Friday, July 1, 2011

How I make Kefir

You didn't think that I would write an entire post on kefir without sharing how I make it, did you?  From what I've been able to find, the fundamentals of making kefir are universal, but everyone has their own take on the proportions, time, and processing.  Here's how I've been doing it.

1.  Remember, this is a continual process from the previous batch of kefir.  After straining the kefir, I set the grains aside and thoroughly wash the glass jar I used for fermentation.  I use about two tablespoons of kefir grains for every 12-14 ounces of milk, which is more concentrated than typically called for.

I don't wash the grains, but some people do.  Over several batches, the grains will accumulate a polysaccharide gel known as kefiran, and many writers purport that this enhances the kefir making process - I'll talk about this in a later post.  

Kefir grains

2.  Place the kefir grains into a large jar and add 12 ounces of whole fat milk.  I add a couple tablespoons of cream for good measure.  I use this as an afternoon snack, so it needs plenty of calories to hold me over.

I do my best to buy organic milk, especially if I am more confident that the cows are mostly grass-fed.  Remember, organic cows can still be on a feedlot.  I try my best to use the pasture-based animal products since it's better for the cows and doesn't perpetuate the over-use of antibiotics in cattle feed.  And grass-fed organic cow's milk is probably somewhat more nutritious than conventional grain fed cow's milk.  After all, cows evolved eating grass and not corn.  However, the major problem with organic milk is that it is usually ultra pasteurized (UHT) rather than conventionally pasteurized.  Thus, it tends to have a cooked taste.  I was pleased to find conventionally pasteurized organic milk at Sprout's.  This particular dairy does not have to rely on excessive pasteurization to prevent early spoilage because it is local and travels a shorter distance.   

Bath-time for the grains

Organic and pasteurized, not UHT.

3.  Allow the mixture to ferment for roughly twenty-four hours at room temperature.  Cover with a towel.  Keep in mind that the ambient temperature will change the rate of fermentation.  Hotter days/nights will speed up the process.
4.  The kefir is ready when it has small pockets of clear-yellow whey and small bubbles.  It smells of yogurt (due to the lactic acid producing bacteria) with a hint of sourdough bread (due to the yeast).  Pour the mixture through a strainer and bump the shaker with your hand until you are left with kefiran-covered kefir grains.
Notice the small bubbles at the surface.
Strain into a large-ish bowl to prevent a mess.
5.  Pour the kefir into a jar and let it chill in the refrigerator.  It will continue to ferment in the refrigerator because of the residual microorganisms, but it will be much slower at this lower temperature.  I like to drink it straight, especially with a touch of sweetener.  But there are many other things you can do with it...

Kefir goodness

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