All About Kefir!
I've been enjoying making my own kefir, and am excited about sharing it with my readers here! Kefir is very nutritious, and making kefir is extremely easy. I'm so thrilled about such an affordable, healthy "treat"!
What is kefir?
Kefir is fermented milk (pretty much any kind of milk can be used*). It looks like a somewhat curdled milk, or a runny yogurt. It can be bought at a store or made at home.
What are kefir grains?
Kefir culture or "grains", which are used to make kefir, look like white, semi-clear cauliflower florets. The kefir culture is referred to as "grains", though it shouldn't be confused with the ordinary sort of "grain", which usually comes to mind.
Kefir grains are a combination of yeasts and bacteria, along with some sugars and proteins.
Kefir grains aren't "made", but rather grow as they are cultured.
How is kefir made?
Kefir is made by combining kefir grains with milk. The mixture is allowed to sit at room temperature for 12 hours or longer; the kefir is then strained and the grains are used again. The resulting fermented milk is the kefir!
What does kefir taste like?
Kefir has a soured smell, and tastes very similar to plain yogurt. I think it resembles buttermilk after about 12 hours of fermentation, or a runny sour cream after 24+ hours of fermentation.
If you like yogurt, you will like kefir! Even if you don't particularly care for plain yogurt, there are still many yummy ways to enjoy kefir. :)
Why should we eat kefir?
Kefir has all the great health benefits of yogurt, and MUCH more! Kefir is full of probiotics, along with the protein and calcium from milk. It's also easy to make and easy to digest (the yeast in the grains feeds on lactose in the milk)!
How do I make homemade kefir?
Making homemade kefir is very simple! For every tablespoon of kefir grains, you will need a 7-8 tablespoons of milk (about one cup total, with the grains). (Kefir grains may be purchased from Cultures for Health.)
Just place the milk and grains in a glass jar, cover loosely, and store at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for 12-24 hours.
Strain, and enjoy your fresh kefir! (Kefir will keep in the refrigerator for months!)
Add the grains to fresh milk, to make another batch of kefir. It's so simple and quick to make homemade kefir! (More detailed instructions and photos about making your own kefir can be found here.)
What are some ways to eat kefir?
Some people like to drink plain kefir. If you like plain yogurt, you will like plain kefir.
A common way to eat kefir is by making a kefir fruit smoothie. The kefir adds a creamy tartness and, of course, lots of probiotics and extra nutrition!
Kefir can also be used as a substitute for buttermilk, sour cream, or yogurt in various recipes. This can depend on the recipe and how long you've cultured the batch of kefir, since the kefir gets more tangy the longer it cultures.
Personally, I don't care for plain milk or plain yogurt. I have never enjoyed drinking milk! I've tried drinking kefir, even very mild kefir, and I can't stand it.
However, I love making fruit smoothies with kefir! I've been putting kefir on my taco salad instead of sour cream (think: quick and easy buttermilk dressing!). And since homemade kefir is cheaper than yogurt, sour cream, or buttermilk, there are endless ways to use it if you want to get creative!
How can I obtain my own kefir grains?
To make kefir, you will need to obtain some kefir grains. A tablespoon is enough to get you started making kefir.
The easiest way to obtain some kefir culture is to get some from a friend who is making kefir. Kefir grains may also be purchased from Cultures for Health.
Try to obtain kefir grains, not just a "starter", which is sometimes sold. Kefir grains can be used "forever", whereas "starters" can only be used 7 times or so.
I got my grains from a very generous friend-of-a-friend. The grains have tripled in size during the past 4-5 weeks I've had them, and I've gone from making one cup of kefir each day, to two. Soon, I'll set aside a "back-up supply" of grains. Then, any excess growth can be passed on to others. You can listen to a short podcast about my kefir beginnings here.
I get many requests for kefir grains, and had been directing you to a friend who sold live milk kefir grains. Unfortunately, she is no longer selling kefir grains. I decided to try to find another reputable source for kefir grains (NOT "starter") and just signed up as an affiliate with Cultures for Health.
Cultures for Health sells dried milk kefir grains, which they culture and dehydrate themselves. The grains are shipped in organic milk powder and will rehydrate within 5-7 days and then will continue to grow and make kefir.
While I think the ideal source of kefir grains is live, fresh grains (preferably given as a gift from a friend!), Cultures for Health is a good company and I feel confident directing you to them. I wish kefir grains weren't so expensive to get started -- but remember, once you have them they will grow, and you can bless your friends and family by giving away your extras. :)
*Many types of milk may be used to culture kefir, but kefir grains that are cultured in non-mammalian milk will cease growing. Consider using your excess grains to culture soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk, etc.
Strawberry Banana Kefir Smoothies... our all-time favorite! :)
Fluffy Kefir Pancakes... a great way to use up extra kefir! :)