KEEF-uhr. Keh-FEER! Keff–ur? Urr…
Whatever you want to call it, this is a must-make staple of a Real Foods diet. Delicious dairy cultured with these curious little clusters of “grains” I kept hearing about — I had been dying to get my hands on some for quite a while. I’d mastered my first weird homemade hippie beverage, and I was anxious to move on to new territory.
Well, thanks to the generosity of a fellow blogger, to my delight, I received a package of kefir grains in the mail from Stacy of the fabulously entertaining and helpful, frugal homemaking blog, Stacy Makes Cents! Since the grains multiply as you use them to culture your dairy, you’re eventually left with an overabundance of them that you can pass along to others. Neighbors, friends, or even people who live thousands of miles away on a rock in the middle of the ocean!
I mentioned in a previous post that making kefir out of pasteurized milk is a great way to restore nutritional value to a sub-par, processed product. I mean, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the teachings of a traditional diet — it’s that everything’s better fermented! Nutrients and enzymes and vitamins just pop up out of nowhere, thanks to the fortifying power of fermentation.
So of course, dairy is no exception. Even if you’re fortunate enough to be able to start with superiorly-nourishing raw milk, making kefir out of it can enhance it even further!
How it’s done
This is yet another DIY real food that’s ridiculously easy to make.
Step 1: Put kefir grains into a glass jar.
Step 2: Pour milk (or cream) inside.
Step 3: Leave it alone. (for 12-24 hours, ish.)
Step 4: Strain out the kefir, leaving behind the grains.
Step 5: Refrigerate what you made, pour some milk back into the jar and do it again! (If you want.)
Some things I learned about kefir
Kefir does not taste like milk. Haha, uh, yeah. When I wrote that post about raw milk alternatives, I was thinking — yeah! Just ferment the milk, and then you can still drink it! It’ll be just as good with cookies as normal milk! Weeell… maybe not. Don’t get me wrong — it’s great! If you add some stuff to it.
I made a little berry smoothie out of some of the kefir I made, and that was delicious! There’s lots of ways you can flavor the kefir to turn it into a tasty drink. Plain kefir just tastes kinda odd, kinda tangy, and kind of like yogurt’s weird liquidy cousin. It just needs a little bit of assistance in the flavor department. But then again — I’m speaking only from experience in kefir-ing sub-par, pasteurized dairy — maybe plain raw kefir would taste just fine to me!
It will basically turn into yogurt if you leave it out too long. Which is cool, if that’s what you want. Leaving it out to culture for a full day results in a much thicker kefir, like this:
A 12-hour one looks like normal milk:
Kefir grains need a little love. They are happiest doing their job — being busy culturing milk in a cupboard — but can be stored in milk in the fridge for a few weeks without being used. In case you screw up a batch (still not exactly sure how that happens, maybe leaving it out too long?), it’s best to have some reserves. Give away some of your extras (the grains grow with each batch) to nearby friends and family, so that way if you kill your grains, you’ve got some spares. Every couple of weeks, it’s a good idea to rinse off the grains in *filtered* water — tap can hurt them.
What to do with it
I loved my berry smoothie, but here’s some more ideas I’d like to try.
- Make kefir ice cream! Just kefir-up some cream, and use it normally in a homemade ice cream recipe.
- Healthy hot chocolate — add in some cocoa, honey, and vanilla, and I bet it would make a great hot cocoa!
- Or chocolate “milk!” Probably do the same thing, just without heating it!
- How about making a probiotic Italian soda?! Make a flavored water kefir soda, maybe add some simple syrup, then top with sweetened kefir cream. I bet that would be tasty!
- Cook with it! You can substitute buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream with kefir in any recipe.
- Kefir cream cheese! Just put thicker kefir into a cheesecloth, tie it up, and let the whey drip out of it for 6-8 hours. You can add herbs or whatever to flavor it, and even make it into a dip!
- Creamy chai tea — just steep a couple chai tea bags in a jar of kefir overnight. You could even go a bit further and make a pumpkin smoothie out of it!