We are really enjoying kefir. I love it! It brings back many memories for me that reminisce on the Middle Eastern flavors that were part of my growing up. Its fresh and a little sour taste reminds me of plain yogurt, which is a staple in ME cooking. A side benefit (that I didn’t expect) of having cultured foods around — foods that satisfy me and replace my cravings for sweeteners. Kefir fits the bill!
I got fresh milk kefir grains from Cultures for Health. They came in a little baggie with some organic milk. By the time I used them, the milk had cultured and separated into curds and whey. That is fine. There is an expiration date on the package. So be aware, if you order fresh grains (as opposed to dehydrated), you must be prepared to use them almost right away, but perhaps up to a week or two.
Those grains I stirred in with 1 cup of my raw goat milk. After 24 hours, the kefir had gone beyond thickened and created curds. That’s okay. It tasted a little more sour and was not smooth for drinking, but nothing was ruined. The point of this initial culturing was to get the kefir grains acclimated to our milk.
Kefir Grains v. Kefir Curds
I strained out the kefir grains, and right away, got the education I needed to tell what was the kefir grains and what was the curds.
In the above picture, on the left you can see the kefir grains clump. It is rubbery, somewhat translucent whitish/yellowish, and shaped like a cauliflower. It is only about 1 or 2 centimeters, at this point. According to Donna Gates of The Body Ecology Diet (quoted in Nourishing Traditions on page 86), the kefir grain clumps range in size from a grain of wheat to a hazelnut.
Donna Gates also writes, “Kefir is made from gelatinous white or yellow particles called “grains.” The grains contain the bacteria/yeast mixture clumped together with casein (milk proteins) and polysaccharides (complex sugars). ”
On the right are the kefir curds, which as you can see, don’t hang together like the rubbery kefir grains. Kefir is considered “done” when the grains spread their friendly organisms through milk, culturing it and thickening it. Ideally, it should be a thickened milk with the consistency of a thin, drinkable yogurt. If it cultures longer, it will separate into curds and whey, and also will develop a more sour flavor. This is okay, but perhaps not as fun to drink.
I repeated the process of acclimating the grains to our raw goat milk about 2 more times. The kefir thickened nicely and tasted great!
My Kefir Routine
I’ve developed a nice routine for having fresh kefir available every day. Kefir takes about 24 hours to develop the tart flavor and thick, smooth consistency — at current summer/warm temperatures. (In the winter, I brew it for 48 hours.) I start a new batch each morning with one quart of fresh, warm, raw goat’s milk from that AM’s milking. I put the warm milk it in a quart size jar and mix in the kefir grains. I cover the jar with a thin towel and secure it to the jar with a rubber band. I leave that on the counter in the kitchen, several feet away from Kombucha or yogurt or any other culturing food.
Update: I now begin kefir each morning with a half gallon of raw cow’s milk from the morning milking.
By the next morning, a taste test and a gentle rocking of the jar will tell me if the kefir is done. I am looking for thick milk (thicker than buttermilk but thinner than yogurt) and a fresh, slightly sour flavor. I strain out the kefir grains, and put the finished kefir in the fridge to chill until dinnertime. Then I use another quart of fresh milk (from the AM milking) and repeat the process with the kefir grains just strained out of the finished batch.
So far, Jeff and I have a larger serving than the kids. They are adjusting to the taste. For anything like this that takes an adjustment, I will serve the kids just a bit of it for many days. In most cases, they end up liking the food. When they start drinking more of the kefir (we are almost there), I think I will make one and a half quarts of kefir each day. But, maybe more — then we can use it for other things.
Update: We go through alot of kefir now — and the kids love it as much as Jeff and I do! We each have significant servings with fruit or veggies before most meals.
Keeping reading to the benefits below… and you will see why I think it is important for each of us to consume kefir often.
What’s So Great About Kefir?
Quoting again from Donna Gates,
Kefir is a cultured an microbial-rich food that helps restore the inner ecology. It contains strains of beneficial yeast and beneficial bacteria (in a symbiotic relationship) that give kefir antibiotic properties. A natural antibiotic – and it is made from milk! The finished product is not unlike that of a drink-style yogurt, but kefir has a more tart, refreshing taste and contains completely different micro-organisms… kefir does not feed yeast, and it usually doesn’t even bother people who are lactose intolerant. That’s because the friendly bacteria and the beneficial yeast growing in the kefir consume most of the lactose and provide very efficient enzymes (lactase) for consuming whatever lactose is still left after the culturing process… kefir is mucous-forming, but… the slightly mucous-forming quality is exactly what makes kefir work for us. The mucous has “clean” quality to is that coats the lining of the digestive tract, creating a sort of nest where beneficial bacteria can settle and colonize…
Awesome! So, to sum up those benefits, kefir:
- is a natural antibiotic
- does not feed yeast
- doesn’t bother those who are lactose intolerant, because the beneficial microorganisms consume most of the lactose
- provides enzyme lactase, to digest remaining lactose
- coats the lining of the digestive tract, creating a nest for beneficial bacteria to colonize
Kefir’s Other Uses?
I think I need some help here. I know that I can use kefir in smoothies (but I have not done it yet). I also think it could be part of salad dressings or dips, such as those that call for yogurt or buttermilk. To maintain its benefits, I think it should only be part of raw recipes.
Do you have any ideas? Any recipes? What other uses are there?