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.
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.
The bottom line is that the culture is very forgiving and easy to use.
- *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.
It will only grow in mammal milk (cow, goat, sheep, etc.)
Kefir (pronounced /kəˈfɪər/ kə-feer is believed to have its origins in the Caucasus Mountains. Traditional kefir was made in skin bags that were hung near a doorway; the bag would be knocked by anyone passing through the doorway to help keep the milk and kefir grains well mixed. Marco Polo mentioned kefir when recounting his travels. (Wikipedia)
Why make kefir? Because it is healthy for you!
lactic acid bacteria, yeasts, Fermentation Products: carbon dioxide, ethanol (alcohol), Nutrients: protein from milk, polysaccharide, Vitamins or pro-vitamins: vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin D, folic acid, nicotinic acid, Minerals: calcium, iron, iodine
Fermentation reduces the lactose in the milk, and many lactose-intolerant individuals can tolerate kefir. Test this carefully if you are lactose intolerant “Researcher Steven Hertzler stated: “Both kefir and yogurt improve lactose digestion simply because some of the bacterial cells give up their lives in the intestinal tract, release their enzymes and digest the lactose. It’s a one-shot deal. However, kefir has additional microorganisms that may be able to colonize the intestines and benefit health further by protecting the intestine against disease-causing bacteria.“
The kefiran in kefir has been shown in one study to suppress an increase in blood pressure and reduce serum cholesterol levels in rats. Kefir contains compounds that have antimutagenic and antioxidant properties in vitro, although it is not established that these compounds have any physiological properties when kefir is consumed. “ (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kefir)