An Intro to Dairy Kefir-A guest post I did at another blog

So I have this very good friend named Lisa and she has undergone a VERY dramatic food conversion over the past couple of years. Most of the changing has taken place over the past several months and I am amazed at her enthusiasm and conviction that she has about it. I remember the first time I took her to Whole Foods right before she got married   ( about 4 years ago I think) and bought some organic meat. She didn’t understand why I would pay more for meat and what the benefits where. Well, we just placed our third joint purchase for half a grass-fed cow and are entering our third year as CSA members at our local farm.  I must say that I have enjoyed watching her family grow and the steps that she has made to provide her family with the most healthful food that she can. I feel the sense of pride that she got when she made her first soaked grain granola. I LOVE it, it makes me happy.
So just a couple of weeks ago I asked Lisa if she wanted some Kefir grains after I had talked to her a bit about how we were making kefir smoothies and how good they were. She said “sure why not”? She is now an old hand at making kefir but first she had a couple of questions for me and asked me to just do a guest blog post for her wonderful blog All Things Gale which you must check out. Girl has mad coupon-ing skills that she is now putting into our food club a data-base administrator.  She gave me a very heartwarming intro that I am too modest to put here but you can find it on her blog.
So…not to digress or anything (who, me?) here is the short Q and A we did on making milk kefir! I hope you enjoy it! Oh and the pictures belong to her too!
1) What IS kefir???

Kefir is a probiotic dairy beverage that is made using dairy kefir grains. The grains are actually scoby’s which stands for “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast’. When the grains come into contact with the milk they begin to ferment the milk into a drinkable probiotic packed beverage. Kefir has a much higher concentration of probiotics then yogurt and is also much easier to make. Probiotics are extremely beneficial to our gut as they help to kill off the bad bacteria while allowing the beneficial bacteria to flourish. This helps our immune system tremendously and is especially helpful after a round of anti-biotics.

Kefir grains

2) How do I use it?

Kefir can be used a variety of ways. My personal favorite way to use it is to make smoothies! My family loves them and I know that we are getting our daily dose of probiotics when I give it to them. Another great way to use kefir other than drinking it is to soak your own grain in it to expedite the breakdown of phytic acid. By soaking your grains with an acid solution such as kefir, your body is able to break down the nutrients that are locked inside the grain and make them more digestible to your body.

You can also make milk kefir cheese by fermenting the kefir grains in cream and then allowing it to drain for a few hours in a cheese cloth. Kefir is very versatile and making your own is a very frugal alternative then purchasing it at the health food store for about $4 per QUART! You can also use kefir instead of buttermilk or even yogurt in any recipe that calls for it.

3) Can I put the tiny jar of kefir in regular milk or does it have to be raw?

The milk does not have to be raw however it is preferred as raw milk does not go bad the way regular pasteurized milk does. Raw milk will only sour but it is still very edible. In fact, you can make a wonderful version of sour cream by simply putting a little bit of buttermilk in some cream and allowing it to sit at room temperature for about a day. If you are using pastured milk, than I would suggest only allowing it to sit out for about 12 hours to prevent the milk from going bad. Alternately you can use coconut milk. I have never personally tried this but it is on my list as I have heard that it’s wonderful!

Jar of kefir with the grains on top

4) Here is the timeline: Kefir grains get put in the jar and I pour milk over top. Close the lid and wait 12-18 hours for it to ferment properly. Now it is ready to use. So the question is: Do I take the kefir grains out right away? Or do I wait until the jar of kefir milk is gone and then put the grain in the little jar to store until next time. (I usually pull the grains out after the fermentation period on my counter-top.)

Making Kefir is very forgiving. Provided that you don’t let the grains hang out in a metal dish (which would weaken the grains) you have a lot of flexibility. Once you are done fermenting the kefir you can do what’s called a continuous ferment where you simply strain the grains from the newly made batch of kefir and place them in another quart of fresh milk to begin the process over again. You can also just take your batch of kefir that you just allowed to ferment and place it in the fridge until you are ready to use it. Just be sure to strain your grains out before you use the kefir so you can make another batch. You can also take a “rest” from making kefir by simply putting the grains in enough kefir to cover them and placing them in the fridge. You should also rinse the grains every few batches with FILTERED water. It’s important to use filtered water because the chlorine in tap water can kill the grains. Remember that kefir grains are a living food! They contain healthy bacteria and yeast and need to be well cared for.

5) Does kefir go bad? Or can I keep skimming from the milk to keep the kefir alive? At what point are those grains “bad” or do they last a long time? Like a month? A year? When will I need to purchase a new scoby or kefir grain?

Kefir grains do not go bad under normal circumstances. Healthy grains will multiply over time in which case you can share them with a friend, keep a back up in the fridge if you happen to kill your grains, or even put some of the grains in your smoothie for an added boost of pro-biotics. The grains may weaken over time but will not go bad unless you have mistreated them by exposing them to metal for long periods of time, or excessive heat. Your kefir grains should last indefinitely, remember they multiply!

These are the only tools needed to make kefir!!

6) How do I eat it? Is it the same as milk? Or will we notice the difference in flavor?

As I mentioned before there are several ways to consume kefir. It is not the same as milk but depending on how long you allowed it to ferment it will be thin, making in similar in consistency to milk. The flavor will be tart but refreshing. It does take a while to get used to the taste of freshly made kefir and a great way to start is to use it in smoothies! Here is a great recipe to start with:

Kefir Smoothie
2 cups kefir
1-2 cups frozen berries
1 banana
1 tbls. coconut cream concentrate or coconut oil

Blend well and enjoy!

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