Kefir (pronounced “Kee-fur” ) is a cultured milk similar to yogurt. The cultures that produce kefir are completely different than yogurt cultures, and have a unique, ultra-healthy probiotic content.
You may have received a kefir start from me- or perhaps you are curious and would like to begin making your own kefir and do not know where to start. Read through these directions, and if you would like a kefir start, please use the contact form and I will arrange for you to get one (in the US only, sorry)
There are two ways that you may have received a kefir starter from me- in a glass jar that has several cups of kefir already cultured, or in a plastic baggie with just a little milk. If you have received a jar, it has already started the culturing process. Skip to *, below. If you received a baggie with the culture and a small amount of milk, use the following directions.
Clean, well rinsed glass jar
Kefir grains (do not rinse the grains!)
Milk (any grade: nonfat, low fat, full-fat)
Add the kefir grains to ½ cup of milk in a glass container, and leave it uncovered (or loosely covered) at room temperature (note: refrigerating the culture will stop the process). Stir a couple of times through the next 24 hours. At this point you will notice some of the milk around the grains has thickened. Add additional milk (up to 2 cups at this point), stir to mix the starter into the new milk, and let it culture, stirring once or twice a day, for an additional 24 hours. caption id=”attachment_1364″ align=”alignnone” width=”205″] Adding milk to the kefir grains[/caption]
Depending on the temperatures of the room, during this initial ‘waking’ period, the milk will start to thicken after 12-24 hours, sometimes taking as much as 48 hours in a cooler environment. After this time, the milk should appear to be of yogurt consistency and is ready to be consumed as a beverage, used in recipes, turned into ‘cottage cheese’, or “ kept aside for several days to undergo a slower secondary fermentation which further thickens and sours the milk” (Wikipedia), and adds to the nutrient base. Use a plastic fork to scoop out the culture, and add the culture and ½ cup of the kefir to a quart size jar, and fill it with milk).
*After this initial period of bringing your culture ‘to life’, the culturing is pretty much a ‘no-brainer’: pour out the kefir that you want to use, then replace it with fresh milk. Stir, cover the jar with a cloth, and leave the jar on the counter.
If you need a break from culturing, put the grains and a tablespoon or two of kefir in a clean jar, add 2 cups milk, and put it into the refrigerator for up to several weeks. Stir it occasionally if you remember. It will stay alive for a long time this way. I have left a starter in the ‘fridge for over a month and had no trouble putting it back into use within 24 hours. There are times when I will put a fully-cultured jar of kefir in the ‘fridge because I do not have time to use it or deal with it. After 5 or 6 days, I take it out and find that the culture has grown considerably- it is a good way to grow the culture if you wish to share it.
*Do not store in a non-acid proof container (such as metal), and don’t use reactive-metal utensils. Store and grow your kefir in glass containers. Plastic can be used during traveling.
Do not use metal utensils in the kefir
* Do not use any dish that has a soap residue. Rinse any container thoroughly before using, as soap will kill the bacteria.
*Don’t suffocate the culture- it needs air. Keep any lid on loosely, or just cover with a cloth to keep bugs and dust out.
Do not rinse the grains. This stops the culturing process for several days, and is unnecessary.
- Using your Kefir:
You can drink it plain, add a little stevia or other sweetener to it, or make a smoothie with it. It can also be used to make ice cream, or as a probiotic ingredient in salad dressings and other recipes. See my Pinterest board for more ideas.
Making kefir cheese, aka ‘cottage’ cheese:
Put the culture in the milk, leave it anywhere from 12 hours to 2 or 3 days (depending on how hot the house is, and how sour you want the kefir cheese to be). Once it is thickened, remove the culture and a cup of kefir, and put it in another jar. Add milk and set it aside to continue culturing . Put the jar of prepared kefir (without cultures- this step will kill the culture!) in a pot of water, bringing it to a boil. As soon as the water boils, (but without boiling the kefir!) and the curds separate from the whey, I turn off the stove and let the pot of water with the jar of curds-and-whey sit until they are cool- several hours or overnight. Then pour the curds-and-whey into a strainer and drain for an hour or two until it is as dry as you want it. If you would prefer it more of a ‘Greek yogurt’ consistency, do not let it drain for long.
I love this kefir cheese served with a little sugar, sour cream and some soaked raisins! Also served plain with a dollop of fruit jam over it. And of course in sirniki !
I have had the same culture for 9 years, taking it with me whenever I travel. When I do not want to make cheese out of it, or I am traveling, I just drink the cultured milk plain, or add fruit to it and make a smoothie. It is very healthy, and I have never gotten sick when I traveled which I attribute to the good bacteria in the culture.
The culture grows quickly, so you are encouraged to share a piece of it with others. It is traditional to give kefir away- never sell it (although I do charge postage when I am mailing it).
Milk kefir is a different culture than water kefir grains.