Kefir (pronounced keh-feer) is like thin yogurt, but much better for you. It is available in stores, but homemade is best for it contains many more strains of the good bacteria (about thirty!). These probiotics will live and colonize in your intestines; warding off toxins, bad bacteria and boost your immunity. (It also makes you smell nicer in many ways).
The long list of benefits is what got me hooked, not to mention the convenience of always having fresh kefir at a fraction of what you would pay in the grocery store. It’s tangy and creamy, similar to buttermilk or unflavoured yogurt.
To make it at home, you need the kefir “grains”. These grains resemble spongey rice pudding. The little curds are made up of live beneficial bacteria and yeast. Your “new pet” as my friend Darlene would say, is kept alive by feeding it milk; though I have read coconut water, soy and almond milk will also work. You can purchase kefir grains (also called Tibetan Mushrooms) on the internet, but it’s best shared from a friend (thank you Darlene).
Add your grains to a glass jar, don’t worry about sterilizing, it just needs to be clean. Pour in your milk, at a ratio of about one tablespoon of grains to a cup of milk (I used organic whole milk, but any type will do). Just experiment to see what texture and flavour you’re happy with. Cover with something that breathes as the fermenting milk will give off gas. A coffee filter and rubberband works great.
Leave it on your counter out of direct sunlight for 12-24 hours. I tend to strain it in the mornings for granola or smoothies. The fermenting time will vary depending on room temperature or amount of grains to milk ratio (the more grains or warmer temperature, the faster it’s done).
When the milk becomes thick and bubbly, you know it’s ready.
Pour the contents into a sieve, working back and forth with a spoon to help the kefir through.
Scoop out the strained kefir grains. Do not rinse, just put them back into a clean jar, add milk, and cover. A new batch will be ready tomorrow. Any leftover kefir can be stored in the fridge, loosely cover, for a few days.
If you are finding that the grains are multiplying faster than you can drink, then you can eat them, or share them, or put in the freezer as backup just in case some die. You can also keep your grains in the fridge with milk to slow down fermentation. If you do, be sure to leave it out for a few days to let the colony reestablish itself. Some of the microbes will die from the cold.
This is what happens when you leave it too long. You can see the milk has separated. It’s still okay though; just give it a stir and strain. Or pour off the liquid and make sour cream or cheese. The longer you leave it to ferment, the higher the folate content. It will also be thicker and more tangy.
Kefir can be enjoyed plain or try in a salad dressing or dip; wherever you need a substitute for buttermilk, sour cream or plain yogurt.
Or spoon in some of your favourite fruit jam or syrup.
These are elderberries which we made into a syrup last summer. It’s a wonderful flu and cold remedy.
Or make a smoothie with frozen fruit and sweeten with honey. These wild blackberries were picked last August at the cottage.
We are very lucky to have this massive blackberry patch mysteriously appear one year. It covers the entire back hillside and provides us with an endless supply of berries all through August.
Henry enjoying his AND Betty’s blueberry smoothie. Pig.