What Is Kefir?

Kefir is an amazing beverage. It is a rich, natural, probiotic drink related, somewhat distantly, to yogurt. It possesses tremendous anti-aging and anti-oxidant properties. It is also thought to provide a multitude of health benefits, such as improving digestion, strengthening the immune system, suppressing appetite and promoting weight loss, regulating blood sugar and cholesterol, and improving kidney function. It is even thought to help with the prevention and treatment of ulcers, colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic heartburn, high blood pressure, acne, and eczema

Kefir is produced by culturing live kefir grains in milk. Kefir grains are unique, living colonies of beneficial bacteria and yeasts that resemble small cauliflower florets. The grains feed on the lactose in the milk, producing a rich, fermented, nutritious beverage teeming with multitudes of incredibly beneficial bacteria. And, because the kefir grains metabolize the lactose in the milk, kefir is good for those who are lactose intolerant as well.

When properly cared for, kefir grains will continue to multiply and last forever. In fact, the original kefir grains are said to have originated thousands of years ago in the Caucasus Mountains. Myths and legends about a mysterious elixir enabling the people of the Caucasus Mountains to live long, healthy lives, attracted the attention of kings, emperors, and explorers down through the ages. Now, you, too, can enjoy the refreshing, revitalizing benefits of fresh cultured kefir as a part of your healthy lifestyle.

How Do I Make Kefir?

Making kefir is simple. You only need two ingredients: live kefir grains and milk. (I do not recommend using "kefir starter" as it will only last for a few batches and you will have to buy more.) You will also need a glass or plastic jar, a large wooden or plastic spoon, a plastic strainer, and a nonmetallic bowl.

Start with a clean glass or plastic jar. Do not use a metal container as kefir is slightly acidic. Select a jar that is clear (so you watch the progress of your kefir) and about a pint to a quart in size. The jar does not need to be sterilized or boiled but should be as clean as possible.

Once you have your jar, place the kefir grains in it. You will need about a heaping tablespoon for a pint size jar. Use more for a larger jar. Next, fill the jar with milk to within about 1-2 inches from the top. Any kind of milk will do. Cow, goat, sheep, or yak. Whole, 2%, 1%, or skim. Store-bought, fresh, organic, refrigerated, or room temperature. I don't know about canned or reconstituted dry milk, as I have never tried them (not that I've tried sheep or yak milk either). Just make sure it is not lactose free milk. Some people have even made kefir from soy milk, almond milk, and coconut milk.

Cover the jar loosely. If you use a lid with threads, do not tighten as kefir produces bubbles while fermenting and is mildly effervescent. Place the jar somewhere where it will be at room temperature. Kefir is very forgiving, so long as it is kept out of direct sunlight, which means temperature and drafts are not a big concern. Kefir ferments faster at warmer temperatures and slower in cooler temperatures, though.

After several hours you will notice the milk start to thicken and may even notice a slightly yeasty smell develop. Eventually, the curd will begin to separate from the whey (a clear liquid) and rise to the top. Generally this process will take anywhere from overnight to about 24 hours. Again, this process will occur faster at warmer temperatures than cooler. Also, the longer the kefir ferments, the stronger it will taste. Most people seem to prefer 24 to 36 hours of fermentation.

When your kefir is ready, place a strainer over a bowl and carefully pour the kefir into the strainer. Rinse the jar out and set it aside. Then, using a spoon, carefully work the curd through the strainer, separating out the kefir grains as you go. The kefir grains will be easy to recognize. The curd is white and creamy. The kefir grains are off-white, slightly rubbery clumps. Place the kefir grains back into the jar as you separate them. Once you have worked the curd through the strainer and removed all the kefir grains, add milk to the jar, cover, and it is ready to make a new batch.

Now take the bowl with the whey and curds. This is your kefir. You can do many things with it. The simplest thing is to stir or whisk the curd back into the whey and then use it as a creamy, refreshing, nutritious drink. Some people like to drink it as is. However, you can flavor it by mixing in flavored syrups or fruit juice or use it to make a delicious smoothie. The unflavored kefir can also be used as a wonderful substitute for buttermilk. Also, the curds can be separated from the whey by straining through cheesecloth. The curds make a great substitute for yogurt or sour cream and can be turned into a soft cream cheese or tangy chip or veggie dip. Use the whey as a nutritional replacement for water in bread or biscuit recipes. Your finished kefir will keep several days in the refrigerator. However, if you are making a new batch every day or two it is best to use it as fast as you make it.

Kefir grains are resilient and full of vitality. If you should start a batch of kefir and let it go to long it may get too sour. Simply separate out the kefir grains and start a new batch with fresh milk and discard or find some other use for the sour kefir. If the kefir grains should get slimy or develop an off smell, they can be rinsed off gently in room temperature water (do not use city water due to the chlorine). If you need to take a break from making kefir, put the grains in the refrigerator with just enough milk to them and keep them moist. They should keep for a week or two but you may need to discard the first batch if it develops an off taste or smell or does not form a curd after 24-36 hours.

Once your kefir grains begin to grow you will be able to make larger amounts, give some away to your friends, or even sell them. But most of all, you will be able to enjoy a boundless supply of fresh, nutritious, affordable kefir as a part of your healthy lifestyle.

Once your kefir grains begin to grow you will be able to make larger amounts, give some away to your friends, or even sell them. But most of all, you will be able to enjoy a boundless supply of fresh, nutritious, affordable kefir as a part of your healthy lifestyle.

Where Can I Obtain Kefir Grains?

I have kefir grains available from time to time. If you would like enough kefir grains to make a pint of kefir (about a heaping tablespoon full), please for availability. The cost is $10.00 (US), which includes shipping and handling.

You can also obtain kefir grains on Ebay.

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