The only kefir some people may have heard of is Kiefer Sutherland. However, sorry to disappoint, but this post is about the dairy beverage known as kefir, not the actor.
Kefir, thick and a bit lumpy, is similar to yogurt or buttermilk in appearance and taste. It contains helpful probiotics which can penetrate the mucosal lining of the digestive tract. Kefir can be made from kefir grains, which combine to form a funny-looking, jelly-like substance that resembles white coral or cauliflower. Alternatively, you can make kefir from a dry starter culture.
For a little extra information about kefir, I’m going to quote from one of my favorite dairy books: Home Dairy with Ashley English.
“These microbes (in the digested kefir) colonize the intestinal lining, giving the boot to harmful intruders potentially residing there. As a result, it becomes easier for your body to ward off pathogens like intestinal parasites and E. coli. You can make kefir from any type of milk, including animal (cow, sheep, goat, what have you), coconut, rice, and soy. While the milk can be variable, the invariable part of the recipe is kefir grains – a fascinating blend of bacteria and yeasts in a protein/lipid/sugar base … As it ferments, the kefir sours and becomes mildly carbonated, becoming very mildly alcoholic in the process (although you won’t be getting drunk off of kefir, at levels of one to two percent!).”
Many prefer to drink kefir straight, including myself, but others blend it into a smoothie, use it for dressings or dips, or bake with it. (Note: You lose the beneficial probiotics if it is cooked.)
You can purchase kefir dry starter culture online from New England Cheese Making Supply Company. That site also includes a recipe to make kefir from its starter. However, you can only make successive batches of kefir from a dry starter six or seven times.
On the other hand, if you use kefir grains, you can pretty much make kefir indefinitely if you keep the grains alive and healthy. (Similar to a sourdough starter.)
A relative gave me some of her kefir grains, and I’ve been making periodic batches of kefir with them. The grains multiple over time, so they can be shared with others who want to make their own. They are interesting organisms to be sure and have a slight “yeasty” smell to them.
To make kefir from the grains, I follow the below process:
- 1 to 2 Tblsps kefir grains
- 2 cups of milk
Put the grains in a glass or ceramic container and add the milk. Put lid on. Leave at room temperature for 24 hours in a dark place (cover with a dishcloth if need be). When kefir is thickened after 24 hours, strain the grains out with a colander or remove with slotted spoon. Keep grains for your next batch in a covered, glass container at room temperature. You can rinse the grains with non-clorinated (filtered) water before your next batch. Refrigerate the finished kefir. The ideal temperature for making kefir is 68 to 75 degrees. It will take longer if it’s cooler and make quicker if it’s warmer. You can put the grains in the fridge in some milk if you plan to take a break from making kefir. However, if you do this too often, you may kill your starter. Kefir should stay good in the fridge for up to three weeks.