Saturday, May 12, 2012

It's Kefir Time

Making Homemade Kefir : It couldn't be easier
Newly-cultured kefir is poured through a fine mesh strainer to separate the "grains" from the liquid. kefir.  The kefir  can then be drunk, refrigerated for later use, or bottled and covered at room temp for additional time and further fermentation.
For the last three months or so, we've been enjoying homemade kefir, a yogurt-like probiotic-rich cultured milk drink. Thanks to my dear friend, Deb of Kultured Karaite, I was able to begin with some of her robust live kefir starter "grains," which got us off quickly to a great start.

"Grains" are a mother culture with a lumpy gelatinous appearance and clean tart yeasty fragrance, not truly grains.  You only need one tablespoon per quart of fresh milk.  They quickly grow until there are plenty to pass along to friends!

The process is really simple, and the end result is a fermented product that can rejuvenate depleted digestive systems by rebuilding the "gut," the intestinal flora and healthy bacteria (the necessary ones which combat pathogens). It works its wonders without any fuss at room temperature when fresh milk of any description (the less processed the better) is poured into a clean glass container, live kefir "grains" are added, and a permeable piece of natural fabric or coffee filter is secured over the top to keep unwanted pests out but allow for air contact.
The kefir "grains" look almost like large-curd cottage cheese.  Here is some kefir already separated from the "grains," and the picture shows the grains being placed into clean jars waiting for fresh milk to be poured over...for more kefir.  The cycle is easy, and the end results are delicious!  Kefir has a tart, smooth taste and consistency, and the more it ferments the tarter it becomes.  Refrigerating the finished product halts the fermentation, and it's delicious by itself, sweetened with stevia, fruit, or other sweetener, or used in many other ways.  Jack loves it with stevia and vanilla extract.
We leave the fermenting kefir at room temperature for 24-48 hours, then stir it gently, pour and strain it (separating the "grains" from the liquid"), and pour up the finished kefir. The finished kefir is kept in glass jars in the fridge, and the "grains" are added to another quart of fresh milk and left (covered with coffee filter rubber-banded across the top)on the kitchen counter to ferment. And this process is repeated over and over as we drink the kefir and the grains ferment each time. It's truly EASY. I tend to make a mess, but so few things are needed, anyone can do this: I use a rubber spatula for stirring and easing the liquid through the strainer, a fine plastic mesh strainer, a glass Pyrex measuring bowl (any glass bowl will do), and wide mouth canning jars for the finished kefir and for the fermenting milk.

I don't tolerate most milk products well, yet the homemade kefir has not upset my digestion like regular milk does. We will experiment with reducing to organic skim milk, but at the moment are using whole pasteurized milk. The kefir grains LOVE being fermented in cream :) They will work with not only dairy but with nut milks, and there is a way to culture sweetened waters, juices, and things such as coconut water. At the moment we're keeping things simple...a daily straining of the grains, setting aside the newly-made kefir, and pouring up fresh milk over the "grains" to ferment again...a very easy and repeatable system, and healthy. There are many claims to the benefits of drinking kefir due to its high content of multiple probiotics. The evidence of its restorative actions in the digestive/intestinal tracts were enough for use to begin making and using it daily. We'll report back here as we note positive changes from its use. Kefir is very satisfying, filling, and has not caused us any digestive problems. Do you make kefir, do you drink it, and what benefits have you noticed as a result? I'd love to hear about your own experiences with it! .

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