Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Recipe: Milk Kefir

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This is more of a "how to" rather than a recipe as such, but I have a couple recipes that I'd like to share that use milk kefir, so I figured the logical first step is with making milk kefir.

Milk kefir is similar to a thin yogurt, only it has even MORE probiotics then most (if not all?) types of yogurt! You can purchase it in some grocery stores, usually in the "health food" section, sometimes in the regular yogurt section. It's the consistency of a thick drink, and usually flavored. Last winter I started buying it sometimes for Little Bit and she LOVED it. But, of course, just like yogurt, the store-bought, flavored variety has sugar and other added "stuff" in it. And it's kind of pricey, given that she happily drank several glasses per day. BUT . . . especially during "cold and flu season" I was thrilled to be getting plenty of good probiotics into her. Sassy and MiniMe were not fans, however.

As soon as I confirmed that Little Bit loved kefir, I wanted to start making it from scratch BUT at that point we were up to our chins in house hunting and moving and all that fun stuff.

Once we had moved into our new house and were at least somewhat settled, I was finally able to order kefir grains.

Now this part is kind of confusing, kefir isn't a grain, and kefir grains don't grow in a field like wheat or barley . . . the kefir grains are the culture itself. If you've ever looked at a container of yogurt, it almost always (I've never seen one that doesn't, but there might be one, I can't imagine why though!) mentions that it contains "live cultures".  That's the stuff that turns the milk into yogurt. It's also what makes yogurt so healthy. In the case of yogurt it's itty bitty tiny, can't see it, kind of stuff. It's spread all through the yogurt and to make more yogurt you (simplifying here, because this is a post about making kefir, not yogurt) stir a little bit of the yogurt into milk and let it sit and the culture grows and spreads all through the milk and it becomes yogurt.  Then, if you just wanted that batch of yogurt, you eat it. If you want more yogurt, you make sure to save some of the newly made yogurt to add to more milk to make more yogurt, and so the cycle continues.

Kefir is different. The cultures, instead of being microscopic, are about half the size of a grain of rice, and you keep re-using those same cultures.

So, the first step was to purchase kefir grains (alternately, if you have a friend who makes kefir, check and see if they have extra grains, they do multiply over time). I purchased mine from Cultures for Health (it's also important to have a not-metal strainer, so I chose to purchase the Milk Kefir Starter Kit which comes with the strainer). If you purchase kefir grains they will most likely be dehydrated, and will come with directions for rehydrating. If you beg them off a (local) friend, they'll be all ready to go.

Once you have hydrated kefir grains, you're ready to start making kefir. You will need:
  • kefir grains
  • fresh milk (raw, pasteurized, I believe you can use non-dairy milks as well, but I haven't tried)
  • a clean glass jar with a non-metal lid (or a clean coffee filter and rubber band to use as a lid)
  • a non-metal spoon and strainer
Now you're ready to make kefir:
  • Place the kefir grains in the clean jar, add milk (I usually do a quart at a time, the higher the grains to milk ratio, the faster it will culture. When mine starts culturing too fast for my liking, I divide the cultures, more on that in a bit). 
  • Cover with a non-metal lid, or a coffee filter held in place with a rubber band.
  • Place the jar on the counter (or somewhere else that's room-temperature and you won't forget about it)
  • Let it sit there for a day or two, checking it occasionally.
  • When it starts to get thick, it's done. If the whey (thin clearish liquid) starts to separate out, it's very done.
  • Strain the kefir through the strainer. This step baffled me at first, because I assumed I could POUR it through. Not so. It's too thick for that. There are various options, but what works best for me is to make sure my hands are very clean, and then use my fingers to work the kefir through the strainer. 
  • Now you have 2 things. You have the kefir grains in the strainer. Add them to milk in a clean jar and start over again. And you have the finished kefir. 
You can do many things with the finished kefir. Our current favorites are orange cream popsicles and chocolate milkshakes. Recipes coming soon :)

Despite the fact that it's no longer Tuesday, I'm linking up to Try a New Recipe Tuesday at Home to 4 Kiddos

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Thanks for linking up with "Try a New Recipe Tuesday." I had never heard of Milk Kefir before. :-) I hope you will be able to join us again this week.