Kefir, like yogurt, is full of probiotic goodness. It is a refreshing beverage made from fermenting kefir grains in milk. These are little cauliflower-like grains that are the source of kefir’s probiotic goodness as it is filled with beneficial bacteria and yeasts mixed in proteins, lipids and sugars. To get the most out of kefir, it is recommended you make your own kefir with real live kefir grains.
1. Start with kefir ‘mother’ or grains. The best type of grains look like a rubbery cauliflower ball. It is a living organism and even small pieces will grow bigger. (The more grains you use, the faster it will culture.) NB: You can buy grains in a packet but they only last for approximately 6-7 times of making kefir unlike the living ‘mother’.
2. Place in wide mouthed glass jar and cover with milk either skim or full cream. It is best to use the one type of milk consistently as it changes the taste particularly the first 2 or 3 times. Cold milk from the fridge can be used as it reaches room temperature fairly quickly particularly in summer.
3. Cover the mason jar with a lid and set it out on the counter (or in a cupboard — NOT in the fridge!) for anywhere from 12-36 hours. I leave my milk to ferment for 12 to 24 hours. I know that when the grains have risen to the surface the active fermentation is taking place.
As I prefer it to have a runny yoghurt texture, I wait until I begin to see a little clear liquid starting to form at the bottom of the jar – my kefir is now ready.
You can separate the grains from the mother at this stage and use the grains to start another batch. Put your grains back into a clean jar, add some more milk and start all over again. OR you can leave the grains with the kefir but refrigerate to stop the active fermentation process.
For the next batch some people like to rinse their grains. I don’t normally rinse mine. I find that my kefir grains grow more quickly when I do not rinse them. If you do rinse them, ONLY use filtered water. Do not use tap water as it could kill them.
Taste of kefir
Kefir is able to be fermented for only a short time. And while a very short fermentation time will still charge the milk with beneficial bacteria, it will leave you with a smooth product that is very milky, silky and very mild in taste. If it is fermented until the kefir solids separate from the whey, then the final kefir product will be more acidic and sour.
Kefir Starter Culture
Kefir is best made using real grains. However, there is another option of using a starter culture but it only lasts for approximately 6-7 times of making kefir unlike the living grains.
What can go wrong?
Making kefir is very simple but it does require a little experimentation to find your perfect kefir texture and taste.
1. Obtaining kefir grains – the best way is to get it from a friend or someone local rather than by post. If you do get it that way the first couple of batches might taste funny until the grains have adapted to the milk you are using.
2. You might be using too much milk for the amount of grains. If it does not thicken use less milk in the next batch.
3. If you have not made kefir in months then test whether your grains are still living by making a batch with only a small amount of milk.
4. If you decide to make coconut or water kefir, your living grains will take some time to adapt. Don’t give up too easily.
5. It is better to use plastic sieves or spoons rather than metal implements.
6. When you sieve your grains from the jar, they can then be used to start the next batch. Leave the kefir out for a couple of hours to a day to firm up and then refrigerate.
7. When I go travelling for a while I just put them in some fresh milk in the fridge to put them to sleep. Normally after a few months of neglect I come back and culture and re-culture them for a few batches to make the kefir grain healthy again.
Just a reminder of the benefits of kefir
Easily digested, it cleanses the intestines, provides beneficial bacteria and yeast, vitamins and minerals, and complete proteins.
Because kefir is such a balanced and nourishing food, it contributes to a healthy immune system and has been used to help patients suffering from AIDS, chronic fatigue syndrome, herpes, and cancer. Its tranquilizing effect on the nervous system has benefited many who suffer from sleep disorders, depression, and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
The regular use of kefir can help relieve all intestinal disorders, promote bowel movement, reduce flatulence and create a healthier digestive system. In addition, its cleansing effect on the whole body helps to establish a balanced inner ecosystem for optimum health and longevity.
Kefir can also help eliminate unhealthy food cravings by making the body more nourished and balanced. Its excellent nutritional content offers healing and health-maintenance benefits to people in every type of condition.