Cultured food / Drinks!

Kefir {a great source of probiotics!}

KefirKefir: it isn’t a word that is used in everyday language for most people. In fact, most people who I have talked to recently about kefir had absolutely no idea what I was talking about! Kefir is a cultured, creamy, probiotic-rich, slighty tart tasting, drinkable-yougurt-like substance. The What is Kefir site explains kefir and how it is made like this, “Kefir’s tart and refreshing flavor is similar to a drinking-style yogurt, but it contains beneficial yeast as well as friendly ‘probiotic’ bacteria found in yogurt. The naturally occurring bacteria and yeast in kefir combine symbiotically to give superior health benefits when consumed regularly. It is loaded with valuable vitamins and minerals and contains easily digestible complete proteins.

For the lactose intolerant, kefir’s abundance of beneficial yeast and bacteria provide lactase, an enzyme which consumes most of the lactose left after the culturing process.

"Kefir is made from gelatinous white or yellow particles called “grains.”  This makes kefir unique, as no other milk culture forms grains. These grains contain the bacteria/yeast mixture clumped together with casein (milk proteins) and complex sugars. They look like pieces of coral or small clumps of cauliflower and range from the size of a grain of wheat to that of a hazelnut. Some of the grains have been known to grow in large flat sheets that can be big enough to cover your hand!. The grains ferment the milk, incorporating their friendly organisms to create the cultured product. The grains are then removed with a strainer before consumption of the kefir and added to a new batch of milk." source: What is Kefir site

“Kefir is made from gelatinous white or yellow particles called “grains.” This makes kefir unique, as no other milk culture forms grains. These grains contain the bacteria/yeast mixture clumped together with casein (milk proteins) and complex sugars. They look like pieces of coral or small clumps of cauliflower and range from the size of a grain of wheat to that of a hazelnut. Some of the grains have been known to grow in large flat sheets that can be big enough to cover your hand!. The grains ferment the milk, incorporating their friendly organisms to create the cultured product. The grains are then removed with a strainer before consumption of the kefir and added to a new batch of milk.” Source: What is Kefir site

Kefir-making has been the new adventure for me as of late. My husband’s cousin has been making her own kefir for the past few months and she was excitedly telling me about everything that she has been able to do with it. Because the nature of the kefir grains are to multiply, she was able to easily share about a tablespoon of the grains with me that I then transported back home in a pint-sized mason jar filled with milk. This couldn’t have come at a better time for our family because my husband had just recently started taking a probiotic supplement and has been feeling so much healthier as a result. The kefir is naturally probiotic rich and is a whole lot less expensive than buying the supplements, that is for sure.

The awesome thing about making the kefir is that it is super easy, not very time-consuming, and really a no-brainer activity. Simply place the kefir grains in a clean jar {use about 1 Tablespoon of grains/1 cup of milk}, pour fresh milk over them, place a lid on the jar, cover with a dish cloth and place in a warm {recommended 68-78 degrees ideally} spot and let the jar sit for approximately 24 hours {although it can take as little as 12 hours, or as much as 48 hours depending on temperature/ratio of grains to milk, etc.}

Kefir

Kefir

Kefir

Kefir

Kefir

Now, let me say at this point, I understand the extra intake of air that some of you may have just experienced as you gasped without even thinking about it – knowing what happens when you leave milk out for not long at all. If you have ever been fortunate enough to find a sippy cup that has slipped under the couch for even a day or two and were stupid enough to open it, I am sure you know exactly what I am talking about! Letting the milk hang out at room temp for 24 hours may seem counter-intuitive for many of us, knowing how milk spoils so quickly if not refrigerated, but trust me on this. The good bacteria found in the kefir grains counteract all of the bad bacteria that would spoil the milk normally in that time frame. What happens during this period of time is that the kefir grains culture the milk, or “kefir” it, and the end product is a good-for-your-gut, probiotic-rich drink! Honestly, I haven’t drank the kefir straight up, although I have tasted a few spoonfuls of it by itself. What I have been making in the mornings for breakfast are some pretty awesome kefir smoothies that my whole family drinks up. I am sure I will have plenty of posts in the future describing the different ways I have been able to use this good stuff.

You will know when the kefir is done because the milk will have changed and now be thick, creamy and effervescent and the kefir grains will most likely have raised to the top of the liquid. If for some reason the kefir gets “overdone” you will know because it will start to separate into “curds and whey.” The whey will be a liquidy material at the bottom of the jar, and the white part will start to look a little chunkier instead of creamy. It is still perfectly fine to consume at this point, it will probably be just a bit more tart…which will make it perfect for making smoothies or cooking with.

