I love making kefir! I didn’t make it very often or very regularly this winter, but now I’m back into it being a regular part of my daily routine so I thought I’d share about it with you.
Kefir is cultured milk, packed full of fantastic probiotics. You can buy ready made kefir in stores for an outrageous price (and you know I won’t advocate this!), or you can make your own. If you decide to make your own, you have a choice of using a powdered starter or kefir grains. The powdered starter needs to be purchased periodically, whereas the kefir grains can last forever (unless you are like me and don’t treat them well, or one of your family members throws them away :)). The cost for kefir grains can therefore be a one time expense. If you’re lucky enough to get some from someone who has extra, they can be free or a very low expense.
I’ve been able to get kefir grains from an individual, though I’ve damaged their ability to propagate (kefir grains grow). But they still work just fine, and yesterday I was amazed to see just how effective the grains I have are. I only have about a teaspoon of grains (grains look like a clunk of pinkish cauliflower). Anyway, until now I’ve always made kefir in a quart jar, but a quart is such a tiny sized amount for our family that I had to ration out servings to be sure everyone would get some. However, we recently finished a gallon sized glass jar of olives, and after cleaning it, removing the label, soaking it with baking soda to remove any odor, and toiveling it, it was ready to be used as my new family sized kefir jar.
To make kefir, all you have to do is put the kefir grains in a glass jar, add milk, and leave it at room temperature until it cultures. It’s misleading to say you’re making kefir, since it practically makes itself. In warm weather it cultures very quickly; in cold weather it takes longer. I put my grains in our new large jar, and was curious how long it would take to culture a gallon of milk, since it was such a small amount of grains. I started it in the afternoon, and by breakfast the next morning (ie less than 16 hours), the entire jar was ready. I was delighted, and so were my kids, since now I can be more generous with how much I give them.
If you want to know more about kefir, you can check out the following site: http://users.sa.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefirpage.html. If you read even a small part of it, you’ll know more than most people do about kefir. I’d encourage everyone to aquire some grains and make some kefir for yourself and your family – it’s very inexpensive (basically just the cost of the milk, once you have the grains), and it’s a wonderful health supplement that strengthens your digestive health. One thing I like about kefir grains is that you can transform the nutritive value of regular store milk by culturing it. I used to only use raw milk for everything, but then I’d run out before my next shopping trip. Now I mostly use the raw milk for drinking and pasteurized milk for culturing – it would be better if I could use all raw for everything, but I simply don’t have enough room in my freezer to buy the amount I need to last from one shopping trip to the next (unless I drastically cut down on the amount of milk we use).
As far as taste, it’s kind of like a sour liquidy yogurt. Lots of people like to blend it up with fruit or something else for a breakfast smoothie, but we like it just fine on its own. If I were making a smoothie, I’d add coconut oil, fruit, and spirulina powder for a nutritionally charged breakfast.
When the milk cultures, if you let it sit long enough it will separate, with the curds rising to the top and the whey remaining at the bottom of the jar. I stir it together before drinking it, but you can also take out the thick and creamy curds at the top to eat, and put aside the whey to use as an acidic medium to soak your grains in. There are other uses for whey, but I can’t think offhand of what they are since I don’t do anything else with it.
If you use only chalav yisroel, then you’ll have to take some extra steps to be able to use milk grains. A friend I have who checked out with her rav how to handle it told me the following: you have to make and discard three batches of kefir from the grains before you can drink the kefir – ie, the fourth batch is okay. But ask your rav for guidance; I’m just passing on what she told me.
In our home, the kefir jar is now back in its regular place as a countertop ornament.