Make your own fresh Kefir!

How to make your own fresh Kefir milk at home in your spare time! For cheap, even!

 

Note: October 16, 2009, On AOL this morning there is an article about immune boosters which mentions Kefir and its value as a probiotic source. Somewhere I read that Kefir has 40 different strains!! The grains multiply fast. I don't seem to know anyone locally that wants a start so decided to offer extras for $5 (US only). Write me if interested, to make sure I have some available before you send money.

Kefir is a wonderful and ancient cultured milk product which contains loads of friendly bacteria of several strains, supportive of gut health.
Canadian Herbalist Tony Pantalleresco has posted these interesting comments on yogurt, kefir, and acidophilus on his site. Good Kefir is slightly thick and has a tang like a great buttermilk, but the flavor is just a little different. There is really not much to making Kefir, just a few points, and of course you have to have the grains. Please note: as Dom points out on his marvelous page, powdered starter cultures do NOT have what you need to produce REAL Kefir. I favor Kefir because it is the least fuss of all cultured milk products and I am lazy. I drink a pint of Kefir every day.

 

Like making Kombucha or Kim Chee or Yogurt yourself, the first few times you do it you'll be looking at the instructions with great concentration, but after that it will become second nature and part of your health routine.

Kefir Grains
Kefir Grains look like little pieces of cauliflower, only they are soft and rubbery. They do increase in time and you will have to divide them. There are quite a few sources for Kefir Grains on the net. I got mine from www.kefirlady.com.  How you'll know it's time to divide the grains is that the Kefir will "make" in a very short time and you will have a lot of them.

Preliminaries
To make Kefir I use wide-mouth 1-quart canning jars and plastic, not metal, lids. They are easy to clean. For my method of making Kefir you will need two of them. For larger amounts you can use a 2-quart one with a wide mouth. You should be able to find these at a large old-fashioned hardware store that carries canning supplies. They're about $3 apiece. I had to buy a case of 6.

 

Also, there is a marvelous plastic canning funnel/strainer that I use to harvest my finished Kefir, which just fits into the wide mouth and stays put. It's called Big Mouth. I found the Big Mouth online here at this interesting site: http://www.mendingshed.com/244.html It has a snap-in sieve and is a whiz to clean. If you can't find it, you can use a plastic colander with small holes, or a nylon large-mesh sieve, over a large bowl. Here's a picture of the Big Mouth.  

 


What milk to use

You can use any milk for Kefir, but of course fresh certified raw milk is best. I use raw organic goat milk. Ultra-pasteurized is the worst (it's ultra-dead). You can even use reconstituted powdered milk and add a bit of whipping cream after the Kefir is made, for flavor. 

My Method
Put 2-3 cups of milk in one of your wide mouth canning jars. Add Kefir Grains, stir, and put on the lid loosely. The Kefir Grains will rise to the top. Set the jar on the counter on a towel and give it a mixing swirl or shake two or three times a day. Or just let it alone.

 

I make mine with the lid on loosely. During this time the fermentation will produce a little gas, so leaving the lid loose will let it out. Making Kefir is a highly individual process. You will find through trying different culturing times, how tart you like your kefir. It's done when you see it getting a little thick. With longer culturing times the milk seems to kind of clump around the grains at the top. Culturing can take 12 to 36 hours, down to just a few hours if you have a lot of grains. It also depends on the temperature. Warmer = faster. By then you have a huge number of friendly flora and it's time to harvest.

 

Big Mouth Strainer method (my favorite and easiest cleanup): Set up your clean jar with the Big Mouth strainer. Pour your finished Kefir into the strainer and gently stir (I use a wooden spoon) till the milk has gone through and your kefir grains are left in the strainer. One of those spoon-like spatulas is good for gently scooping them out.

 

Colander method: Put a plastic colander with small holes into a bowl and pour in the Kefir. You can easily take the grains out of the colander, but you are left with pouring the Kefir from the bowl into your storage jar, plus you have to wash the colander and the bowl.

 

Pour method: I got a set of those plastic sprouting lids that fit the wide-mouth canning jars. The one with the medium mesh is good for Kefir. The largest mesh lets some of the smaller grains go through. Remove the lid you placed while culturing, and stir well. Place the strainer lid on the jar and simply pour through, turning the jar to keep the grains from clogging the screen. NOTE: this only works when the Kefir is still fairly thin AND when there are not many grains. Since I like my Kefir cultured a little longer it is usually too thick for this method.

 

You can drink some now (I usually can't wait) or just put a clean lid on it and refrigerate. It will tend to develop a bit more tanginess in the refrigerator. Kefir is like buttermilk in that it will cling to the side of the jar or glass.

If you are going to make more Kefir immediately, wash the jar you just poured it out of, put in new milk and the grains from the strainer (there is no need to rinse them), and set it on the counter to start working. If you will be waiting a couple of days before making your next batch, place the grains in enough milk to cover them plus a little more and place in the refrigerator. I don't know how long they keep as mine never stay in there longer than 2-3 days.

 

Flavored Kefir

I sometimes add a little frozen juice concentrate such as pineapple or raspberry to the finished Kefir. Purists will want to use the 100% juice kind....

 

Kefir Cheese

If you have a surplus of Kefir, you can place several layers of cheesecloth or a fine netting called Bridal Illusion in the Big Mouth, place the Big Mouth over a wide mouth canning jar, and pour in the Kefir. Let it drain for at least an hour. Use what's in the cheesecloth like cottage or cream cheese, but don't throw out the whey! The amino acids in whey are among the  most bio-available you can get!! Use the whey in smoothies or mix with juice.

 

Help! My Kefir is Too Thick!!

If you culture for a long time, as I do, to increase probiotics or because you were busy or forgot, after you've removed the Kefir Grains, you can use a hand-held wand mixer in the Kefir and in just a few seconds it will have a nice pourable texture. I discovered this by accident when adding some concentrated pineapple juice to some very thick Kefir. I have a Cuisinart Smart Stick, which has a great feature of being able to remove the blade for washing, and comes with a mixing container in which you can make mayonnaise and smoothies.

 

If you want more information, I recommend most highly a visit to this Australian site, which contains more than I even thought existed about Kefir!! Thanks to Dom for permission to place the link.

 

And thanks to Mary S, who asked the right questions for me to find the new info for both of us!!

2008 Nancy Adams 
PO Box 3162, Coos Bay, OR 97420

Page last edited on 1-18-2010

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Disclaimer: Please note that your use of these instructions and Kefir are solely at your own risk and discretion and Nancy Adams assumes no responsibility for your results, either positive or negative, or lack thereof. Kefir is used by many people worldwide (including me) as a health drink. No claims of any sort are made for its use, at least by me. People whose health has benefited by drinking it feel differently about that.