You can see that this has sat at a little too long - notice the small amount of whey at the bottom of the jar.  Ideally, for a creamier texture, you would want to separate the kefir grains from the kefir a little bit before it gets to this point when the mixture is all creamy.

You can see that this has sat at a little too long – notice the small amount of whey at the bottom of the jar. Ideally, for a creamier texture, you would want to separate the kefir grains from the kefir a little bit before it gets to this point when the mixture is all creamy.

When those tiny grains have finished their kefir-making-process of the milk, I simply strain the kefir from the kefir grains with a plastic fine mesh strainer and rubber spatula, and place the strained and finished kefir in a clean jar in the refrigerator.

I am not sure exactly why, but everything that I have read or been told is that it isn't a good idea to let the kefir grains touch metal, hence mentioning using the specific plastic fine mesh strainer.  For whatever reason, I'll just take their word for it. Here is a link on Amazon for the strainers pictured.

I am not sure exactly why, but everything that I have read or been told is that it isn’t a good idea to let the kefir grains touch metal, hence mentioning using the specific plastic fine mesh strainer. For whatever reason, I’ll just take their word for it. Here is a link on Amazon for the strainers pictured.

Notice the kefir grains that have popped up to the top of the liquid, which is another sign that the kefir is done.

Notice the kefir grains that have popped up to the top of the liquid, which is another sign that the kefir is done.

Kefir

Kefir

Kefir

Transfer the leftover kefir grains to a clean jar, pour fresh milk over them, place a lid on the jar, cover and start the whole process over again. It really is that easy! Pretty soon, you will be able to share kefir grains with friends, and enjoy the health benefits of eating this probiotic abundant food in the process!

Kefir

Use a plastic, wood, or rubber utensil to transfer the kefir grains to avoid them touching metal.

Use a plastic, wood, or rubber utensil to transfer the kefir grains to avoid them touching metal.

Kefir

So far I have used raw, 2%, Vitamin D, and coconut milks to make the kefir and they all have worked out well. I used full-fat canned coconut milk and the result was a smooth, thick and creamy coconutty-good kefir!

Coconut Milk Kefir

Coconut Milk Kefir

Coconut Milk Kefir

Coconut Milk Kefir

I haven’t gotten to this point yet, but if there comes a time when the making of the kefir gets a bit out of control, and you need to slow the process down a bit there are a few different options:

#1: Place the jar with kefir grains and the milk in a fridge and allow it to slowly ferment. This will take approximately 2-3 days instead of the 12-24 hour typical time-frame.

#2: If you need to take a trip and can’t “babysit” your kefir, culturesforhealth.com recommends the following manner to store them short-term:

“The simplest method to preserve milk kefir grains is to place the kefir grains in fresh milk, cover the container with a snug lid, and place the jar in the fridge. Kefir grains will generally keep for a few weeks in this manner. Keep in mind that when you remove the kefir grains from the fridge, it can take a few batches for the grains to come out of their hibernated state and begin reliably making kefir again. (You may have to toss a few batches that do not kefir properly.) We do not recommend putting kefir grains in the fridge frequently, but for the occasional trip out-of-town, this is the most reliable method.”

#3: “For longer-term breaks, milk kefir grains can be dried. Rinse the milk kefir grains thoroughly with cool, unchlorinated water, and place them on a piece of unbleached parchment paper. Leave the kefir grains in a warm safe place to dry where the temperature will not exceed 85°F. Depending on temperature and humidity, it will generally take several days for the grains to dry thoroughly. Once dry, place the kefir grains in a ziplock bag with a bit of dry milk powder. Keep the bag in a cool dry place or ideally the refrigerator. Dried kefir grains will generally keep for at least 6 months.” Source: culturesforhealth.com

I am definitely not a kefir expert yet, and it may sound crazy to some, but I am so excited about this new food adventure! I look forward to sharing with you more kefir recipes and posts in the future. In the mean time, if you are a kefir-maker and lover, I would love to hear about some of your favorite recipes or tricks and ideas. Please, feel free to share! Hopefully this post has inspired others of you to venture out of the normal, unhealthy, eating habits many of us get wrapped up in. Wherever you are at, I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and maybe learned a bit in the process! -Shelley.

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3 thoughts on “Kefir {a great source of probiotics!}

  1. Pingback: Mixed Fruit Kefir Smoothie |

  2. Pingback: My New Love: French Press Coffee! |

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