offer.
- But, I find it interesting that the authoritative sources for obtaining kefir grains, neither Dom’s nor Cultures for Health suggest that milk kefir need by made in an air-tight environment. Perhaps a trip to the Causcaus mountains would clear up the controversy…
As for me, I tried using a woven cloth cover and I tried a homemade air-loc cap.
Both methods produced “kefired” milk…meaning the milk thickened and soured without spoiling. But, I prefer the consistency/predictability (and more importantly, flavor) that my air-loc provided. After some additional reading, it seems that the aerobic vs. anaerobic has more to do with preference. An air-tight ferment produces a more bubbly kefir. And since, kefir is also known as the champagne of dairy – maybe that is how it was intended. But not everyone can get excited about bubbly milk. Before you crinkle your nose though, I suggest you give it at least a taste test.
For more info on “why kefir milk?” here’s a quick read from The Nourished Kitchen. And if sour or tart milk (think plain yogurt) isn’t your thing, maybe a second ferment will be more to your liking. I’m trying that next!
Some quick tips that I learned:
- Milk should become kefir within 48 hours, preferably 24 hrs. If it has been 48 hrs and your kefir hasn’t thickening like you think it should, strain out your grains, cover them with less milk then before, put them in a warmer spot, and save your strained milk/kefir in the fridge for baking. Then again, if you milk thickens to kefir in less than 24 hrs, try the opposite (more milk, cooler area). I put my start-up milk/kefir in a jar in the fridge only to discover a few days later that not only did it thicken, it was also effervescent! All the same, I still used it only for baking (and made some awesome crepes).
- When you get your grains home and put them in milk, it may take a few rounds before they are predictably making kefir. Mine took about a week to get acclimated to their new home and new milk supply.
- If you’ve never tried kefir before, you may not know what to expect taste-wise. I didn’t! So, I splurged and bought some commercial plain kefir from Lifeway. You may want to go to their website first, and download a coupon…
- Personally, I fish out my kefir grains with a spoon and don’t bother with the strainer (too much work, and even more dishes to clean up). But then, I’m only making about 8 ounces (1 cup) at a time right now – no one else in the house is as excited as I am about kefir… I have my fermenting jar, my storing jar, and my clean jar. I move the grains from the fermenting jar to the clean jar. The kefir in the fermenting jar is either added to an existing jar in the fridge or just capped and refrigerated.
- Squeezing the kefir grains seems to make them more productive. Though a few websites recommend squeezing them between your (clean!) fingers, I just squish them with the back of my spoon. My milk now thickens to kefir in 24 hrs rather than 48. But, this may also be due to the warming weather.
What to do with your kefir milk?
- use it like you would yogurt
- add some frozen wild blueberries (wild because they are small), shake and drink
- make a fruit smoothie
- use instead of milk for your cereal or granola
and my new thing: make green smoothies!
- Here’s an idea from Linda Wagner
- Or, if you are training for a big race like I am…here’s a protein rich version from Don’t Waste The Crumbs!
My Green Machine recipe, however, is rather simple:
- 3/4 cup kefir
- 1 c, or to taste of fresh kale or other leafy greens (I wash and spin my greens then keep them in the freezer)
- 1 small banana
- 1/4 cup oats (quick cook variety, uncooked)
- 1/2 T ground flax seed (I grind up a bunch and keep it in the freezer)
- 1/2 c or so of fruit (fresh or frozen) to taste
Blend the kefir and greens together first. Once smooth, add the other ingredients and blend again until smooth. If too thick, add additional liquid – such as cold water or juice. Either enjoy then and there or refrigerate in jars for later, but drink within a day or two. If you are feeling adventurous add some sprouted, cooked quinoa to the blender too (1/4 c or so). I got the idea from Kitchen Stewardship.
While a fancy, smanchy, high powered blender is nice, I’ve been using a used Oster that I got from eBay for a few years now. Once it wears out, maybe I will upgrade…
What’s your favorite yogurt or kefir recipe? I can’t wait to try kefir ice cream this summer!