At any one time my kitchen can look like, well, a kitchen or the laboratory of the mad Herbalist. My kitchen has seen sourdough, yogurt making, canning, hydrosol distilling during lavender harvest, and wine making. I’ve even made Kombucha tea. All of these have ended up with herbs or spices in them at one point or another. Now I am enjoying the experience of making my own Kefir.
Kefir is actually fermented milk. Unflavored, it tastes a lot like plain yogurt and has the texture and tang of buttermilk. It’s a very healthy drink with 10 times the probiotics or live cultures that are in yogurt. Most important, Kefir is very easy to make.
All you need to make Kefir is Milk, Kefir Grains, a strainer, a bowl, and containers to make and store it in. I make and store the Kefir in glass-canning jars because glass is nonreactive. The hardest thing about making kefir is acquiring the live Kefir Grains and that is simply finding someone who has extra, because yes they do multiply or order them off the Internet. It is important, as with all cooking, that the containers and utensils used for making Kefir are very clean. I simply hand-wash everything and rinse in hot water after every use.
My Internet order of Kefir Grains contained only about a ½ teaspoon of grains. The Grains were small and dormant. Looking skeptically at this little package of grains I thought this is never going work, but there were pretty detailed instructions enclosed and the guy guaranteed this would work. Everything you see on the internet is the truth. Right?
The first thing I had to do was to coax the grains back into action. This is basically putting them in a small amount of milk in a glass container on your counter and changing the milk every 12 hours for about three days. If you forget to change the milk that often don’t worry it doesn’t hurt them. You will notice the grains becoming larger, there will be more of them, and the milk will start to thicken quicker. Unlike making yogurt there is nothing to heat up. Kefir doesn’t need to be kept in a warm area to make it work. I keep my extra grains in a jar of milk in the refrigerator. They still make Kefir and the grains still multiply. The grains that you purchase almost always arrive with instructions on how to care for them.
To separate the Kefir from the grains put a nonreactive metal strainer over a bowl and slowly pour the contents of the jar into it. Make sure to scrape out the bottom of the jar to get all the kefir and grains. Stir and nudge the thick liquid through the strainer. The grains will remain in the strainer. Put the grains into a clean jar and add milk for you next batch.
After the first three days increase the amount of milk to 1 cup and when you have at least a tablespoon of grains you can increase the amount of milk to a quart. One tablespoon of grains will make up to a quart of Kefir.
It is not unusual for Kefir to separate in layers. This is actually curds and whey. You can just stir the contents of the jar back together before you strain it. Your house temperature will dictate how fast the kefir thickens. During the hot summer days my Kefir will start to separate in as little as 8 hours, on these days I set it in the refrigerator after I see it start to separate until I strain it the next morning. On cold winter days it stays on the counter from one morning to the next when. If I don’t have time to strain the Kefir it can stay in the refrigerator for a few days to a week or more. It can even stay on the counter for a week but will probably be more like a very tangy cheese.
Kefir has many uses. It can be used in place of buttermilk in recipes, to make salad dressings, drained to make a soft spreadable cheese, to make smoothies or even consumed plain. My favorite is smoothies. Especially when local fresh ripe fruit is in season. Lately I’ve been making refrigerator Oatmeal. It’s a raw food so it isn’t cooked. I make 4 jelly jars full at a time so I have a grab and go breakfast ready in the morning.
Cherry, Cinnamon, and Maple Refrigerator Oatmeal
- 1/4 cup uncooked old fashion rolled oats
- 1 teaspoon steel cut oats
- 1/3 Cup Milk
- 1/4 Cup Kefir
- 1 &1/2 Teaspoons Chia seed
- 1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup
- 1 Teaspoon Vietnamese Cinnamon
- 1/4 cup chopped sweet cherries
Put everything but the cherries into a 5oz. jelly jar or an 8oz. mason jar. Put the lid on and shake until everything is well combined. Remove lid and top with cherries and mix well with a spoon. Put the lid back on and place in refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight. Open and enjoy. You can also add a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder to the mix. Adjust the maple syrup to your liking.